Think of back workouts for a moment. Which exercise comes to mind when you envision achieving a chiseled back? How can you achieve this well-liked goal of having a strong back, amazing shoulder health, and good posture?
You may think of various exercises in your search for a strong back, but here let’s get down into details about one of the best options around: a high row machine.
The high row machine, also known as the hammer strength high row machine, often comes to mind first for gym-goers. That’s because this machine combines rows and pulldowns, two movements with the highest impact on back muscles.
The back has 20 pairs of muscles, totaling 40 individual muscles, with each pair symmetrically aligned on either side of the body. The high row machine is a powerhouse exercise that affects these muscles and helps you sculpt a defined back. Aside from the enhanced body strength and shape, your back muscles are highly important for preventing injuries and many of your everyday routines, including moving groceries. Therefore, you should always appreciate the importance of these exercises.
This machine engages your shoulders, biceps, traps, lats, and rhomboids. So, no matter if you’ve just embarked on your bodybuilding journey or are a fitness enthusiast with years of experience, the machine high row probably has plenty to offer.
This article looks at this machine’s benefits and how you can best use it. We’ll talk about the common mistakes to avoid and important things to consider if you plan to buy it. Finally, we mention some machine high row alternatives for those working out at a gym without this machine.
So, with no further ado, let’s get to know this exercise better.
Understanding the High Row Machines Better
High row machines are equipped with elevated arms, making them excellent for pulling exercises that target your back muscles and biceps. They are engineered to provide ample resistance, which is key during the compound movements performed on the machine. These exercises engage a considerable amount of muscle, particularly around the shoulders and elbows. High row machines are available in several designs, and most feature adjustable pins on the sides, allowing you to customize the weight load to suit your strength and training level.
If you’ve ever wondered why it’s also known as a Hammer Strength high row machine, the reason is that Hammer Strength is the name of a brand famous for its row and plate-loaded machines of various kinds. The brand has a great reputation as a notable player in the industry that produces high-quality equipment. So, since many high row machines in random gyms are manufactured by this company, the brand name has been used by so many individuals.
Marc describes how to use the hammer strength high row machine and overcome the challenges some individuals have.
Regarding the machine design, the seated high row machine fits somewhere between the seated back row and pull-ups. The pulling motion occurs at an angle, neither horizontal nor vertical. When you use this machine, you pull down at an angle, pulling your arms towards the body. So, it provides a different stimulus for muscle training.
Top Benefits of High Row Machine
Many consider this machine a game-changer above other gym exercises to sculpt and strengthen upper body muscles and have a strong, defined back. It helps you have a healthy and improved posture because of the upper-back muscle development. The seated high row machine design helps prevent discomfort in the lower back.
Aesthetics aside, these exercises also have substantial benefits for back health. The stronger your back muscles get, the less pain and injuries you suffer. Improved back muscles also accelerate the healing process of current injuries. In addition, it helps you build the muscles of your arms, especially when doing the underhand variation. You can either do it in the bilateral way (two arms) or the unilateral way (one arm).
Another advantage is that high row machines are excellent options for beginners. If you’re new to weightlifting, you’ll find it easier than other weight exercises. The simplicity of use and effectiveness for strengthening back muscles are among the benefits that made this exercise so popular.
How to Do the Machine High Row Correctly?
You’ll probably find it very easy to complete the high row. But there are some important details to consider to capitalize on it.
Adjust and Sit:
First of all, you should adjust the machine to your liking. Put the leg support pads’ height and handles in a position for optimal comfort with lats stretched while your thighs are in a straight position parallel to the ground and your feet are flat on the floor. Your back should also be straight. The weight you choose should allow you to move for 8-15 moves.
Start the Movement:
Now, grasp the handle using an overhand grip with palms facing down. It’s important that your shoulders get stretched forward. Pull the handles until your elbows are behind you, and exhale as you do it. Keep the elbows close to your body, and try to squeeze the shoulder blades together. Hold in this position for a few seconds as long as you feel the tension in your upper back muscles.
Return and Repeat:
As you breathe in, slowly release the handles back to their initial position. Your back muscles should stretch while returning to the starting position. Use no momentum at all. Now, repeat the steps for your desired number of reps to challenge your muscles. It’s also important to keep your neck neutral during the reps to avoid creating strain on it.
This video shows you how to use this machine correctly:
Don’t forget that you can also use the machine with an underhand grip if you focus on lower back muscles.
The High Row Machine and the Muscles Worked
There are multiple muscles activated while doing high machine row compound exercise.
Latissimus dorsi, generally known as “lats,” are broad muscles that run horizontally on the entire side of your body. Involved in both brachial (movements of the arm) and thoracic (movements of the chest area) motions, these muscles are responsible for shoulder extension and adduction when using the high row machine. It’s also worth mentioning that many of the upper body actions are performed by lats in conjunction with two other muscles.
Major and Minor Rhomboids
These two rhomboid-shaped muscles are located on the upper back and help elevate and rotate the scapula in conjunction with the traps. These functions are necessary to have a healthy and functional shoulder joint.
Known as one of the most important muscles in the back, the trapezius or “traps” has three major parts: Upper, middle, and lower. These muscles stabilize and move the scapula, with upper fibers responsible for scapula elevation, middle traps for retraction, and lower traps for depressing the upper fibers.
The biceps are the elbow flexors. So they’re involved in most rowing and pulling exercises. These muscles are mostly engaged when pulling the bar down. If you want to increase arm gains, you can combine the high machine row with some biceps workouts.
Spinal erectors or erector spinae are a group of muscles that help your back rotate and straighten. It spans the back from the neck to the lower back. This muscle is especially activated when you use a cable row machine, but working on a high row machine is also highly effective for its strength.
How to Incorporate High Row Machines into Your Fitness Routine
According to the American Sport and Fitness Association, rowing workouts effectively build strength and challenge the cardiovascular system. So, no matter if you want to increase endurance, have a cardio workout, or beef up your back muscles, you should add high row machines to your routine.
For muscle growth, aim for three sets of 8-12 reps. Alternatively, you can try four sets of 6 reps with a heavier load to strengthen your back muscles. Given that you use one arm, you should decrease the number of sets but increase reps for the best possible results.
Variations of High Row Exercises for More Challenging Workouts
Although the machine high row is the best of its kind in sculpting the back muscles, you can add more challenges to your workout by making some tweaks. Let’s see some of the options you can choose to spice things up further:
Single-Arm Machine High Row
Have you ever seen those guys in the gym who use this machine with one arm? Single-arm machine high row paves the way for more challenge to your back muscles, improving stability. It’s a great way to build size and target specific muscles usually neglected by other forms of row exercises.
Combination with Resistance Training
Want to torch more calories? Try combining the high row machine exercises with strength training. You can think of resistance moves as practical additions between rowing intervals. You can try biceps curls and overhead presses as ideal additions between intervals.
Just like any other exercises with grips, choosing a different grip influences how your muscles are engaged. To focus on the mid-back and lats, try an overhand grip. Otherwise, try an overhand grip with palms facing up to target the upper back and biceps. So, based on your preferences and muscle priorities, you can tweak the grip type for the best results.
Safety Precautions and Common Mistakes
Like many other exercises, the machine high row requires paying close attention to what you do AND what you shouldn’t do! Here, we mention some of the common pitfalls you should focus on to avoid hindering your progress.
Don’t Skip Warmups
Just like any other sport or exercise, warmups and stretching moves are mandatory before using a high row machine. Your muscles and connective tissues don’t stretch easily when they’re cold. So, by doing warmups, you allow them to relax and have a better chance of working appropriately.
Mads shows how to do warmups for the upper body before starting the exercises.
Don’t Move Too Fast
Controlled movements to engage targeted muscles are a top priority. Don’t think of your sets as a race! Don’t rely on momentum; proceed without putting stress on your joints. Time under tension (TUT) is important in empowering any muscle. You relieve your muscles of this good tension when you perform the exercise faster than usual.
Progressively Increase Weights
Start with a manageable weight and progress by going for the heavier ones over time. Doing so allows your muscles to grow effectively and prevent potential injuries. On the other hand, remember that your muscles must experience stress to grow. It’s best to logically increase the weight stack over time.
Maintain a Healthy Posture
Aligning your spine while doing this exercise is necessary for maintaining a strong posture. Stabilize your body and let the upper back muscles do the lifting. Ensure that your head and hips align in a straight line.
Adjust Your Seat Appropriately
Correct seat adjustment is highly important for maintaining stability while performing the moves. Keeping your body still while doing seated high row machine exercises prevents instability and maximizes the effects.
Tips for Buying a High Row Machine
Buying a high row machine is a great choice for anyone trying to get in shape. However, choosing the right model can be confusing. Here, we’ll go through a general guide to review important factors to consider when buying this machine.
Rowing machines, in general, are built with different types of resistance. This factor affects how smooth and quiet an experience you can have. The most popular types are air resistance, bungee rope, fluid resistance, magnetic resistance, and hybrid.
Each of these options comes with advantages and disadvantages you should consider. For example, the air resistance mechanism is very noisy, making it inappropriate for home gyms. Magnetic resistance is easily adjustable, but the resistance range doesn’t increase with stronger strides.
Design and Size
Depending on your available space, the machine’s design and size are determining factors to consider. So your choice should best suit the comfort you require. While some require dedicated workout spaces in your home or gym, other compact models can be easily disassembled.
Ranging from a few hundred to thousands of dollars, the option you choose should fit within the price range you can afford. Therefore, if you opt for well-known brands like Hammer Strength, expect a different price range compared to less-known brands.
Machine High Row Alternatives to Try
The high row machine is undoubtedly an excellent addition to your training routine. But not everyone has access to it since many gyms don’t have the machine. But don’t worry if that’s the condition you’re in. Here, we have suggested a few machine high row alternatives to keep you on track.
Pull-ups and chin-ups have long been the top choices for upper-body muscles. You should probably add pull-ups to your routine if you want to strengthen your biceps, lats, and teres major. In case you can’t perform the full reps, use bands.
Patty shows a great way to overcome the challenge of using bands for pull-ups.
The effective lat pulldown exercise does you wonders despite its simplicity. To do it, make sure to adjust the seat height and knee pad and avoid half reps. It’s also possible for you to change the grip type to target various muscles.
Lat Pull Downs – Stop swinging and using momentum to love the weight. Focus on the target muscle(s) by controlling the weight, moving through full range, keeping chest up and shoulders back as you drive the elbows down. – #gymtiktok #gymtok #backworkout #latpulldown #gymtips #fitness
Watch Peter Miljak describing how to do lat pulldowns correctly.
The last accessible alternative to the high machine row is dumbbell rows. You can perform this exercise in different ways, like single-arm dumbbell row, chest-supported dumbbell row, and dumbbell plank row.
Watch this video to master dumbbell rows:
Get a Ripped Back with High Machine Row & Flex App!
In the realm of sculpting a chiseled back, the high row machine is a simple-to-work machine that serves very well to gain muscle mass and strength. This exercise is the key to a powerful posture and transforming your back. Whether taking your first steps or being an experienced gym-goer, you’ll surely see noticeable gains by incorporating it into your routine.
As you focus on having a stronger back, our free Flex app will help you on this journey as a personal trainer you can take everywhere. It’s simple to use and covers all the details and instructions you need for crafting an aesthetically pleasing back. Simply click on the link below and download the app now.
High Row Machine FAQ
What Muscles Are Worked with High Row Machine?
The high row machine is designed to work the back muscles most effectively. It targets rhomboids, lats, traps, and biceps.
How Does a High Row Machine Work?
This machine works by allowing you to pull at an angle, neither horizontally nor vertically. Your upper back muscles will be engaged by grabbing the handles and pulling them towards your body.
What Are Machine High Row Alternatives?
Although the high row machine is a fantastic option for your back, you can try other exercises such as pull-ups, dumbbell rows, and lat pulldowns.
Is High Row Machine Suitable for All Levels?
Yes, it is suitable for all levels. The adjustable weight stacks allow you to customize your workout intensity and increase it over time as you progress.
What Precautions Should You Consider When Using a High Row Machine?
The most important thing to consider is preventing back injuries by maintaining proper form. Do some research or ask experienced users about how to use the equipment correctly. Additionally, don’t start with heavy weights.