Machine Rows – Back Exercise Guide with Photos


Muscles Targeted: Machine rows are not only great at targeting your lats, but also your upper back, rear shoulders and biceps as well. These muscles all work in unison not just from a strength standpoint, but also a visual standpoint too. Building up your back and these muscles together will help give you that broad and muscular look that you work so hard for.


Exercise Instructions: Position yourself on a row machine with your chest lying on the pad. Grab the handles with each hand using a secure overhand grip. Pull back and “row” the weight up while keeping the tension on your back muscles and flexing your lats at the contracted position at the top. Slowly return the weight down to the starting position and repeat. Be sure to keep your head up and your back in a firm and stable position.

Why This Exercise is Important: This exercise is important because machine exercises are great stepping stones to more advanced exercises performed with free weights (barbells and dumbbells). The last thing you want to do in the gym is hurt yourself, especially your back, because a back injury will definitely sideline you from other exercises and activities. Starting out with an exercise like this, on a machine, will benefit you greatly when you move up to heavier weights on more difficult movements.

Things To Avoid: One thing to avoid on this exercise is jerking your body at the beginning of the motion to get the weight moving. You need to keep your chest against the bench pad, and lift with one clean fluid motion on every rep. Cheating on back exercises, or any exercise, can only hurt you. So if the weight is too heavy for you to complete each rep with proper form, then you’re better off not doing any reps at all unless you drop down to a lower weight. It is also important to watch your breathing on this exercise, as your chest is pressed hard against the bench pad, you want to make sure you are breathing in and out, and not holding your breath during any reps. Lastly, you want to be able to squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement, so avoid any weight too heavy that doesn’t allow you to properly execute the exercise.

Reps and Sets: Because of the fact that this exercise is done on a machine and not using free weights, you can shoot for a little bit higher weight than you might normally have with a similar exercise done with a barbells or dumbbells. This exercise is normally for beginners who are just starting out training their back and who use this exercise as stepping stone to more advanced exercises. So if you are a beginner, and you know how much weight you can normally handle then begin with that weight as a starting off point for this exercise and see how well you do. Your goal should be to perform 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps. If you can easily lift the weight being used with proper form, then you should keep adding additional weight until it’s difficult to get the last repetition completed. Once you’ve mastered this exercise on the machine, you can move onto a more advanced exercise with barbells or dumbbells.

Other Exercises To Use: Some other exercises you can use that are similar to machine rows are lying T-bar rows and seated cable rows, which are very similar to machine rows being that they work the same muscle groups and involve the same motion. Other back exercises that are similar include pull-ups, Smith machine rows and barbell or dumbbell rows. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the back.

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