Row Bent-Over Underhand Grip Smith

Start Position
End Position

Starting position:

  1. Grasp the bar with a closed, underhand/supinated grip (palms will face away from you).
  2. Grip width should be wider than shoulder width.
  3. Lift the bar off of the latches by rotating the bar.
  4. Bend at the knees and flex the torso forward so it is just above parallel to the floor.
  5. Maintain the back in a flat position to stabilize the lower back throughout the entire movement.
  6. Keep the elbows fully extended (with a slight bend in them) allowing the bar to hang below the chest area
  7. Keep your head in a neutral position and in line with the vertebral column while looking at the floor just ahead of you throughout the entire movement.

Upward movement/concentric phase:

  1. Pull the bar upward toward your lower chest/upper abdomen.
  2. Maintain the torso in a rigid position with the back flat and knees slightly bent.

Downward movement/eccentric phase:

    1. In a controlled fashion, slowly lower the bar by allowing the elbows to extend back the to the starting position.
    2. After the set is complete, rotate the bar to re-latch it.
Do not hold your breath. Exhale during the concentric/phase phase and inhale during the eccentric/lowering phase.


Exercise Data

  • Primary Muscles: Latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius, rhomboids, teres major
  • Synergists: Posterior deltoid, biceps brachii, brachialis
  • Stabilizers: Quadratus lumborum, iliocostalis, longissimus, spinalis, semispinalis, biceps femoris, rectus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique, transverse abdominis, hamstrings, quadriceps, wrist flexors, rotator cuff muscles
  • Type: Strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance
  • Mechanics: Scapular retraction, shoulder extension, and elbow flexion
  • Equipment: Smith machine
  • Lever: 1st class lever
  • Level: Intermediate to advanced
  • FAQ'S & FACTS ABOUT Row Bent-Over Underhand Grip Smith

    What Is A Smith Machine Underhand Grip Bent-Over Row?

    A Smith machine underhand/supinated grip bent-over row is a compound resistance exercise, which targets the upper and middle back including the latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius, rhomboids and teres major. This exercise is performed on a Smith machine. It is performed standing with the torso in a flexed position. It is a variation of the bent-over row with which the grip is supinated (palms facing away from you).

    The concentric portion of the lift is scapular retraction, shoulder extension, and elbow flexion. The eccentric portion is scapular protraction, shoulder flexion, and elbow extension as the bar is lowered.

    The purpose of the Smith machine underhand grip bent-over row is to strengthen the latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius, rhomboids and teres major while also promoting the hypertrophy (increases in size) of these muscles.

    Why Do A Smith Machine Underhand Grip Bent-Over Row

    Smith machine underhand/supinated grip bent-over rows strengthen and develop muscles of the upper and middle back. This exercise requires greater stabilization from the erector spinae muscle group (i.e. spinalis, semispinalis, iliocostalis, longissimus, quadratus lumborum), abdominals, and legs compared to other back exercises.1,2 This is because the torso is in a flexed position as the shoulder and elbow joints extend and flex, respectively, as the scapular retracts.

    The supinated grip increases the activation of the latissimus dorsi and the biceps brachii compared to performing it with a pronated/overhand grip. The Smith machine range of motion is limited to the provided tracking. This may allow the lifter to increase the load with a relatively increased amount of ease.

    In addition to serving as an exercise that enhances the aesthetics of the upper and middle back, Smith machine bent-over rows also complement weightlifting and sport performance.

    Fenwick CM, Brown SH, McGill SM. (2009). Comparison of different rowing exercises: trunk muscle activation and lumbar spine motion, load, and stiffness. JSCR. 23(2):350-8.

    Saeterbakken A, Andersen V, Brudeseth A, Lund H, Fimland MS. (2015). The Effect of Performing Bi- and Unilateral Row Exercises on Core Muscle Activation. Int J Sports Med. 36(11):900-5.

    Anatomy Of A Smith Machine Underhand Grip Bent-Over Row

    The latissimus dorsi is a broad, flat, and triangular-shaped muscle of the lower back. When defined, the “lats” form a “v” shape of the torso as they angle toward the waist. The latissimus dorsi is a primary shoulder adductor and shoulder extensor. In this exercise the latissimus dorsi is responsible for extending the shoulder as the bar is lifted upward. Its origin is located along the spines of the lower six thoracic vertebrae, lower 3 to 4 ribs, and iliac crest of the pelvis. Its insertion spirals around the teres major as it inserts into the intertubercular groove of the humerus.

    A flat and triangular muscle, the trapezius is the most superficial muscle of the posterior thorax. The middle fibers run horizontally to the scapula. Its origin is located at the occipital bone, ligamentum nuchae, and spines of C7 and all thoracic vertebrae. Its insertion is located along the acromion and spine of the scapula and lateral region of the clavicle. The middle trapezius retracts the scapula. As a superficial muscle, developing the middle trapezius contributes to the overall aesthetics of the upper back.

    The rhomboids are two rectangular muscles that lie underneath the trapezius just below the levator scapulae. The rhomboids consist of the rhomboid minor and rhomboid major. The rhomboid minor is located above the rhomboid major and is more superficial. The origin of the rhomboid minor is located at the spinous processes of C7 and T1. The origin of the rhomboid major is located at the spinous processes of T2-T5. The insertion of both rhomboids major and minor is located at the medial border of the scapula. The rhomboids are synergists with the middle trapezius when retracting the scapula.

    The teres major is a thick muscle located underneath the teres minor. It helps to form the posterior wall of the axilla. A synergist of the latissimus dorsi, the teres major extends the shoulder in this exercise. Its origin is located at the posterior surface of the scapula at the inferior angle. Its insertion is located at the crest of the lesser tubercle on the anterior humerus (its tendon fused with that of the latissimus dorsi).

    The deltoid is a thick, multipennate muscle that forms a curtain around the shoulder. It is the primary muscle involved with arm abduction. When developed, the deltoids give the shoulder their round shape. The extension of the shoulder joint as the bar is lifted activates the posterior fibers of the deltoid. The origin of the deltoid is located at the insertion of the trapezius, lateral third of the clavicle and the acromion spine of the scapula. Its insertion is located at the deltoid tuberosity of the humerus.

    The biceps brachii consists of two heads, the long head and the short head. The long head tendon helps stabilize the shoulder joint and its origin is located at the tubercle and lip of the glenoid cavity of the scapula (shoulder blade). The short head origin is located at the coracoid process of the scapula (shoulder blade). The long and short head unite as the muscle bellies run down the front of the arm. Both heads merge, sharing insertion into the radial tuberosity of the elbow joint. The biceps brachii supinates the wrists while the elbow joint flexes as the bar is lifted upward.

    The brachialis lies underneath the biceps brachii, originating at the front of the lower end of the humerus bone. Its insertion is located at the coronoid process of the ulna at the elbow joint. The brachialis is a primary elbow flexor.

    The quadratus lumborum, iliocostalis, longissimus, spinalis, and semispinalis play an essential role in stabilizing the neck and upper and lower regions of the back during this exercise as the torso is in a flexed position.

    The abdominal muscles, rectus abdominis, external oblique and internal oblique also play an important role in stabilizing the torso.

    The hamstrings (i.e. biceps femoris, semitendinosus, semimembranosus) and quadriceps femoris (i.e. rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis) assist in stabilizing the torso from the lower extremity.

    The rotator cuff muscles help stabilize the shoulder joint as the scapular retract and the shoulder extends. The wrist flexors maintain the wrists rigid and stabilized throughout the exercise.

    How To Improve Your Smith Machine Underhand Grip Bent-Over Rows

    Strategically varying your grip (supinated, pronated) can optimize the muscle fiber recruitment of the activated muscles. Over time, this will enhance the strength and hypertrophy of the corresponding upper and middle back muscles.

    During the bent-over row, the lower back muscles may fatigue quickly for some individuals. This can increase negative stress on the lumbar region among individuals with a compromised lower back. One way to work around this is to perform this exercise with a barbell and alternate the position of this exercise by lying face down on a flat or incline bench while lifting the bar.

    Focus more on the shoulder extension and scapular retraction to lift the bar upward as opposed to focusing on the hands dominating the effort of the lift. This will not only optimize muscle activation, but also prevent strain on the biceps brachii that could increase the risk of injury.

    Focus on the concentric portion of the contraction, concentrating on “squeezing” as the scapula are retracted (“shoulder blades” are squeezed together).

    Emphasis on eccentric contractions, prolonging the eccentric portion of the contraction, may also be incorporated in a training program focused on increasing strength. This should be implemented accordingly and with adequate muscle recovery as eccentric contractions cause substantial damage to muscle tissue.

    It’s important to note that your repetition and set volume will depend on your goals (e.g. strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance). It is also important to allow adequate recovery days in between back, shoulder, and biceps training days to allow muscles to repair.

    Common Mistakes When Doing Smith Machine Underhand Grip Bent-Over Rows

    Using momentum to lift the bar (e.g. jerking the torso for assistance) minimizes the potential of force production of the involved muscles and can increase the risk for injury. It is important that both the eccentric and concentric phases of the exercise are controlled.

    Variations Of A Smith Machine Underhand Grip Bent-Over Row

    Smith machine [overhand grip] bent-over row, Yates row, barbell bent-over rows, dumbbell bent-over rows, one-arm dumbbell bent-over rows, bench rows, two-arm barbell rows, one-arm barbell rows, T-bar rows, seated rows, standing one-arm low-pulley rows, machine rows.

    Injuries Or Ailments & Their Effects Regarding Smith Machine Underhand Grip Bent-Over Rows

    If the lifter has a compromised range of motion with the back or shoulder joint and/or performs this exercise incorrectly, this exercise can increase the risk of injury and/or exacerbate a previous injury.

    If proper technique and recovery are not adhered to, impingement syndrome, biceps tendinitis, rotator cuff injuries, and/or lower back injuries may occur.