Smith Machine Rows – Back Exercise Guide with Photos

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Muscles Targeted: Smith machine rows are a compound exercise that works the latissimus dorsi (lats), trapezius and rear deltoid muscles located in the upper middle part of the back. The biceps are also worked as a secondary muscle group because of the manner in which the exercise is executed.

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Exercise Instructions: This exercise is the same as the regular bent over barbell rows except that you will be using the Smith machine to perform this exercise. Bend forward at your waist so that your chest is leaning forward over your feet. Keep your knees slightly bent and your feet just beyond shoulder width apart. Grasp the barbell with both hands, using an overhand grip with your hands about shoulder width apart. Start with your arms fully extended, allowing the barbell attachment to naturally hang at about mid-shin level. Begin the exercise by rowing the barbell up and into the stomach area. Pause at the top for a brief moment for a peak contraction and then slowly return to the starting position and repeat. Be sure to keep your head up and shoulders back throughout this exercise to keep your back secure, firm and in a stable position.

Why This Exercise is Important: Smith machine rows are essential to any weight lifting back workout for a number of reasons. They are beneficial because they work multiple muscle groups at one time. This is why they are referred to as a compound exercise. Smith machine rows are versatile and can be performed a number of ways to achieve different results. Slight variations involving the placement of the hands on the bar, the angle of the arms, and the speed at which the exercise is performed determines which muscle groups are worked. For instance, if the traps are being targeted, the hands should be placed closer together in order to concentrate the focus there. Smith machine rows can help develop and maintain upper body stability and back strength which is important in everyday life activities and for working out at the gym.

Things To Avoid: As with any weight lifting exercise, safety and caution must always be observed. This can prevent both minor and major injuries. If the bar is raised too high while also being held improperly, stress will be placed on the rotator cuff and can cause severe damage. Learn the correct technique and do not attempt to lift weights that are too heavy. Those with prior shoulder or back injuries should use extreme caution when performing Smith machine rows.

Reps and Sets: The number of repetitions and sets for Smith machine rows depends on what the goal is. When concentrating on building maximum size and strength, more weight and fewer reps are needed. However, when concentrating on toning up and tightening the area, less weight and more reps will be more beneficial to the workout.

Other Exercises To Use: Smith machine rows are useful when combined with the following back exercises to create an effective workout routine:

  • Smith Machine Romania Deadlifts – This is a compound exercise as well. Although it is mainly used for strengthening the hamstrings, the deadlifts are extremely beneficial to the glutes and lower back as well. When performed properly, they will encourage and support muscle development resulting in greater strength and power.
  • Single Arm Dumbbell Rows – These target some of the same muscle groups as the Smith machine rows which include the upper back, shoulders and biceps. These rows are also one of the most versatile exercises for the upper and middle parts of the back. In general, they are also safe for those who suffer from minor to medium back pain and when done correctly, can assist in alleviating some of the pain through strengthening the muscles.
  • Lying Back Presses – Also referred to as “Superman Presses”, lying back presses are a good stretching and toning exercise for the lower back. They can help strengthen and promote flexibility in the back muscles. Since it is not recommended to perform these presses when severe or chronic back problems are present, the Superman presses are better suited to be used in a more preventative nature.

View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the back.

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