How to Do The Smith Machine Row? (Complete Guide)

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smith machine row

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I want your back to be bigger and more muscular!


I know it’s highly likely that you train hard, eat well and pay your dues in the gym, but we are never too advanced to learn!


One thing I’ve learnt after 25 years of strength and conditioning training is that you can always pick up information and adapt it to your workouts!


Your back is critical to your upper body and mobility, so ensuring your back workouts are optimized will make all your resistance training efforts pay well!


Whilst lat pulldowns, cable rows, deadlifts and chin-ups all work the back, adding the smith machine row can bring a new dimension to your back training. The exercise is often overlooked for lat training due to the reputation the smith machine has.


But don’t overlook this excellent weight training and back-building movement.


In this blog, I will go through all the critical information you need relating to smith machine rows, including; what smith machine rows are, why you need to do them, what benefits they will bring and how to add them to your workouts.


So let’s get cracking and get your lats bigger!


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What is The Smith Machine Row?

The Smith machine row is a compound strength and muscle-building exercise that targets multiple muscles in the back and arms.



When performed correctly, the exercise hits the lats, rear shoulders, biceps, traps and rhomboids and will take your back muscle hypertrophy to a whole new level! 



The exercise is performed using a smith machine which is an apparatus that has a barbell fixed to a set of rails.



Recommended Read: >>> Your Ultimate Back Training Guide <<<

What is a smith machine?

The Smith machine is a common training machine that will be available in most gyms. The machine has a central barbell that is fixed to a set of rails and so it can only travel up and down. This enables you to focus on the movement of the weight rather than worrying about balancing it.

what is the smith machine and smith machine row

How to do the smith machine row

1. Set the apparatus up with the correct weight and adjust the bar to the right height.


2. Stand facing the bar with feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders back and down and back slightly arched


3. Bend over at the waist whilst ensuring your back is arched, grab the bar with an overhand grip and unlock the bar from the safety latches. This would always be your starting position.


4. Pull the bar towards your midsection, ensuring that your elbows remain close to your sides


5. At the top of the movement, pause for a count of two seconds and lower the bar. You have now completed one rep.


6. Repeat for a set of 10 reps.


Recommended Read: >>> How Much Does The Smith Machine Bar Weigh?  <<<

Benefits of The Smith Machine Row

Now that you know how to do the exercise, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of performing the Smith machine row.

1. It strengthens your back

The primary muscle group worked during the row is your back. Specifically, this exercise targets your latissimus dorsi, which is the largest muscle in your back. This muscle is responsible for pulling your arms down and back, so it’s important to keep it strong.


In addition to your lats, the  row also works your rear deltoids, trapezius, and rhomboids. These are all important muscles for maintaining good posture and preventing back pain.


Recommended Read: >>> How Much Does The Smith Machine Bar Weigh? (Answered) <<<

2. It's a compound exercise

Compound exercises are movements that work for multiple muscle groups at the same time. The row is a great compound exercise because it works your back as well as your biceps.



Doing compound exercises is a great way to save time at the gym by getting a full-body workout in a single move.


3. It's relatively easy to do

One of the great things about the row is that it’s a fairly simple exercise to perform. Unlike some other back exercises, there’s no need to worry about balancing a barbell or using proper form with dumbbells.


As long as you set the weight correctly and maintain good form, you’ll be able to get a great workout.


4. It's versatile

The Smith machine row can be performed with a variety of weights, making it a great exercise for both beginners and experienced lifters alike. If you’re new to exercise, start with a lighter weight and focus on using good form.


As you get stronger, you can increase your weight to make the exercise more challenging. You can also try different grip widths to target different muscle groups in your back.


5. It's safe

This movement is a safe exercise to perform because it doesn’t require you to balance a barbell or hold dumbbells in each hand. This makes it a great choice for beginners or those who are new to lifting weights.


In addition, the smith machine offers built-in safety features that can help you avoid injury. 


This helps to prevent the weight from shifting or falling off, which could cause serious injury.


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Recommended Read: >>> 10 Best Lat Pulldown Alternative Exercises <<<

How to Become A Pro At The Smith Machine Row?

Now that you know all about the benefits of the smith machine row, let’s take a look at some tips on how to perfect your technique.

1. Start with the right weight.

If you’re new to exercise, start with a lighter weight so that you can focus on using good form. As you get stronger, you can gradually increase your weight.

2. Do a warm-up set

Before you start your workout, it’s important to do a warm-up set with a lighter weight. This will help get your muscles ready for the exercise. A good warm-up set should consist of 12-15 reps.


You can also do a warm-up exercise such as walking or jogging to get your muscles warmed up before you start lifting weights.


3. Use a shoulder-width grip

When you’re doing the smith machine row, be sure to grip the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart. This will help you keep good form and balance during the exercise.

4. Keep your back straight

One of the most important things to remember when you’re doing the smith machine row is to keep your back straight. This will help you avoid injury and get the most out of the exercise.

5. Pull the bar towards your midsection

When you’re rowing, be sure to focus on pulling the bar towards your midsection. This will help you work your back muscles more effectively.

6. Squeeze your shoulder blades together

As you’re pulling the bar towards your chest, be sure to squeeze your shoulder blades together. This will help work your back muscles even more.

7. Control the weight

When you’re lowering the weight, be sure to do it in a controlled manner. This will help you avoid injury and get the most out of the exercise.

Recommended Read: >>> 9 Best Rear Delt Dumbbell Exercises to Grow Your Delts <<<

8. Breathe normally

When you’re doing the smith machine row, be sure to breathe normally. Don’t hold your breath, as this could increase your blood pressure and put you at risk for injury.

9. Don't lose control of the weight

When you’re rowing, be sure to keep the weight under control. 

10. Use your legs

When you’re doing the smith machine row, be sure to use your legs to help stabilize your body. This will help you avoid injury and get the most out of the exercise.

11. Don't lock your knees

When you’re doing the smith machine row, be sure to keep your knees slightly bent. If you lock your knees, you could put yourself at risk for injury.

12. Focus on your form

It’s important to focus on your form when you’re doing the smith machine row. If your form is off, you could put yourself at risk for injury.

13. Don't use momentum

When you’re doing the smith machine row, be sure to use your muscles, not momentum, to lift the weight. If you use momentum, you could put yourself at risk for injury.

14. Don't cheat.

Lastly, be sure to use good form when you’re doing movement. If you cheat, you could put yourself at risk for injury.


By following these tips, you’ll be on your way to becoming a pro at this exercise.


Recommended Read: >>> 15 Compound Back Exercises For A Big Back <<<

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Two Smith Machine Row Workouts For Huge Back and Lats

Smith Machine Row Based Back Workout 1

Alternatives to The Smith Machine Row

Before we finish up, let’s take a look at some alternative exercises that you can do to work your back muscles.


If you’re looking for an exercise that is similar to the smith machine row, you can try the following exercises:


1. Seated cable row

Recommended Read: >>> How To Get Abs Fast For 12-Year-Olds? Is Heavy Workout Okay For Kids? <<<

2. Dumbbell row

3. T-bar row

4.Barbell row

Recommended Read: >>> Mastering the Smith Machine Deadlift <<<

5. Machine row

6. Inverted row

7. Renegade row

8. TRX row

9. Deadlift

10. Machine bent over row

If you’re looking for a different exercise to work your back muscles, you can try any of these exercises. They are all great alternatives to the smith machine row and will help you build strong, healthy muscles.



No matter which exercises you choose, be sure to focus on using good form. This will help you avoid injury and get the most out of your workout.



Frequently Asked Questions On Smith Machine Row

What muscles do Smith Machine rows work?

Smith machine rows are a great upper body exercise that works your back muscles. I like to use them when I’m trying to build up my strength because they really target the muscles in my back.




Smith machine rows muscles worked are the latissimus dorsi, which are the large muscles in your back that help you pull things toward you. They also work your biceps and your traps, which are the muscles in your shoulders that help you lift things.



I find that when I do smith machine rows regularly, I really start to see a difference in my back muscles – they look much stronger and more defined. Plus, it feels great to be able to lift more weight and show off my gains!


Are Bent over rows on Smith machine good?

Yes, bent over rows on smith machine are good for beginners. The movement is simple and easy to do, and it targets the back muscles effectively. In addition, the  machine provides stability and support, making it easier to maintain good form.


As a result, bent over rows on this smith are an excellent exercise for beginners who want to build strong back muscles.


Is the smith machine bar heavy? Or does it depend on the smith machine version?

The smith machine bar will be between 30 lbs and 45 lbs depending on the make and model of the smith machines you have access to. 

Does the starting position matter when doing the barbell row?

The starting position for the barbell row should always be from the bottom. In this case the bar should be hanging by your arms towards the floor. 

How much should I bend over when doing the bent over barbell row?

When doing the bent over barbell row, you can bend slightly at the waist so your upper body is around 70 degrees, or you can bend over to 90 degress. It all depends on what you find comfortable. 

Can I replace the single arm dumbbell row with a single arm smith machine row?

You can supplement the single arm dumbbell row by doing a single arm smith machine row but please ensure you start with a lighter weight. 

Should I use an overhand grip for barbell rows?

You can try an underhand grip as well as overhand grip and see which works better for you. 

Are free weights rows better then smith rows for the back and lats?

Free weights have there place in weight lifting and should always be used as part of your overall training regime. Free weights will never replace machines as they offer a different level of resistance as they require your supporting muscles to work harder when compared to machines. 

Final Thoughts : Smith Machine Rows

Are you ready to get your back growing?


I hope I have covered everythng that was needed for you to now add this bent over barbell row variation to your back workout!


Follow the guide, practice the form, add one rep or more weight once you hit ten reps, and just monitor your results! But expect your lats and back thickness to increase!


(oh, and do keep in touch and check in with us regularly for more fantastic content. For a complete list of our previous blog posts, please go here)



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