How To Do The Smith Machine Bent Over Row Properly

The smith machine bent over row is a strength-training upper back exercise that is done while bent over on a smith machine.

Unlike the standard barbell row which is performed with a free weight, you do it using a pre-set weight on the machine, which allows you to focus on using the correct form.

Instructions:

  • Set up for the exercise by lowering the bar on the machine all the way.
  • Set your desired weight on the machine.
  • Stand upright facing the bar and grab it with an overhand grip that is slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Engage your core.
  • Take the weight off the machine and, with a straight back and slightly bent knees, let it down slowly until it goes just below your knees. This is the starting position.
  • With your body in a fixed position, pull the bar up until it’s almost hitting your body.
  • Pause for a moment, and then lower the weight back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the amount of reps you desire.

WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE SMITH MACHINE BENT OVER ROW WORK?

TRAPEZIUS MUSCLES

The trapezius is the muscle this movement focuses on most.

It originates from the base of your neck to the middle of your back and its main function is to stabilize your spine and help with your posture.

Using a slightly wide overhand grip to perform this exercise emphasizes on your traps; although if the grip is too wide the focus might shift almost entirely to your rear deltoid.

As explained above, the most appropriate grip width is one that is just slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

LATISSIMUS DORSI

The lats on your mid and lower back also get recruited during the smith machine bent over row.

They are responsible for extending, abducting, flexing and internally rotating your shoulder joint.

It might be worth mentioning that it is the largest muscle on your upper back, so if you work it properly to strengthen it you’ll also enhance your overall upper body strength too.

To place more emphasis on them, you can use an underhand grip instead of an overhand one to grab the bar.

REAR DELTOIDS

Rowing exercises generally tax the rear delts heavily.

Whether you are training your upper body using a heavy barbell or a smith machine, the extent of your delt activation depends on how much you flare the elbows out.

BICEPS

Working your upper body using an overhand grip surprisingly does a good job  at building your bicep mass, especially in the brachioradialis.

 

FOREARMS

Your forearm flexors, which are located just below the brachioradialis, also get a decent amount of stimulation from this exercise when you use a wide grip.

BENEFITS OF THE SMITH MACHINE BENT OVER ROW

BIGGER BACK

Working your back muscles with a fixed weight on the machine offers a stronger mind-muscle connection than you would get with free weights, which contributes to greater muscle development

Also, you don’t have to spend a lot of energy stabilizing the weight, which means all your energy is focused on building your back muscles.

HEALTHY SPINAL ERECTORS

The fact that you do not have to stabilize the bar during the smith machine bent over row  gives your spinal erectors a break from having to work overtime to stabilize your body.

EASY TO SET UP

The smith machine bent over row is much easier to set up than the standard barbell row.

This is because raises the barbell off the ground naturally, which enables you to load weight plates without straining your back.

So if you are ever in a hurry and you want your workout to take the shortest time possible, this exercise is your best bet.

ALTERNATIVES TO THE SMITH MACHINE BENT OVER ROW

SMITH MACHINE INVERTED ROW

The inverted position from which this exercise works your muscles increases their time under tension to give you a better workout.

Steps:

  • Set the safety stops of the machine to about thigh level and rest the barbell.
  • Assume a seated position under the bar and grab it with an overhand grip that is shoulder-width apart.
  • Tuck your elbows at about 45 degrees.
  • Drive your heels into the ground firmly.
  • Maintaining a neutral spine, turn your face upwards towards the ceiling.
  • Move your elbows behind your upper body to pull your body up, until your chest is almost touching the bar.
  • Hold this position for a moment before lowering your body until both elbows are fully extended.
  • 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps is a good place to start.

SMITH MACHINE BENT OVER ROW MISTAKES TO AVOID

MOVING YOUR BODY

Apart from your arms, no other part of your body should be moving.

Movement in other part of your body that isn’t your arms will likely ruin your alignment and release tension  from your upper back, making the movement less effective.

ARCHING YOUR BACK

You should always keep your back straight when doing bent-over exercises, and the smith machine barbell row is no exception.

Looking forward and keeping your neck up can help you with this.

USING AN UNDERHAND GRIP

Using an underhand grip for this exercise isn’t wrong per se, but it would shift the focus from your traps to your lats, which would beat the purpose of this exercise since it is essentially designed for your traps.

DOING HALF REPS

Few things impede your back muscle development like training using half reps.

Not only does it cause muscle shrinkage, but it also puts you at risk of spinal injury especially if you are using heavy weight.

USING TOO MUCH WEIGHT

When setting up, take care not to select more weight than you can control comfortably without compromising your form.

You don’t just risk ruining your form when you use too much weight; your spine and lower back too could suffer injury from the unnecessary pressure.

TO WRAP UP

If you have already mastered the correct form of the barbell row, it wouldn’t hurt to give the smith machine bent over row a chance too.

Follow the instructions in here and you’ll soon be laughing your way to a stronger and bigger back!