Machine Rows

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Porovoz
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Machine Rows

Post by Porovoz » Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:59 pm

I really can't do manual rows with free weights. They feel akward, decent forum is hard to attain, and the range of motion I am able to manage plummets with each rep. Thus I turn to plate loaded machines, of which three very similar ones are offered at most gyms. Is there any difference? Is one better than the others? Should I concentrate on one or rotate through them all?

Low Row: http://us.commercial.lifefitness.com/co ... erallowrow
Row: http://us.commercial.lifefitness.com/co ... eralrowing
High Row: http://us.commercial.lifefitness.com/co ... ralhighrow


The information sheet attached to the machines lists the exact same muscles...

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Post by Stephen Johnson » Mon Mar 16, 2009 2:25 pm

@Porovoz:

You really should try to do some freeweight rows, even if it's with relatively low weight. Don't get hung up on the weight - concentrate on the back muscles moving through the full range of motion. No jerking or dropping the weight - keep it under control.

That being said, Hammer Strength iso-lateral machines have a good rep both among gym owners and lifters, even hard core lifters. You see them used in Flex magazine articles all the time.

Personal notes:

1 - I like the High Row the best - I can feel the lats stretch at the top of the movement, and contract at the bottom more than with other machines.

2 - I can lift the most weight with the Iso Lateral Row. Whether more work is being done at that position is an unanswered question, though.

3 - The Low Row feels awkward and is harder for me to move weight with. If nobody is around, I'll use it for most of my machine rowing. If they are around, I'll use the Iso Lateral Row - I have to protect my image, after all. :wink:

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Post by Porovoz » Sat Apr 04, 2009 10:24 pm

So there is no fundamental difference in the muscles worked or in they way they are worked, only a matter of personal preference?

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Post by Ironman » Sun Apr 05, 2009 12:43 pm

The fact that you have noticed how much harder the free weight rows are should answer your question.

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Post by Jungledoc » Sun Apr 05, 2009 9:45 pm

Why can't you do free-weight rows? Not strong enough? That just means you're starting with too much weight. CYEATD (check your ego at the door). It doesn't matter what people will think if they see you rowing 20# or 10# or whatever. If it challenges you, that's a sign that it's good for you.

That said, cable rows are good exercises, too. I like seated rows. Face-pulls are a row variant that I use at times. I'd say to just avoid the lever-machine rows if you can.

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Post by Porovoz » Mon Apr 06, 2009 12:57 am

Jungledoc wrote:Why can't you do free-weight rows? Not strong enough? That just means you're starting with too much weight. CYEATD (check your ego at the door). It doesn't matter what people will think if they see you rowing 20# or 10# or whatever. If it challenges you, that's a sign that it's good for you.

That said, cable rows are good exercises, too. I like seated rows. Face-pulls are a row variant that I use at times. I'd say to just avoid the lever-machine rows if you can.
You could call it being not strong enough to row a respectable weight, sure. Yet, it is a more complex problem than that. I am still new to weight training and struggle with form in this particular exercise despite receiving instruction on it. The weight I can row properly seems too light and easy to lift to the point that doing the exercise is an utter waste of time. If I go for something that is heavy enough to actually present some sort of challenge, then, as already mentioned, I run into issues with range of motion and awkwardness.

For the time being, I would rather eliminate these problems by doing the exercise properly with the help of a machine rather than waste my time with a)ridiculously low weight or b)horrid form. While I intend to progress to the dumbbell bent-over row eventually, using the plate-loaded machine appears to provide for the exact same movement, without limiting the range of motion, or eliminating any stabilizers. What's the harm in using it to get a baseline amount of rowing strength?

And yes, I also find that cable rows are great, I do the straight back variant of the seated row.

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Post by pdellorto » Mon Apr 06, 2009 8:25 am

Porovoz wrote:For the time being, I would rather eliminate these problems by doing the exercise properly with the help of a machine rather than waste my time with a)ridiculously low weight or b)horrid form. While I intend to progress to the dumbbell bent-over row eventually, using the plate-loaded machine appears to provide for the exact same movement, without limiting the range of motion, or eliminating any stabilizers. What's the harm in using it to get a baseline amount of rowing strength?
If the machine is really duplicating the free weight exercise precisely, you should have the same problems. Declining ROM as the reps go on and everything else - lower weights, etc.

If you don't, it's because the machine is offloading some of the work - probably stabilization. That problem will come right back when you go back to dumbbell rows.

That's the logical problem I have there - either it matches the free weight but it's easier to do heavier, which means it's superior to the free weight exercise, or it's helping you out to get those heavier weights, and that means it's inferior. Personally I'd stick to the lighter weights on the dumbbell rows and try to see what's holding me back (could be another exercise is needed for some specific movement), and use the cable rows for the heavier work in the meantime.

None of us will come to your gym and take you off the machines, though, if you prefer to try them first.

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Post by Ryan A » Mon Apr 06, 2009 2:21 pm

I am confused why you perceive low weight free weight rows as a waste of time. If they are awkward or have declining form, then that means the muscles used to maintain form and avoid awkwardness are weak in that free weight exercise.

The machines may make you stronger in some areas where you are already strong but the weaknesses will remain.

Eventually when you feel comfortable enough to switch over to free weight exercises, you will either (1) still have the same awkwardness you have now because you never trained the muscles on the machines or (2) mask the awkwardness with increased strength in other muscles which are not really meant to stabilize the movement and thus increase your risk of injury over time through improper technique.

So, it is likely you will have to start with the same "low weight" even after using the machines if you do not want to deal with (1) and (2) as discussed above. So why not do it sooner rather than later?

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Post by frogbyte » Mon Apr 06, 2009 3:50 pm

I also find free weight rows (or inverted rows) to be extremely awkward, and the range of motion is difficult to deal with.

The reason is that the last 1-2 inches of the movement is by far the most difficult portion of the movement. The last inch to get the bar to your chest is easily more work than the other 20 inches of movement put together.

I absolutely despise the motion for this reason - though I'm continuing to do it because I have no other viable option.

It's hard to tell from the picture, but it looks like the first row machine has the weight parallel to the ground to start and more vertical at the end, meaning the finish of the movement would no longer be the most difficult part.

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Post by Porovoz » Mon Apr 06, 2009 5:50 pm

frogbyte,

Masterfully put! You've hit the nail square on the head in terms of your description. Being able to lift a weight 90-95% of the way with absolute ease, but then struggling to do many reps at all of the last bit is frustrating as can be! Otherwise, I actually find the low hardest and most like free weight row in terms of the last portion of the full range of motion being the most difficult. Here they are in video form for a better demonstration of the mechanics:

Low-Row: http://www.expertvillage.com/video/8678 ... ow-row.htm
Row: http://www.expertvillage.com/video/8676 ... ateral.htm
High Row: http://www.expertvillage.com/video/8679 ... gh-row.htm


In any case, it looks like it's back to struggling with dumbbell rows for me. Thanks for the advice everyone! If it doesn't work out, at least I can derive comfort from the fact that even some of the guys around the gym who are built like buses use the above machines... so they can't be entirely useless.

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Post by Matt Z » Mon Apr 06, 2009 5:53 pm

Machines work pretty well for adding muscle mass (providing your doing major compound movements), but not as well for developing real-world strength.

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Post by KPj » Tue Apr 07, 2009 3:16 am

Struggling with the end ROM is normally a middle/lower trap weakness. It's very common. Give them lot's of direct work, and lift with good form (a weight you can complete the rep with) and things will sort themselves out quicker.

This is a good example of what of what Gray Cook calls, "adding strength to dysfunction". Your middle/lower traps are a weak link in the sense that you can't complete full ROM with decent weight, so, instead, you complete partial ROM with as much weight as possible (further neglecting the weakness).

I agree with Ryan A. The machine could be a nice addition to other row variations but you need to get to the root of the problem first. Not doing so is like having credit card debt hanging over you and sayin, "i'll just keep using it and hopefully the balance will come down".

This must be one of the most referenced articles on here, but check the following,and start doing some face pulls, and completely forget about the weight and focus on perfect technique. I would actually recommend you use a weight light enough to hold breifly when your shoulder blades are fully retracted and depressed (back and down). Just hold it for a second or 2 at the end of each rep. This will pave the way to makle sure you achieve this full ROM in the future when you drop the hold.

http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_art ... and_shrugs

Also, don't be scared to over do the rows for a while. Generally, if you do more of the stuff you hate, you'll get better results. I actually believe you should do more rows than pressing anyway but especially if its a weakness, one of the quickest way to bring a weakness up is to increase volume and frequency.

KPj

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Post by frogbyte » Tue Apr 07, 2009 3:46 pm

Well I've been doing rows for 2 years (inverted rows for a couple months now), and the last inch has always been more difficult than the other 20 inches put together. I really don't see how that would ever change, just looking at the physics of the movement.

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Post by pdellorto » Tue Apr 07, 2009 4:41 pm

I don't think KPj is saying it'll get easier at the top, but if the top if the weakness and you "address" it by doing a shorter ROM, it'll always be weak. If you address that top weakness, you'll be able to use the full ROM for a heavier weight and everything will come along.

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Post by KPj » Wed Apr 08, 2009 3:30 am

frogbyte wrote:Well I've been doing rows for 2 years (inverted rows for a couple months now), and the last inch has always been more difficult than the other 20 inches put together. I really don't see how that would ever change, just looking at the physics of the movement.
What Peter said sums it up nicely.

Of course the 'physics of the movement' is going to make the end ROM more difficult, but that's no reason to avoid it. Going by the same logic - That it will "never change" - We could all just do quarter squats, 3-4 inch Bench pressing, half deadlifts (rack pulls), why do anything full ROM? Why not just strengthen the part of the movement you find easiest? I geniunely don't like sounding so harsh but sometimes when things get confusing it's good to apply the same logic to similar scenarios and see how it works out.

Honestly, though, this is far more common than you think. You don't just see it in rows, you see it just as much in pull ups/chin ups, too. In a typical commercial gym you get loads of guys who think they can DB Row X amount of weight, but make them do the movement CORRECTLY, and it's a whole different story (I used to be 'that guy', btw).

There's other implications, too. Rows are seen as a means of balancing out benching. If you miss that end ROM, your missing out on some very important movements/muscles.

About 2.5-3 years ago I couldn't do a single full rep of inverted rows - full reps as in chest to bar. My whole back was a big weakness. I actually had to do about 4x more pulling than pressing to even it out (that's 'for every pressing movement, I done 4 rowing movements'). I still actually do 2-3x more pulling than pressing today.

Lot's of direct work to the shoulder blade muscles as I mentioned before, done with good form, and things will happen quicker. But you also need the patience/will power to drop the weight down do a point where you can do full Reps. Dropping the weight and seeing how strong you really are is probably the hardest part of it.

I would also recommend you started doing seated cable rows, too. It's much more straight forward to get the form fixed, and doesn't have the disadvantages that lever machines have. Make sure your chest is up, pull to your belly button area, making sure your shoulder aren't shrugging upwards when doing it. And 'no body english'.

KPj

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