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If you’re looking to add some strength and size to your back, the smith machine is a great place to start.
It’s a versatile piece of equipment that allows you to move through a linear range of motion, which can target specific muscles in your back.
Here are thirteen back exercises with smith machines to help strengthen and build your back.
Table of Contents
13 Best Smith Machine Exercises for Your Back Muscles
1. Smith Machine Rack Pulls
- Set the bar at about knee height and stand with the middle of your feet directly under it.
- Grasp it using a shoulder-width overhand grip and knees slightly bent.
- Now, pull the bar up towards your waistline while retracting your shoulder blades as you pull.
- Be sure to keep your arms fully extended and look straight ahead throughout the entire motion.
- Go up until your legs are straight.
- Pause for a second, then begin slowly lowering the weight back to its starting position.
- Repeat for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Rack Pull Benefits
If you’re looking for a mass-building back exercise without free weights, rack pulls are it.
Not only do they stimulate your back, but engage several lower and upper body muscles, such as your core, traps, glutes, arms, and hamstrings.
Using a smith machine compared to free weights also allows you to overload the back with more weight while practicing lockouts for deadlifts.
2. Smith Machine Pendlay Row
- Begin the smith machine pendlay row by setting the bar at knee or ankle height.
- Stand so that the bar is directly over your toes or midfoot.
- Grasp the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder-width overhand grip.
- Hinge at your hips while keeping your back straight and parallel to the floor.
- Retract your shoulder blades and explosively pull the weight up to your abdomen.
- Then reverse the motion until the bar reaches a dead stop at the starting position.
- Rebrace yourself and repeat the motion for 3 sets of 6-10 reps.
Pendlay Row Benefits
The pendlay row requires you to come to a full stop on the bottom, before explosively pulling the weight upwards using your lats.
It also requires you to maintain a neutral spine while bent over.
This will build strength and power while limiting lower back fatigue.
3. Reverse Grip Row
- Start by setting the bar at about knee height.
- Stand with your feet under the bar and grab it with an underhand grip at about shoulder width apart.
- Hinge at your hips and slightly bend your knees and lean forward over the bar.
- Pull the bar towards your abdomen with your elbows tucked in.
- Squeeze for second at the top.
- Then extend your arms towards the starting position until they are slightly bent.
- Repeat this motion for another 2-3 sets of 6-12 reps.
Reverse Grip Row Benefits
Unlike an overhand grip row, the reverse grip may help to increase the range of motion.
You may also feel extra lower lat and bicep stimulation in comparison to an overhand grip.
4. Single Arm Overhand Grip Row
- Set the smith machine to the bottom setting and place an elevated box or mat under your feet.
- Stand sideways next to the bar on your left side.
- Grasp the middle of the bar with a neutral grip and assume a staggered stance with your left leg back.
- Bend over so that your back is almost 90 degrees with the floor.
- Hold onto the smith machine frame with your right hand for better stability and begin pulling the bar up to your side.
- Squeeze your lat at the top and go back down until you feel a nice stretch.
- Repeat for 10-15 reps before switching arms.
- Perform 3-4 sets and be sure to start with your weaker arm first and do the same number of reps on both sides.
Single Arm Row Benefits
Sometimes referred to as the smith machine dumbbell row, this unilateral movement is useful for minimizing and fixing muscle imbalances.
5. Smith Machine Bent-Over Row
- Set the bar to knee or mid-thigh height.
- Assume a wide stance and grab the bar using an overhead grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Hinge at your hips and lean your upper body forward while maintaining a neutral spine.
- Begin pulling the bar toward your abdomen while retracting your shoulder blades as you pull.
- Lower back down until your arms are nearly straight.
- Repeat for 2-4 sets of 10-15 reps.
Bent-Over Row Benefits
Smith machine bent-over rows target the same muscles as its free-weight counterpart.
The smith machine bent row is also a great exercise if you have trouble activating your core muscles or feel lower back pain while using free weights.
It allows you to focus on activating your lats and upper back muscles, rather than stabilization.
However, if you rely too heavily on the smith machine bent-over row your stabilizer muscles may become neglected, leading to imbalances.
6. Inverted Row
- Add some weight to the bar to make sure it holds stability during the exercise.
- Set the bar at about the height of your glutes.
- Move under the bar and grab it using an overhand grip like you’re doing a free-weight bench press.
- Be sure that your legs are straight and your back is not touching the ground.
- Straighten your arms and pull yourself up towards the bar while maintaining a neutral spine.
- Go up until your upper chest touches the bar and reverse back to the starting position.
- Repeat for 5-10 reps of 2-3 sets.
Inverted Row Benefits
This exercise is a must if you’re looking to improve grip and body weight strength.
It mimics the motion of a barbell row.
However, instead of pulling the bar to you, you’re pulling yourself to the bar.
Inverted rows are highly effective for adding thickness to your lats and upper back muscles.
7. Smith Machine Shrug
To do smith machine shrugs:
- Set the bar at mid-thigh height with toes directly under it.
- Assume a stance shoulder width apart and grasp the bar with an overhanded grip.
- Keep your arms straight with a slight bend.
- Then, lift the bar off the rack and pull it straight upwards while retracting your shoulder blades.
- Squeeze your traps at the top and then slowly reverse to the starting point.
- Repeat for 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps.
Smith machine shrugs will allow you to overload and isolate your traps.
This will enhance neck stability and improve posture.
8. Smith Machine Pull-Ups
For this one, the smith machine bar is going to act as a standard pull-up bar.
- Placing the bar at chin height.
- Grab ahold with an overhand grip wider than shoulder width.
- Step under the bar so that your head is almost directly underneath and your arms are straight.
- Keep your feet flat on the ground with your knees bent.
- Stick your chest up and pull yourself up towards the bar until your chin is directly over it.
- Reverse the motion with your arms fully extended.
- Perform pull-ups for as many reps as possible for 1-2 sets.
Oftentimes pull-ups are considered a compound exercise.
Not only do they carry over to barbell movements, but with time and effort, you’ll also notice serious back muscle gains.
Also, if you’re unable to perform assisted pull-ups due to a lack of equipment, this is an ideal replacement.
9. Smith Machine Chin-Ups
- Place the bar at chin height and grasp it with an underhand grip about shoulder-width apart.
- Extend your arms so that your upper body is hanging directly under the bar with your legs bent in front of you.
- Stick your chest up and pull yourself towards the bar.
- Once your chin is above or equal to the bar reverse back to the starting position.
- Repeat for as many reps as you can for 1-2 sets.
Chin-ups are similar to pull-ups in the sense that they build overall strength.
But also, the chin-up places more emphasis on your biceps, which is partly why you’re able to do more weight and reps.
10. Upright Row
- Place the bar at mid-thigh height with toes directly under it.
- Stand up straight and grasp the bar with an overhand grip shoulder width apart.
- Pull the bar upwards with your elbows until it reaches neck or chin height.
- Reverse back down to the starting position.
- Repeat for 2-4 sets of 10-15 reps.
Upright Row Benefits
You could probably classify the upright row as a shoulder exercise since it hits all three deltoid heads.
But it does work lats, upper back, and traps as well.
Although it gets mixed reviews from many gymgoers, when done properly you can benefit from increased shoulder and neck stability.
11. Back Extension
- Attach a hip thrust pad to the bar and set it to just above knee height.
- Extend your legs backward at an angle and lean against the pad using your upper thighs.
- With your back straight begin lowering your upper body downwards until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings and lower back.
- Reverse the motion until your upper body is in a straight line with your lower body.
- Repeat the motion for another 8-10 reps of 2-3 sets.
Back Extensions Benefits
Back extensions, or hyperextensions, are beneficial for stretching and strengthening your hamstrings and lower back muscles.
They will also improve hip mobility and posture.
12. Bodyweight Face Pull
- Add some weight to the bar to ensure stability during the movement.
- Then set the bar to about waist height.
- Grasp the bar with an overhand grip slightly narrower than shoulder width.
- Extend your arms so that you’re hanging under the bar with your feet straight in front of you and back parallel to the floor.
- Flair your elbows out and pull yourself to the bar until it is 1-2 inches away from your nose.
- Return to the starting position and repeat for 5-10 reps of 2-3 sets.
Face Pull Benefits
Although similar to the inverted row, you’ll notice that you aim the bar toward your face, rather than your chest.
This will put more emphasis on your rear deltoids and trapezius muscles.
13. Smith Machine Deadlift
- Place an elevated box under your feet to achieve a greater range of motion.
- Set the bar so that it’s at about ankle height.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and mid-feet directly under the bar.
- Grasp the bar using a double overhand grip or an alternate grip.
- With your arms completely straight, hinge at your hips and bend your knees to begin lifting the bar upwards.
- Be sure to keep your shoulder blades retracted as you pull up and try to avoid rounding your lower back.
- Reverse the motion once the bar reaches about upper thigh height and your body is in a nearly straight line while standing up.
- Repeat for 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps.
Similar to rack pulls, the deadlift is one of the best exercises for overloading your muscles with weight.
This requires you to engage almost your entire body to do it with proper form.
So not only will you notice an increase in back thickness, but an increase in overall body mass, specifically in your posterior chain.
What Is a Smith Machine?
Smith machine systems consist of an adjustable vertical frame with a barbell that runs along fixed rails, allowing only vertical or near-vertical movement.
The smith machine was invented by Jack Lalanne in the 1950s and named after his friend, Rudy Smith who improved the design.
The machine has become popular for its ability to provide safety and stability when lifting weights, especially for those who are new to strength training.
Smith Machine Barbell vs. Free Weight Barbell
The smith machine is ideal for those who are new to weightlifting, as it provides balance and support to the user.
It helps beginners learn proper form and technique while lifting heavier weights.
Additionally, it offers a degree of control that free weights don’t have.
This is why it can be great when doing exercises like squats, bench presses, and shoulder presses.
A free-weight bar, on the other hand, allows for a greater range of motion and flexibility when lifting weights on a bench or squat rack.
Because there are no safety brackets or guides, you must be extremely aware of your body’s position in space while lifting.
This can help build strength more quickly than using a smith machine since there are more muscles and joints involved.
It also helps improve body awareness.
This makes it a popular choice among intermediate and advanced lifters.
FAQs for Smith Machines
Does the Smith Machine Work Your Back?
Yes, the smith machine can be used for back workouts.
It is a versatile piece of equipment that allows you to perform rows, pull-ups, and other exercises.
With good technique, the smith machine can be used to target different muscle groups in the back area such as the lats, traps, and rhomboids.
Can You Use the Smith Machine for Back Squats?
Yes, you can use the Smith Machine for back squats.
Many bodybuilders prefer doing the smith machine squats in their workout routine over using a normal squat rack.
This is because it allows them to lift heavy weights in a controlled environment while minimizing the chance of injury.
How Much Does a Smith Machine Bar Weigh?
The weight of a smith machine bar varies depending on the design, but most standard bars weigh between 10 and 15 pounds.
Some models may have heavier bars, with weights ranging up to 20 pounds or more.
What Exercises Can You Do With a Smith Machine?
Some common exercises on a smith machine include back or front squats, many types of rows, bench presses, shoulder presses, and deadlifts.
So, contrary to popular belief the smith machine is not just a thousand-dollar coat rack.
It’s highly effective and super versatile for building muscle.
Try These Smith Machine Back Exercises!
I hope that this article has provided you with all the information and guidance needed to get started on your journey toward a strong, toned back.
With these 13 exercises utilizing a smith machine, you can easily target different muscles in your back, increasing strength and giving it an attractive definition.
Remember to always keep safety first, warm up thoroughly before beginning any back workout, and use the correct form for each movement.
By incorporating these movements into your regular workout regimen, you’ll be well on your way to achieving an excellent physique!