How to Do the Smith Machine Bent-Over Row to Build a Bigger, Stronger Back

In the identical means that your telephone comes loaded with functions that you just don’t use, your fitness center comes stocked with gear and machines you don’t use…but. First, you want a superb motive to work with it. What’s a superb motive to hop on the Smith machine? If you wish to construct your again; the Smith machine bent-over row.

Although it stays one of the generally discovered machines in industrial gyms, the Smith machine has one thing of an unearned fame because the black sheep of gym equipment. Criticisms, typically stemming from the restrictive vary of movement the machine gives, can truly be reframed as helpful in the proper circumstances. 

A person doing a bent-over row on a Smith machine.
Credit score: sklyareek / Shutterstock

Within the case of the Smith machine bent-over row, a restricted vary of movement means a chance to isolate and build back muscles with out pointless stress on secondary movers. Right here’s how you are able to do the Smith machine bent-over row to construct your again, greater.

The best way to Do the Smith Machine Bent-Over Row

In principle, the Smith machine bent-over row shares so much in frequent with its barbell-based brethren. In follow, the Smith machine bent-over row units itself aside by supplying you with the chance to essentially isolate your back muscles.

The rubber meets the highway whenever you take stock of your equipment. Within the case of the Smith machine bent over row, the machine capabilities as each barbell and rack, confined to a single airplane of movement. Simply stepping within the rack will get you a lot of the means there, and when you load up, you’re prepared to start out lifting.

Step 1 — Set Up

A person ready to use the Smith machine.
Credit score: Heal The Hood Occasions / Youtube

Utilizing the security hooks, repair the bar at about mid-thigh. With the bar now within the correct place, load up your weight. Then, arrange along with your hips a couple of inches away from the bar and your toes roughly shoulder-width aside.

Coach’s Tip: Interact your core earlier than you unrack the burden.

Step 2 — Get in Place

A person with an unracked bar on a Smith machine.
Credit score: Heal The Hood Occasions / Youtube

Place your palms on the bar at round shoulder-width grip. Unrack the bar from the security hooks. Keep your abdominals tight and preserve a impartial backbone, after which hinge over. 

Coach’s Tip: It’s okay to let your knees bend whereas performing a hinge so long as they’re not shifting ahead or obstructing the trail of the bar. 

Step 3 — Pull the Bar

A person doing a bent-over row using on a Smith machine.
Credit score: Heal The Hood Occasions / Youtube

Keep your core tight and pull the bar by drawing your shoulders and elbows again. Relying on the angle of your torso, the bar will make contact anyplace between your stomach button and your sternum.

fCoach’s Tip: Should you discover you could’t preserve a constant angle in your torso, (i.e. standing up whilst you’re lifting) decrease the burden to lift with proper technique and isolate your again muscular tissues. 

Smith Machine Bent-Over Row Units and Reps

By limiting motion to a single axis, the Smith machine lets you isolate your back muscles with out relying in your lumbar backbone energy. You could have a couple of programming choices on the way to incorporate the Smith machine bent-over row into your routine.

  • For Beginners: Carry out 3 units of 10 reps.
  • For Hypertrophy: Carry out 4-5 units of 8-12 gradual and managed reps.
  • For Endurance: Carry out 3-4 units of 15-20 reps.

The Smith machine bent-over row is a good candidate for burnout units on the finish of your back workout to push your muscular tissues over the sting with out the potential dangers related to approach breakdown.

Widespread Smith Machine Bent-Over Row Errors

Because of the soundness the Smith machine gives throughout any carry, errors are typically rather less expensive within the Smith machine than with free weights. Nonetheless, whenever you’re studying the way to row, right here are some things to bear in mind to keep you healthy and happy in the gym

Inadequate Hip Hinge

Should you’re not bending over far sufficient through the Smith machine bent-over row, you’re going to have bother isolating your again muscular tissues. Going too heavy is likely to be the underlying difficulty right here, nevertheless it may be a mobility issue. Should you discover it tough to perform a proper hip hinge, you could be lifting too heavy or ought to regress to a chest-supported or machine model.

Overconfidence with Free Weights

Whereas the Smith machine bent-over row may help you develop impressive musculature in your back, you is likely to be stunned how little your gains carry over to free weights. Secondary muscle teams play a a lot bigger half when performing barbell or dumbbell row variations than they do within the Smith machine. 

Should you’re simply getting began, and also you’re pondering of constructing the transition from Smith machine bent-over rows to a row variation that makes use of free weights, don’t go too heavy till you are feeling assured with the range of motion and movement pattern that comes with lifting a free weight.

Smith Machine Bent-Over Row Variations

Whether or not you’re searching for one thing a bit extra accommodating, otherwise you actually wish to problem your self, listed below are a couple of bent-over row variations that you must think about that make the most of the Smith machine.

Reverse Grip Smith Machine Bent-Over Row

Should you’re searching for a row variation that engages your biceps, you’re in luck. Simply change from a pronated grip to a supinated grip and also you’re off to the races.

By changing your grip, you may additionally discover that you just alleviate discomfort within the occasion that you just’re experiencing nagging shoulder or elbow pain whereas rowing. Generally a small adjustment can repay in an enormous means in terms of making an train work along with your physique. 

Paused Eccentric Smith Machine Bent-Over Row

When you’ve mastered the Smith machine bent-over row, you possibly can enhance the problem with out rising the burden by incorporating pauses or timed eccentrics

Research have proven that the eccentric phase of resistance training triggers genes accountable for muscular cell hypertrophy to a better diploma than both concentric or isometric workout routines (1). Coaching eccentrics actually offers you extra bang on your buck.

Single-Arm Smith Machine Row

This unilateral exercise takes the problem ranking up a notch as soon as extra. By coaching one facet of your physique at a time, you have interaction your core muscular tissues to a better diploma.

On the similar time, the carry affords a better alternative to build the mind-muscle connection by demanding you focus your consideration on the concentric portion of the carry. (2) Single-arm work can be a good suggestion if in case you have any imbalances in muscular energy or measurement. 

Smith Machine Bent-Over Row Options

Whether or not you’re new to strength training, you’re training around an injury, otherwise you’re simply searching for one thing completely different, ultimately the factor that introduced you to the Smith machine bent-over row might ship you looking for a new way to train your back. If it’s about time so that you can change issues up, think about the next alternate options.

Dumbbell Seal Row

Anybody affected by lower back ache is aware of that bending over generally is a dangerous proposition, particularly beneath load. Take your decrease again out of the equation with this row variation.

Utilizing an adjustable bench press and two dumbbells, you possibly can isolate your again with out placing pointless pressure in your lumbar backbone. The seal row may be useful for anybody who struggles to carry out a hip hinge.

Dumbbell Bent-Over Row

If the Smith machine bent-over row is your introduction to rowing movements, graduating to dumbbells will open up a world of recent alternatives.

The dumbbell bent-over row affords an elevated vary of movement and requires greater stability than the Smith machine bent-over row. The flexibility and comfort that dumbbells provide make the dumbbell bent-over row an choice that each lifter ought to have of their again pocket.

Barbell Bent-Over Row

Should you value strength above all else, the barbell bent-over row ought to be your go-to to check your mettle and row heavy weights.

Focusing on your again muscular tissues nonetheless takes precedence right here, however the extra weight you progress, the extra you’ll end up engaging your legs and core to remain steady all through the carry.

Muscle groups Labored by the Smith Machine Bent-Over Row

Though the Smith machine bent-over row successfully isolates your back by limiting motion to a single airplane of movement, it stays a compound lift as a result of it includes movement at multiple joints. Right here’s a complete listing of the muscular tissues used through the Smith machine bent-over row.

Latissimus Dorsi

The largest muscle in your back, your lats do the brunt of the work whenever you carry out the Smith machine bent-over row. Constructing giant, sturdy lats helps create an aesthetic physique by giving your higher physique a V-shape, making your shoulders look broader and your waist look thinner.


Whereas the trapezius muscular tissues aren’t the first mover through the Smith machine bent-over row, the trapezius nonetheless have their position to play within the carry (largely scapular retraction). Together with different again workout routines, the bent-over row may help develop large and powerful traps.

Scapular Stabilizers

Muscle groups starting from your rhomboids to your teres main, and different small stabilizers, work in tandem to offer scapular mobility. The power to protract and retract your scapula retains your shoulders wholesome and may even enhance your posture.

Advantages of the Smith Machine Bent-Over Row

The way you select to row comes down to private desire, however the advantages described under are distinctive to the Smith machine bent-over row.

Low Barrier to Entry

With out a coach or a mentor, getting began on your fitness journey generally is a daunting endeavor. The Smith machine bent-over row gives potential lifters the possibility to get right into training, constructing stronger, extra muscular again muscular tissues, with out having to navigate the complexity of studying a barbell exercise immediately.

Extra Stability

For the reason that Smith machine glides throughout a set rail, your stabilizing muscular tissues don’t need to work practically as exhausting as they’d with free weights. That inherent stability comes with a couple of advantages of its personal: For bodybuilders, stability turns into a chance to deal with building a stronger mind-muscle connection. For somebody coaching round an damage, it could possibly be the distinction between getting in a superb again session and worrying an excessive amount of about your security or posture.

Unparalleled Comfort

Image a busy gym on a Monday night. You’re searching for a barbell, or a bench, or the dumbbells you want, however they’re all taken. Oftentimes, even at peak hours, the Smith machine sits empty. 

It has every part you want — a bar, and oftentimes a built-in plate tree. The Smith machine might lack the flexibility of free weights, however that’s lacking the purpose: Mastering the Smith machine bent-over row makes you a extra versatile lifter.

Who Ought to Do the Smith Machine Bent-Over Row

Given the constraints that the Smith locations on range of motion, and the low degree of stimulation for secondary tissues whereas performing the carry, it’s secure to say that the Smith machine bent-over row isn’t for everybody. Nevertheless, for those who match into one of many following niches, it could be time to leap on the Smith machine.


For anybody just getting started at the gym, the Smith machine bent-over row offers you an opportunity to chop by means of the noise and prepare your again with out tripping your self up by worrying an excessive amount of about approach. The Smith machine affords a handy and accessible different to free weights.

If You’re Working Round an Harm

Generally, a restricted vary of movement mixed with low-level recruitment of stabilizing muscle teams is strictly what you want. When coping with an damage, or nagging aches and pains, the Smith machine bent-over row might give you an alternate that permits you to prepare with out aggravating sore muscles or joints unnecessarily.

If You Want a New Strategy to Isolate Your Again

Consistency is essential, however selection is the spice of life. Should you’re a seasoned lifter, altering up your routine may help you get by means of a stoop or push through a plateau. For anybody trying to goal their again, the Smith machine bent-over row could possibly be a wonderful change of tempo if just for its novelty.

Turn into a Musclesmith

Beneath the hyperbole, criticisms of the Smith machine are, for essentially the most half, unfounded. By flipping these perceived disadvantages (mounted vary of movement, low compatibility with certain body types) on their heads, you can also make the Smith machine be just right for you. Use it that can assist you construct a much bigger, stronger again, whether or not you’re a newbie, coaching round an damage, or simply trying to combine issues up.


Regardless of being a comparatively easy motion, you would possibly nonetheless have a few lingering questions on the way to greatest make the most of the Smith machine bent-over row. 

When ought to I incorporate the Smith machine bent-over row into my routine?

Should you would profit from a machine that does a lot of the stabilizing for you, the Smith machine bent-over row would in all probability fit well into your routine. You would possibly fall into that class for those who’re simply beginning in your health journey, for those who’re coaching round discomfort or an damage, or for those who’re attempting to isolate your again muscular tissues.

The smith machine bar doesn’t really feel as heavy as a barbell. How a lot weight am I truly lifting?

Smith machine bars can weigh anyplace between six kilos and 45 kilos. General although, the Smith machine in all probability isn’t one of the best gauge of total energy. Specializing in private progress and consistency over time is rather more vital than how much you can lift on the Smith machine.


  1. Hody, S., Croisier, J., Bury, T., Rogister, B., & Leprince, P., (2019) Eccentric muscle contractions: dangers and advantages. Frontiers in physiology. 10.3389.
  2. Schoenfeld, B., Vigotsky, A., Contreras, B., Golden, S., Alto, A., Larson, R., Winkelman, N., & Paoli, A., (2018) Differential results of attentional focus methods throughout long-term resistance coaching. European journal of sports activities science. 18(5), 705-712.

Featued Picture: sklyareek / Shutterstock

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