15 Best Smith Machine Back Exercises

15 Best Smith Machine Back Exercises

Feb 03, 2024

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Smith Machine Back Exercises: 15 Best Ways to Build Your Back

If you're looking to build a strong, muscular back, the Smith machine can be an excellent tool. With its stabilized bar path, the Smith machine allows you to perform focused back exercises safely while preventing injury.

While free weights should be the foundation of most back workouts, the Smith machine's unique capabilities make it a valuable complement for working your back from multiple angles.

In this article, we'll cover the 15 best Smith machine back exercises to incorporate into your training routine. Mastering these movements can help you sculpt an impressive V-taper and powerful backside.

Let's get started!

1. Smith Machine Bent Over Row

This staple back exercise allows you to overload with heavier weight thanks to the Smith machine’s stabilized bar path. Squeeze your shoulder blades at the top to fully engage your back muscles.

2. Smith Machine Rack Pulls

Set up bar just below knees for brutal overloading. Great for lower back, glutes and traps. Improves deadlift power.

3. Smith Machine Reverse-Grip Row

Unique stimulus hitting upper back from new angle. Fantastic for adding mass and upper back thickness.

4. Smith Machine Inverted Row

Excellent vertical pulling movement. Hit lats and upper back. Adjustable so anyone can perform.

5. Smith Machine Pull Ups

Add pull-up bar attachment to Smith and perform weighted chins for lats and biceps.

6. Smith Machine Shrugs

Fixed bar path makes it easier overload and isolate traps. Build boulder shoulders!

7. Smith Machine Squats

Take advantage of extra stability for heavier back squatting strength. Great for lower back development.

8. Smith Machine Romanian Deadlift

Garner lower back gains with heavier RDL overloading. Strong hamstrings too.

9. Smith Machine Hip Thrust

Boost glutes and hamstrings for better posture. Take pressure of lower back.

10. Behind-the-Back Smith Machine Shrug

Hard-to-reach upper trap fibers become more accessible for 3D delts.

11. Smith Machine Incline Bench

Balance out all that rowing with incline pressing. Hits upper back too.

12. Smith Machine Reverse Grip Rows

Various grip options (wide, narrow, neutral) hit back differently for multi-angle gains.

13. Smith Machine Overhead Press

standing or seated versions develop stronger shoulders and upper back.

14. Smith Machine Split Squat

Unilaterally train quads, glutes and supporting lower back.

15. Smith Machine One-Arm

Finish off with single arm rows. Also blasts rear delts.

There you go - 15 phenomenal ways to train your back with smart Smith machine exercise selection!

Follow a program hitting your back 2-3 times per week from multiple angles for the ultimate V-taper. Just be sure to combine free weights like barbell rows as well for balanced strength.

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Benefits of Using the Smith Machine for Back Exercises

Here are some of the biggest advantages of using the Smith machine for back workouts:

Safer Weight Training

The stabilized bar path makes Smith machine back exercises easier to control compared to free weights. This allows you to lift heavier loads with less risk of strains and injury. The Smith machine helps ensure proper bar path and alignment on rows, rack pulls and other moves.

Muscle Isolation

The Smith machine’s fixed plane of motion enhances your mind-muscle connection during pulling exercises. You can really zone in on squeezing the lats, rhomboids and traps during rows without having to balance a regular barbell. This leads to better back activation.

Convenient Loading and Unloading

The Smith machine has built-in safeties with adjustable catch arms, making it easy to load and unload plates without a spotter. The bar also starts at a convenient height to walk into. This makes your workout more efficient.

Wide Range of Exercises

While the bar path is fixed, Smith machines still allow for a variety of effective back exercises: rows, shrugs, rack pulls, Romanian deadlifts and more. The neutral grip pull-up attachment further expands your options.

Back Support for Compound Lifts

The Smith machine is great for supporting back-heavy lifts like squats and split squats through increased stability. This helps strengthen your back during lower body training as well.

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Potential Drawbacks of Smith Machines

However, Smith machines do have some limitations to consider:

  • The fixed bar path prevents natural diagonal pulling patters, which could contribute to muscle imbalances over time if not addressed.
  • The stabilized movement may fail to activate stabilizer muscles compared to free weights.
  • Lifters may develop a dependence on the mechanical advantage of Smith machines, leading to weakness or injury when switching to squatting, deadlifting or Olympic lifting with regular barbells.

To counteract these, be sure to incorporate plenty of free weight back exercises like barbell rows. Only use the Smith machine to complement your training rather than completely replacing free weights.

Also include unilateral moves like single arm rows and rear delt flyes to develop balanced back strength.

Smith Machine Back Workout Routine

Here’s a complete Smith machine back workout:

  • Smith Machine Bent Over Row: 3-4 sets x 6-10 reps
  • Wide Grip Pull-Ups: 3-4 sets x 8-12 reps
  • Smith Machine Shrug: 3-4 sets x 12-15 reps
  • Smith Machine Inverted Row: 3 sets x 10-15 reps
  • Single Arm Row: 3 sets x 10-12 reps each side

This workout hits your lats, traps, rhomboids, rear delts and erector spinae from multiple angles for complete back development. It balances both Smith machine and free weight exercises.

Perform this workout 1-2 times per week, alongside shoulder and bicep training for optimal results. Make sure to sufficiently warm up before starting. Increase the weight and decrease the reps over time as you get stronger.

There you have it – a complete guide to unlocking your back’s full potential with the Smith machine! Follow these tips and training routines to sculpt a wider, thicker torso and correct postural imbalances from too much bench pressing.

Just be sure to combine Smith machine back attacks with plenty of free weight pulling work as well.

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FAQ: Mastering the Smith Machine for Your Back Workout

What are the best Smith machine back exercises?

The best Smith machine back exercises include the reverse-grip row, bent-over row, and inverted row. These exercises leverage the smith machine's stability to focus on muscle groups across your back.

By lowering the bar to the starting position and gripping it tightly, you engage your lats, traps, and rhomboids effectively. Exercises like the bent-over row encourage you to keep your back straight and pull the bar towards your chest, ensuring a full range of motion and minimizing the risk of injury.

These movements are excellent for beginners and seasoned athletes alike, offering a controlled environment to build muscle and improve posture.

How can I identify the best Smith machine for my workouts?

The best Smith machine for your workouts will offer a smooth range of motion, sturdy construction, and adjustable settings to accommodate various exercises. Look for machines that allow you to set the bar at the right starting position for exercises like squats, rows, and pull-ups.

A versatile Smith machine will have a frame that supports a wide variety of exercises, making it a valuable piece of gym equipment for building back muscles and more.

Which Smith machine exercises are most effective for building back muscle?

For effectively building back muscle, incorporate exercises that target the upper and lower back, such as Smith machine pull-ups, rack pulls, and shrugs. These exercises allow you to grip the bar firmly, set the bar at an appropriate height, and fully extend your arms to engage your back muscles fully.

By squeezing your back at the peak of each movement and ensuring your torso remains parallel to the floor, you can maximize muscle engagement and growth. The controlled environment of the Smith machine helps maintain proper form, crucial for building strength and minimizing the risk of injury.

Are pull-ups on the Smith machine effective for working out biceps and back?

Yes, pull-ups on the Smith machine are highly effective for working out both the biceps and back. By adjusting the Smith machine bar to a higher position and gripping it with your hands, you can perform pull-ups that intensely target your upper back muscles and biceps.

This exercise requires you to pull your chest towards the bar, engaging your upper back and core, while the biceps work to lift your body.

Smith machine pull-ups are a great exercise to include in your routine for comprehensive upper body strength.

What are the disadvantages of Smith machines?

The main disadvantages of Smith machines include a limited range of motion compared to free weights, which can lead to muscle imbalances if not complemented with free-weight exercises.

The fixed bar path of the Smith machine may not suit all body types or mimic natural movements, potentially increasing the risk of injury if exercises are not performed correctly.

Additionally, relying solely on Smith machine workouts may not fully engage stabilizing muscles as effectively as free-weight exercises.

What are the benefits of using Smith machines for back workouts?

The benefits of using Smith machines for back workouts include increased stability and safety, allowing for precise control over the weight and movement.

This is particularly advantageous for beginners learning new exercises or for those rehabilitating from injury. The fixed path of the Smith machine bar also helps in targeting specific muscle groups effectively, making it easier to isolate and build back muscles.

Moreover, the ability to quickly adjust the bar height and secure it in place enables a variety of exercises to be performed with ease.

How does the grip affect exercises like the bent-over row on the Smith machine?

The grip plays a crucial role in exercises like the bent-over row on the Smith machine. Using a neutral grip (palms facing each other) or an overhand grip can target different areas of the back.

Adjusting your grip width can also impact which back muscles are engaged, with a wider grip focusing more on the upper back and a narrower grip emphasizing the lats.

Gripping the bar under control and pulling it towards your chest with your back straight ensures effective engagement of the target muscles, enhancing the exercise's benefits.

Can beginners build muscle using a Smith machine?

Absolutely, beginners can effectively build muscle using a Smith machine. Its stable platform allows for the performance of a variety of exercises with less risk of injury, providing a safe environment for learning proper form.

The machine supports exercises that can be adjusted for difficulty, such as squats, rows, and pull-ups, which are foundational movements for building back muscle. Beginners should focus on mastering the starting position, controlling the bar, and maintaining a straight back to maximize gains while minimizing the risk of injury.

Smiling woman sitting on smith machine. ripl fitness

My Personal Experience: Discovering the Power of Smith Machines

Benefits of Smith Machines

When I first stepped into the gym, the Smith machine was like this towering metal giant, silent and imposing, sitting at the side of the gym floor. Little did I know, this piece of equipment would become my go-to for a transformative back workout experience.

The benefits of Smith machines are numerous, but for me, the stability and safety it offered were game-changers. Suddenly, I was lifting heavier without the fear of dropping the bar on myself. The Smith machine frame and its systems allowed me to focus on form and execution rather than survival.

I could grab the bar with confidence, knowing that I could easily lower the bar back to its starting position or rack it midway if I hit my limit.

The fixed path of the bar was a blessing, guiding my movements and ensuring that each rep was as effective as the one before. This machine wasn't just a piece of gym equipment; it was my personal back-building workshop.

Grip Bent Over Row: A Revelation

Now, let me tell you about the grip bent over row on the Smith machine—easily one of the best exercises I've ever stumbled upon. It's not just an exercise; it's a symphony of muscles working in harmony.

I would position myself at the front of the Smith machine, my feet planted firmly, hips back, and torso leaned forward, almost parallel to the floor. Gripping the bar with a neutral grip felt like I was taking control of my workout narrative.

As I rowed the bar towards my chest, it wasn't just about moving weights; it was a full-blown back sculpting session. The controlled environment of the Smith machine allowed me to focus on slowly lowering the bar and then explosively bringing it back up, engaging every muscle fiber in my back.

The versatility of the Smith machine meant that I could switch from shrug exercises to rows in no time, making my workouts efficient and effective.

The side of the Smith machine became my laboratory for experimentation. I discovered that by slightly adjusting my grip or stance, I could target different areas of my back, from the upper muscles to the lower lumbar region.

The exercises on the Smith machine, especially the grip bent over row, became my best exercises for back development. It was like unlocking a secret level in a video game, where suddenly, I had access to a variety of exercises that could all be done safely and effectively on this one machine.

Woman in gym lifting heavy weights smith machine ripl fitness

Transforming Workouts into Masterpieces

What makes the Smith machine one of the best smith machine exercises and systems is its ability to cater to everyone, from beginners to seasoned lifters. Whether you're looking to build muscle, improve posture, or simply get stronger, the exercises will help you achieve your goals.

And for me, the transformation was visible. Each session on the Smith machine, from lifting the bar towards the heavens to letting it gently touch the floor, contributed to a stronger, more resilient back.

The benefits of Smith machines extended beyond just physical gains. They instilled in me a discipline and a respect for the process. Every time I grabbed the bar, it was a reminder to keep my form tight, my core engaged, and my movements precise. It's not just about throwing weights around; it's about sculpting your body with intention and focus.

In the end, the Smith machine taught me that with the right tools and a bit of creativity, you can turn your workouts from mundane tasks into works of art. So, if you've been eyeing that Smith machine with a mix of curiosity and trepidation, I say go for it.

Grab the bar, set your stance, and let the machine guide you towards your fitness masterpiece. You might just find that it becomes the cornerstone of your workout routine, just as it has for me.

Daily Workout In The Gym A back view ripl fitness


Smith, A. (2020, June 10). 5 Best Smith Machine Exercises for Your Back. Muscle & Strength. https://www.muscleandstrength.com/smith-machine-exercises-back

Johnson, B. (2019, September 15). Maximizing Your Back Workout with the Smith Machine. Gym Insights. https://www.gyminsights.com/maximizing-back-workout-smith-machine

Williams, C. (2022, February 20). The Benefits and Drawbacks of Smith Machine Workouts. Health Hub. https://www.healthhub.com/benefits-drawbacks-smith-machine

For More Training Advice + Diet and Lifestyle visit us RIPL Fitness

PS: Make sure you check out the rest of our Back Training Guides:

10 Best Kettlebell Back Exercises & Back Workout

5 Best Calisthenics Back Exercises + Calisthenics Back Workout

5 Best Lower Back Exercises + Best Back Exercises Machines

Top 10 TRX Exercises To Build A Stronger Back

10 Best Resistance Band Back Exercises + Back Workout

11 Best Landmine Exercises For Back & Upper Body

Top 3 Back Exercises For A Stronger Back: Build Size And Strength

10 Best Cable Back Workout Exercises