Machine High Row

Most back exercises have you pulling down from overhead or rowing from in front of your body. Unfortunately, it seems few exercises offer anything different.

However, the machine high row is a unique exercise that offers the benefits of both pulldowns and rows.

This article shows you how to do a machine high row. And it gives you some alternative exercises if you work out at a gym that doesn’t have this machine.

Machine High Row

What Is A Machine High Row?

A machine high row is like a hybrid between a lat pulldown and a traditional rowing exercise. With handles located high in front, you pull your arms down and back.

Furthermore, the unique movement angle of the high row targets different muscles compared to other back exercises.

Machine High Row Muscles Worked

The primary muscles involved in the machine high row are the latissimus dorsi or lats.

In addition, the machine high row works the rhomboids, teres major, and teres minor like a lat pulldown. And it works the lower traps like a low row.

Lastly, the biceps are used as a secondary muscle due to the arm flexion involved in this movement.

Machine High Row Muscles Worked

Machine High Row Benefits & Limitations

As you can see, the machine high row involves a large number of muscle groups in one exercise. And the machine’s seat pads make it easier to maintain good form.

But this exercise isn’t as good at targeting any single muscle group. So being a jack of all trades comes at the expense of precision focus.


  • Unique movement path
  • Hit several muscle groups in your back with one exercise
  • Easier to use proper form (harder to cheat)


  • Not as good as lat pulldowns for the upper back
  • Not as good as rows for the lower lats and traps

How To Do A Machine High Row

Before starting the machine high row, adjust the seat height to give you the correct movement path and range of motion.

Next, grab the handles and sit down on the seat with your arms extended. Most high row machines use an overhand grip, but some allow an underhand grip.

From here, pull your hands down and back towards your chest by squeezing your lats. Then control the weight back up to the starting position with arms fully extended.

To recap, here are the step-by-step directions:

  1. Adjust the seat height
  2. Grab the handles and sit down
  3. Start with your arms extended
  4. Pull down and back by squeezing your lats
  5. Control the weight back to the starting position
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps

Machine High Row Video

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Machine High Row vs Lat Pulldown vs Low Row

The most obvious difference between the high row and other exercises is the angle of your arms. During a high row, your arms are at an angle somewhere between a lat pulldown and a low row.

Machine High Row Muscles Worked

As a result, the high row uses a combination of back muscles. Although it doesn’t target the upper back as much as the lat pulldown. And it doesn’t work the lower lats or biceps as much as the low row.

Machine High Row Form

The seat and padded front rest of the high row machine are ideal for keeping your body in the right position during the exercise. But you still must perform the exercise properly to hit the desired muscles.

One of the biggest issues with the high row is having the seat too high or too low. When this happens, you put your arms and wrists in an unnatural position.

Machine High Row Form 1
Machine High Row Form 2

So make sure the handles come to your chest at the bottom of the movement. Your arms should form about a 45-degree angle with your body at the bottom (when viewed from behind).

Also, pay attention to your hands and wrists. You should be able to keep your wrists straight throughout the exercise.

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Machine High Row Variations

So far, I’ve shown you the high row using a dual weight stack machine. But your gym might have a different type of high row machine. So here are some additional high row variations.

Plate Loaded Machine High Row

The plate-loaded machine high row is virtually identical to the weight stack version, with the only difference being how you add resistance.

As the name suggests, the plate-loaded machine uses weight plates on each side instead of the weight stack. Also, the machine usually has the weights behind you.

Machine High Row Plate Loaded

Cable Machine High Row

The cable machine high row is slightly different from the weight stack or plate loaded variation.

This machine has a seat and thigh pads like a lat pulldown station. But instead of a cable directly overhead, it has two cables high in front.

Once you sit down and grab the cables, the exercise is the same as any other high row. However, you have more control over your hand and arm position during the movement.

Single Arm Machine High Row

Usually, you do high row exercises with both arms simultaneously. But you have the option to work one arm at a time.

The single-arm high row enables you to concentrate more on the working muscle instead of thinking about moving both arms in unison.

Machine High Row Alternatives

Not every gym has a high row machine. But you can simulate this exercise in a few different ways using a standard cable apparatus.

Standing High Cable Row

Adjust the pulley to the highest position, so it’s above head level when standing. Then attach an EZ bar or dual strap handle.

Grab the handle and step back with your feet staggered for support. Start with your arms extended, then pull the handle down and back towards your chest.

Kneeling High Cable Row

Set the pulley a little above your head while kneeling for this variation. Then perform the exercise as described above.

Seated High Cable Row

A third option is to sit on your butt on the floor while doing the high cable row. This position enables you to pull a little more weight without tipping forward.

Other Machine Row Exercises

The machine high row is a great all-around back exercise. But it’s not ideal for isolating your upper or lower back. And your gym might not even have this machine!

Another good option is called the Smith machine row. This exercise combines the benefits of free weights and machines to build your lower lats. Click the picture or button below to learn more!

Smith Machine Row
Smith Machine Row

With this information, you’re well on your way to building a strong and defined back. If you liked this article, please check out some of my other helpful content below!

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A big chest doesn’t have to be the stuff of mythology and fantasy.  Unless you’ve been dealt a very unlucky hand genetically, you can build a big chest too!  Chances are you simply haven’t structured your training for maximum growth.  In this article you will learn how to build chest muscle with a killer chest workout designed for optimal growth.

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