Do The Smith Machine Dead Stop Row!

Smith machine dead stop row

Smith machine rows are a tremendous exercise for building a bigger, thicker back. A great way to make this exercise even more effective is to pause in between each rep. Enter the smith machine dead stop row!


  • Part 1: Drawbacks of regular smith machine rows
  • Part 2: Smith machine dead stop rows
  • Part 3: Sample training routines
  • Part 4: Conclusion

In this comprehensive guide I am going to teach you everything you need to know about how to start using the dead stop row today to add slabs of muscle mass to your backside!

We’re going to cover the importance of rowing exercises, the benefits of dead stop rows in the smith machine over traditional smith machine rows, and how to incorporate this superior exercise into sample training routines.

You don’t want to miss this cutting-edge information!

Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: Drawbacks Of Regular Smith Machine Rows

The traditional way of performing smith machine rows involves performing continuous reps where you don’t pause the bar on the safety racks at any time during the set.

For example, here is bodybuilding coach Paul Carter giving an excellent demonstration of traditional smith machine rows:

These are still a reasonable exercise, and they even manage to crack my list of the 15 greatest rowing variations of all time.

However, I think there are a couple of drawbacks to this way of performing the exercise.

First, the risk of injuring your lower back is somewhat higher. This is especially true if you don’t have the discipline of Paul Carter to really maintain perfect form on every rep.

The challenge is when you have to reverse the weight in the bottom position of each rep.

At this point your lower back takes on a tremendous amount of strain in not only decelerating the weight going down, but accelerating the weight on the way back up.

Just imagine performing a deadlift where you stop 1 inch above the ground and then reverse the weight.

This would be much, much harder on your lower back than just resetting the weight on the ground in between each rep!

Believe me, a lower back injury is not something you want to deal with.

I injured my lower back when I was 18 (playing tennis of all things!) and was in so much pain that I physically could not sit down for over 3 months.

To this day my lower back still flares up on occasion and I have to be extremely deliberate in my execution of any exercise involving the lower back.

The other drawback to the traditional way of performing smith machine rows is that it can be a real challenge to maximally contract the back in the shortened position.

There’s just something about this exercise that ever so slightly misses the mark.

Perhaps its all that neural drive that you have to expend with your lower back in the bottom position to prevent your torso from collapsing that disrupts your “mind-muscle connection” with the upper back.

Whatever the cause, I believe there is 1 simple trick to dramatically improve how well you can contract your upper back with this exercise.

Part 2: Smith Machine Dead Stop Rows

This is the way!

By resetting the weight on the safety bars in the smith machine in between each rep you accomplish 2 very important things:

  1. The exercise becomes much safer on the lower back
  2. You are able to overload your upper back muscles much, much harder!

For example, here is the madman John Meadows giving a perfect demonstration of how to perform deadstop smith machine rows:

Notice how he resets the bar on the safety pins in between each rep and really concentrates on achieving the best possible starting position before every rep.

If you have been lifting for a while then I am sure you can practically feel your upper back getting thrashed just watching this video!

So by incorporating the deadstop on every rep we make the exercise safer AND more effective. Not a bad deal!

Part 3: Sample Training Routines

The deadstop smith machine row should be used primarily by bodybuilders.

You can work this exercise in pretty much anywhere in your upper back routines where you would normally perform a rowing variation.

Here are two upper back hypertrophy routines featuring the dead stop smith machine row that you may want to try.

Of course you can always work with me directly if you would rather have a training program custom-made to suit your needs.

6-12-25 Tri-Set Routine

The 6-12-25 method is a classic way to rapidly add slabs of muscle mass to your entire body.

The idea is simple: pick three exercises for the same body part (in this case the upper back) and perform them all in a row with only 10 seconds rest in between exercises.

  • A1: Neutral grip pullups, 3-4 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Smith machine dead stop row, 3-4 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Seated cable row row, 3-4 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3.

I recommend you only perform 3-4 of these tri-sets in a single workout. This would constitute all of your back work for that day, so please don’t try and sneak in a few extra exercises.

Advanced DC Training Routine

Every once in a while an extremely advanced bodybuilder who is stuck at a training plateau will reach out to me regarding my online coaching services.

These guys have been around the block and are already throwing around some serious slag iron in the gym.

Sometimes the solution is to throw some unique higher-volume training routines at them in order to force their bodies to start responding again.

However, I sometimes like to go with a lower-volume, higher-intensity approach with these individuals.

Here is an advanced DC training upper back routine that I have used with a lot of success with some of my advanced bodybuilders.

Keep in mind this a routine for highly advanced bodybuilders. If you are not deadlifting 500+ pounds for reps or barbell rowing 300+ pounds for reps then this routine is not for you.

  • A1: Rack Chin, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 3/2/X/1, rest as needed
  • B1: Seated rope low row, 1 x 20-30, 1/1/1/1, rest as needed
  • C1: Hanging lat stretch, 1 x 60-120 seconds
  • D1: Smith machine deadstop row, 2 x 10-15, 2/1/X/0, rest as needed

**Performed as a rest-pause set: go to failure between 8-12 reps, take 12 deep breaths, go to failure a 2nd time, take 12 deep breaths, go to failure a 3rd time, DONE

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise D1.

This routine is much harder than it looks.

Many IFBB Pros including Dusty Hanshaw have used back training routines similar to this one here as the foundation of their back training for many years.

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Part 4: Conclusion

Smith machine rows can be a great back thickness exercise for bodybuilders.

However, a great way to make this exercise even more effective is to just insert a 1-second pause on the safety pins in between each rep.

This will make the exercise not only safer on your lower back, but much more effective as well.

Thank you for reading! If you found this content helpful then please do me a huge favor and share this article on social media to help get the word out.

And as always you can contact me directly to learn more about my online coaching program.

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

What's going on! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen, I'm the creator of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to take your training to the next level, then you've come to the right place... My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world!

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