For full transparency: This post contains affiliate links. If you buy through a link I would earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Only personally used or thoroughly researched products are recommended. Learn more.

14 Best Back Machines [200+ Reviewed]

Photo of author
Last Update

Hi, My name is Steve Hoyles, and I’d like to welcome you to a different kind of guide on back machines… ”different” meaning better than anything out there.

Who am I to boast?

I’ve been a personal trainer and a gym owner for over two decades now.

In that time, I’ve seen and solved any back development problem you can think of.

From problems with putting on mass to strength plateaus and lower back pain.

And I’ve blasted through those problems…often using the machines we’ll talk about today.

A problem with information on back machines

There are two ways you can answer a question about which back machine is best:

  1. Talk about the type of machine that’s good for a specific purpose.
  2. Talk about specific units – offer buying advice.

I’ve seen decent texts online that do one of those two things.

Here’s the problem:

Either approach only gives you a piece of the puzzle.

A guide that comprehensively covers the topic should do three things – INFORM, HELP, AND RECOMMEND.

  1. Inform you of the type of back machines that exist (yes…beyond the pull-up and the pulldown)
  2. Directly help you choose which of these machines is best FOR YOU  – based on your goals and fitness levels.
  3. Give specific recommendations on what’s good and what’s a waste of money within the types…and do it based on data, objectively, and with no bias.
  4. Offer alternatives that fit your home gym budget.

When researching for this guide, I’ve looked at every single piece of content out there.

I haven’t found one that does it all.

Nada.

Zilch.

That’s why I made this guide – to be THE HUB for any and every bit of information you need to choose a good back machine.

Budget Option

417dou8o1HL. SL500ir?t=shgbackmachine 20&l=li3&o=1&a=B00823OOW2

XMark-7618 LAT Pulldown

Best Overall

Rogue Monster Lat Pulldown Low Row Machine

Rogue Monster Lat Pulldown/ Low Row Machine

Premium Option

Hammer Strength Assist Dip Chin Machine

Hammer Strength Assisted Chin and Dip Machine


12 best back machines

NameTypePriceDefining characteristic/feature
1. Rogue Monster SelectorizedLat-pulldown/ low row machine$$$$2 in 1- Back and biceps isolation, with the convenience of a selectorized stack
2. Life Fitness Optima Seated Row Seated row machine $$$Isolation of the upper back- selectorized stack and commercial quality
3. Hammer Strength Assist Dip ChinAssisted pull-up machine$$$$$Progress to full pull-ups with a selectorized stack
4. Life Fitness Lat PulldownLat pull-down machine$$$Isolation of the back and biceps- selectorized stack and commercial quality
5. PowerTec Levergym Assisted Chin Up Bar and Dip StationBudget assisted pull-up machine$$Controlled progress to full pull-ups on a budget
6. XMark-7618 LAT Pull Down Cheap Lat pull-down/ low row machine$Isolation of the back and biceps
7. Valor Fitness CB-14 Adjustable Seated Row MachineChest-supported seated row machine$Isolation of the upper back
8. Stamina | X Hyperextension BenchBack extension machine$Controlled, low-impact movement that mimics a deadlift
9. Teeter Power10 RowerRowing machine$$Full-body workout
10. Black Concept 2 Rowerg RowerCable rowing machine$$Activates 80+ percent of muscles with low stress on the joints
11. Titan Fitness Lying T-BarT-bar row machine$Controlled fixed-path alternative to bent-over barbell rows
12. Panatta Super PulloverPullover machine$$$$Closest you can get to isolating the lats
13. Body-Solid Plate Loaded Pec/Fly ComboReverse fly machine 
$$Working the upper back while minimizing injury risk
14. Fray Fitness Selectorized Pec Dec/Rear Delt ComboSelectorized reverse fly machine$$$Same as above, only more convenient because of the selectorized weight

1 – Best back machine overall- Rogue Monster Lat Pulldown/ Low Row

Rogue Monster Lat Pulldown Low Row Machine

Who it’s for: Anyone looking for a lat pulldown & low row machine in one.

Dominant muscles: Lats, upper back, rear shoulder, traps.

Lat pulldown main muscles worked
Seated Row Muscles Worked

Pros:

  • 2 machines in one (space saver)
  • HUGE weight stack of 300lbs
  • Convenience and speed when choosing the weight
  • Premium build – padding to handles
  • Great lat bar
  • Larger pulleys mean smoother movement

Cons:

  • Expensive

Summary

It’s the machine for you in the following few scenarios:

  1. You want to simulate pull-ups but hate the assisted machines.
  2. You already have a pull-up station and need a complementary machine to maximize those gainz.
  3. You want to progress to pull-ups and prefer to build the strength up through a closed-chain exercise (fixed legs).
  4. You’re recovering from a shoulder injury or have compromised shoulder stability.

In a few words – it builds pulling strength, but the transition to pull ups won’t be as seamless as a pull up assist machine.

Now…

There are a few advantages that a lat pulldown has over chin-ups.

They can all be traced back to the fixed position of the lower body. Those who seek to talk fancily will call it a “closed-chain” exercise.

Here are the 2 key benefits of that:

  1. It allows you to choose a position or grip that isolates the back or biceps.
  2. You have more control over the movement, which is better for compromised scapular and shoulder stability.

It also works the lower traps more than the other best “back machines”…

Lat pulldown works the lower traps more than pull ups or seated rows

The other great thing about a machine like this compared to a stand-alone lat pulldown is that you also get the low row.

This means you can also get greater activation on the middle traps and upper back.

Middle traps activation during different back exercises

Why is the Rogue Monster the best?

Few home gym owners on this Earth could say “no” to a looker like the Rogue Monster.

It’s expensive but still within the home-gym price bracket.

It solves a common problem in cheaper lat pulldowns – the instability when using the low row.

Simply put – it’s heavy enough to stay put.

As you’d expect from Rogue, you’re getting an excellent item… but you’re gonna pay for it. It’ll be the last lat pulldown you ever buy though, because it’s that well-built.

That means you get a well-rounded machine that can work all major muscle groups in the back.

That puts the price into perspective.

Bottom line

If you want a serious lat pulldown machine and the price is not a deal breaker, you’ll love every bolt of the Rogue Monster (especially the lat bar – it’s one of the best in existence….I’d say Top 3 easily).

Specs

Dimensions (LxWxH, inches)60 x  40 x 96
Weight stack (lbs)300 (huge!)
Weight increments (lbs)10
Load-to-weight ratio1:1
Best for:Mass and strength of the upper back muscles

2 – Best back machine – Life Fitness Optima Seated Row

Optima Series Seated Row Life Fitness

Who it’s for: Anyone looking for a commercial standard seated row machine for a reasonable price.

Dominant muscles: Upper back, lats, rhomboids, traps.

Pros:

  • More convenient than plate-loaded machines
  • Smoother motion – guided by bearings
  • Quality of materials
  • Value- for the quality, it’s hard to beat this price

Cons:

  • Only one movement for one machine
Seated Row Muscles Worked

Summary

Is this the back machine for you?

The seated row targets the upper back more than lat pulldowns and pull ups.

It can be an awkward area to develop without doing some sort of row as you can see from the study below…

Middle traps activation during different back exercises

Life Fitness simply makes commercial-quality machines that won’t break the bank and are ideal for anyone that wants peace of mind with their equipment.

You only buy this once and it will be perfect for developing those Hulk-like upper back muscles.

Bottom line

This is for you if you want a quality seated row machine that will last a lifetime. It’s basically a commercial gym machine that you can buy for the home gym market.

Specs

Dimensions (L x W x H, inches)65 x 39 x 57
Weight of the stack (lbs)202
Weight increments (lbs)7.5
Best for:Upper back strength and mass

3 – Best assisted pull-up machine – Hammer Strength Assist Dip Chin Machine

Hammer Strength Assist Dip Chin Machine

Who it’s for: People looking for convenience and those with no plans to transition to full pull-ups.

Dominant muscles: Lats, upper back, rear shoulder

Pros:

  • More convenient than plate-loaded machines
  • Smoother motion – guided by bearings
  • The knee-pad is foldable (a big plus for families)

Cons:

  • Expensive
Pull Up Machine Muscles Worked

Summary

Is this the back machine for you?

I know this for a fact – few men who can’t do a pull-up will have the guts to take a step back and do assisted pull-ups.

Very few…

And I get it…it’s not the manliest of exercises.

Most people go for the lat pulldown – it looks cooler, it’s low-key, and there’s less chance of being judged. You can also get to a point where you lift a decent amount of weight relatively quickly. Ego… stroked. 

It’s solid logic with one flaw.

You’re not learning the pull-up technique on the lat pulldown machine, and you are on the assisted pull-up.

Also, pull-ups are the “more functional exercise” as shown in this 2013 comparative study.

This means the same weight on the pull-up will result in greater muscle activation than the pulldown.

Pull ups and chin ups activate the lats the most

What that means for you

It means that the transition from assisted to regular pull-ups will be more seamless of the two (the other being lat pulldown).

Studies meet reality

In reality, it’s all about controlled, steady progress.

In reality, you’re more likely to give up if you don’t like how something feels.

Here’s my point – if you don’t like how the assisted pull-up looks or feels, skip it.

Build strength on the lat machine and then learn the pull-up technique.

And take your time to really learn…

What makes this Hammer Strength the best assisted pull-up machine?

Something as pricey as this is only worth your buck in three scenarios:

1. Unassisted pull-ups are not on the cards for you, and you want the ultimate convenience.

If you have no plans of ever transitioning to regular pull-ups, this might be the machine for you.

It’s much faster and more convenient than loading and unloading plates.

2. You’re sharing a home gym, and need both the assisted and the regular pull-up station.

We’re talking about a husband-wife situation here.

You release the knee pad, fold it down, and you can use your full body weight to blast those lats…you pop it back up, and the husband can use it, too.

3. You inherited the money, and you don’t really care.

(see what I did there?)

Bottom line

If you’re not on a budget and want convenience and speed, a selectorized machine like this Hammer Strength is the way to go. It’s basically a commercial gym machine that you can buy for the home gym market.

Specs

Dimensions (L x W x H, inches)70 x 45 x 87
Weight of the stack (lbs)175
Number of grips5
Best for:Upper back strength and mass

4 – Best lat pulldown machine – Life Fitness Lat Pulldown

Optima Series Lat Pulldown

Who it’s for: A beginner-intermdiate looking for a stand-alone lat pulldown machine.

Dominant muscles: Lats, upper back, rear shoulder

Pros:

  • More convenient than plate-loaded machines
  • Smoother motion – guided by bearings
  • High quality materials

Cons:

  • Takes up a lot of space for only a lat pulldown machine

Summary

Is this the back machine for you?

The reason this machine is quite unique compared to most lat pulldown machines is the arms are fixed.

A standard lat pulldown machine has a bar on a cable.

So you still need to stabilize the bar when you pull it down.

This Life Fitness means you don’t need to waste energy or worry about stabilizing the bar as you pull.

There’s less room for error making it ideal for beginners.

However…

This is not always a good thing as many personal trainers will argue. Because the machine is fixed it means one arm can overcompensate for the other.

So if you’re like Rafa Nadal and have one arm significantly stronger than the other, this may not be the best machine for you…

However, if you’re not a one-arm bulging weirdo it can be argued to be a good thing.

Bottom line

If you’re a beginner to weight lifting and want a lat pulldown machine this is the one for you.

Specs

Dimensions (L x W x H, inches)70 x 45 x 87
Weight of the stack (lbs)175
Number of grips5
Best for:Upper back strength and mass

5 – Best budget assisted pull-up machine – PowerTec Levergym

419+89HD7iL. SL500ir?t=shgbackmachine 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B07WN5X72Z

Who it’s for: Beginners and anyone learning to do pull-ups or build strength in smaller increments on a budget.

Dominant muscles: lats, upper back, rear shoulder

Pros:

  • Works the same back muscles as regular pull-ups
  • Gives you control over your progress
  • Cheaper than selectorized machines
  • Allows you to learn the correct pull-up technique

Cons:

  • Lower core activation compared to classic pull-ups
  • Only fits Olympic weight plates (2” diameter hole)

Summary

Is this the back machine for you?

The LeverGym is our pick for the best budget assisted pull-up machine for a few key reasons:

  1. It’s well-built.
    It’s not in the specs, but based on the cross-section of the frame, the total weight, and the Lifetime warranty, I’d guess the frame is 13-gauge steel.
  2. It gets the geometry right – both on the chin-up and the dip station.
  3. It’s 3-5 times cheaper than similar selectorized* units (like the one we’ll talk about in a minute).

*Selectorized – the pop-pin gym machines with weight stacks.

Bottom line

If your main goal is to learn or progress to doing pull-ups on your own, the PowerTec Levergym is a budget-friendly way to do it.

Specs

Dimensions (L x W x H, inches)44.5 x 61.8 x 86.5
Weight capacity (lbs)400
Weight of the machine (lbs)206 
Best for:Mass and upper back strength

6 – Best budget lat pull-down machine  – XMark-7618

417dou8o1HL. SL500ir?t=shgbackmachine 20&l=li3&o=1&a=B00823OOW2

Who it’s for: People looking to build mass and strength in the upper back without breaking the bank. Also good for those who want to transition to pull-ups but don’t like the assisted options.

Dominant muscles: Lats, upper back, rear shoulder

Pros:

  • Allows you to go over your body weight without chains or belts
  • Controlled improvement of scapular stability and lower shoulder injury risks
  • You can isolate the biceps and back muscles
  • Cheaper than assisted pull-up machines

Cons:

  • Low row not fully functional for advanced lifters (too light)
  • Lesser activation of the stabilizers (closed-chain exercise) 
  • Lower muscles activation compared to pull-ups

Summary

What’s better about the XM-7618?

The value would be the short answer to that.

The 11-gauge mainframe is paired with aircraft-grade cables, which makes the low price all the more impressive.

There are similar machines in the same price range, but none is backed by a Lifetime Warranty.

Is it the absolute best?

No. That title goes to fancy, selectorized machines like the Rogue Monster or FT-1.

But those cost much more – anywhere from 5 to 10 times.

Bottom line

If you want to add a lat machine to your home gym without breaking the bank, XM-7618 is your best bet. It boasts a 400 lb maximum weight capacity, and that’s plenty for beginners through to seasoned lifters.

Specs

Size (LxWxH, inches)56.7 x  48 x 84
Typeweights/plate-loaded
Max weight (lbs)400
Load-to-weight ratio1:1
Best for:Building strength and mass in the upper back

7 – Best chest-supported seated row machine – Valor CB-14

41ww+1h6Z0L. SL500ir?t=shgbackmachine 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B00NVSACU6

Who it’s for: Anyone looking to build mass in the mid and upper back.

It’s also great for lifters looking for an alternative to the bent-over or regular row because of hip or lower-back problems.

Dominant muscles: Upper back, lats, rhomboids.

Seated Row Muscles Worked

Pros:

  • Eliminates momentum from rows, effectively isolating the upper back muscles.
  • High activation of the middle trapezius, lats, and rhomboids.
  • Less taxing on the lower back and hips (than bent-over and cable rows).
  • Allows you to pull heavier than usual weight

Cons:

  • Less activation of the stabilizing muscles and core.
  • Lesser activation of the lower trapezius (compared to bent-over row).
  • Resistance not uniform (lighter at the top).

Summary

How it compares to other back machines

The chest-supported row machine looks like it feels good to use.

If that makes sense…

If you’ve ever used one, you know it delivers on that visual promise.

Here’s the science behind that…

In comparative studies of main back exercises, the seated, bent over, and inverted rows showed high activation of the upper back:

  • For the middle trapezius, the three rows showed “significantly greater activation than all of the other exercises.” (Edelburg, 2017)
  • For the lower trapezius, the “winner” is the bent-over row.
  • For the lats, the bent-over and seated rows come right after pull-ups and chin-ups.
Middle traps activation during different back exercises

Now, the machine we’re looking at here is basically a combo of those three exercises. 

The machine also takes the core and lower back out of the equation. It means if you’ve suffered with lower back issues that may prevent heavy lifting with a bent over row for example, you can still use this machine safely. 

I have no studies that look into muscle activation on this specific machine.

But I know how the body works.

If we measured the back-muscle activation on a lever back machine like this, it would fall somewhere between the 3 row types (probably closest to the bent-over rows).

That’s no precise math but an educated guess.

The good and the not-so-good

Gym machines like this are great in a commercial setting.

But they’re big for a one-exercise machine.

Even a plate-loaded unit (like our top pick) has a footprint of over 12 square feet.

That’s not huge, but you can only do one exercise on it.

What that means for you

It means that this machine is only a good fit for two groups:

  • Those with space to spare.
  • Those who want to mimic other rows without taxing the lower back and hips.

What makes Valor CB-14 better?

The CB-14 does it all and costs about half compared to its main competitors.

Below are a few key advantages:

  • It’s burly – built from 12-gauge tubing and reinforced by welded plates.
  • The rotating handles are great – a must-have to account for the changing angles, and you’ll probably end up using these more than the fixed ones.
  • The upholstery is better than you’d expect in this price range. And take it from me, that’s a huge deal.

Bottom line

I am not sure how Valor has any cost margin on this machine, but here it is….it exists…at half the price of similar machines. If you have the space, this is excellent value.

Specs

Dimensions (LxWxH, inches)54 x  34 x 41
Weight capacity (lbs)400
Weight of the machine (lbs)80
Best for:Density, depth, and mass of the upper back muscles

8 – Top-value back extension machine – Stamina X

41KbvLKmm8L. SL500ir?t=shgbackmachine 20&language=en US&l=li2&o=1&a=B009H6XB7W

Who it’s for: Anyone looking to build mass in the upper back.

Dominant muscles: Erector spinae, and lower back.

It’s also great for lifters looking for an alternative to the bent-over or regular row because of hip or lower-back problems.

Back Extension Muscles Worked

Pros:

  • Works similar muscles as the deadlift.
  • Massive carryover to everyday life.
  • Great for people with desk jobs and recovering from injuries.
  • Can help with lower back pain.

Cons:

  • There’s a learning curve to performing back extensions correctly.
  • Can potentially create or exacerbate back problems (facet-joint inflammation specifically).
  • The hip pad of the Stamina bench might be too thin for some (heavy people doing high reps).

Summary

Back extensions and hyperextensions are one of the most divisive exercises in the fitness world.

I’ve heard experienced coaches say that if they had to choose one exercise to do for the rest of their life, it would be the back extension.

I’ve heard others advising people to never get on a Roman chair.

And I’m always blown away by stuff like this.

I’m blown away by how complicated we tend to make things…”we” being the fitness industry. 

But I also get why it happens – complicated means confusing, and confused people throw money at the problem.

I’m kinda blasting my own profession here, but only the “hustlers” among them.

I try not to talk in ‘absolutes’ because I don’t believe in them. Some people would really benefit from back extensions. Others not so much. It’s the same with any exercise!

A “secret”

The reality is simpler.

There will never be a better method for crafting a fitness plan than trying, measuring if possible, and deciding if something is a fit.

If there is a secret to fitness and nutrition, that would be it – trying and measuring.

But I digress…

I’ll put it like this – some spines will like the hyperextension, and some won’t.

It’s as simple as that.

I’ve even had clients who get leg cramps on the Roman chair…every time.

Try, measure, and move on.

Our pick among the Roman chairs – Stamina X

Back extension machines aren’t really machines.

There’s nothing complicated here, and they should not be expensive.

Specifically, I wouldn’t pay more than $150 bucks for a Roman chair.

What’s better about Stamina X?

This Stamina bench ticks all the major and a few extra boxes:

  • It’s robust and stable (carbon steel frame). This makes it a good fit for heavier dudes and dudettes.
  • It’s adjustable in all the right spots – leg rollers and the hip pad.
  • It’s foldable.
  • The cost includes an app with guided coaching, which is impressive in this price range.

Bottom line

You don’t need a more expensive Roman Chair than the Stamina X.

It ticks all the key boxes, and it’s conservatively priced. Win win. 

Specs

Dimensions (LxWxH, inches)40 x  23 x 32
Weight capacity (lbs)250
Weight of the machine (lbs)25
Best for:Back problems, recovering from an injury, building a strong lower back

9 – Low row machines with magnetic resistance – our pick – Teeter Power10

41S9SyDgZvL. SL500ir?t=shgbackmachine 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B089KTLNCL

Who it’s for: For anyone looking to build upper-back strength through a full-body workout.

Dominant muscles: Upper back, lats, rhomboids.

Pros:

  • Resistance on both the pull and the push section of the movement.
  • A database with guided workouts.
  • Bluetooth connectivity and tracking.
  • Pronounced cardio component.

Cons:

  • Expensive.
  • Magnetic resistance doesn’t feel the same as free weights.
  • Less potential for building mass.

Summary

Back machines like this are not a separate category per se, but I’d be amiss if I skipped them.

They’re a hybrid…and not the gimmicky kind.

The angles of the pull are similar to that of a seated rower, but no upper body part is fixed, so you get full core activation.

Moreover, this specific machine, the Tetter, allows for dual resistance – both on the pull and the push.

That’s the ONE key difference compared to similar units.

In other words, you don’t just get dragged into that initial position; you push your way to it.

This makes it more versatile…much more.

On the push section, you engage the triceps and the pecs.

It’s truly a full-body workout….and that’s coming from someone who hates saying stuff like that because it sounds so commonplace.

But I’ll take the risk of sounding cliche when it’s true.

Bottom line

I’m old-school for most things, but I’m not head-burying ostrich in the face of evident progress like this. It’s not for the iron pumpers, but it is one of the most time-efficient machines I know of.

Specs of the Teeter Power10

Dimensions (LxWxH, inches)38 x  63 x 43
Weight capacity (lbs)300
Weight of the machine (lbs)180
Best for:Leg and upper body workout

10 – Cable rowing machine – our pick, Concept 2 RowErg

Rogue Black Concept 2 RowErg Rower - PM5

Who it’s for: For anyone looking to maximize the time invested and hit the back muscles as a part of a full-body workout.

Dominant muscles: Upper and lower back, lats.

Pros:

  • Beginner-friendly.
  • Activates 85% of your muscles.
  • Has a pronounced cardio component.
  • Efficient use of the allotted workout time.
  • Low joint stress.

Cons:

  • Rowers are more expensive than most back machines.

Summary

A rowing machine is not a back machine in the strictest sense of the word because it activates 85% of the muscles in the body.

It works nine muscle groups, to be precise.

We’re focused on the back muscles today, so I’ll stick with that.

In those, it’s fairly accurate to say that a low-row machine mimics the deadlift…kinda.

Most back-muscle activation happens on the drive and finish portions of the movement.

Four stages of a rowing movement and back muscle activation on the “drive”

It’s nowhere near as taxing on the CNS and the joints, though.

What’s better about the Black Concept 2 Rower?

If I could go back in time and see this rower for the first time, I’d guess it costs 50% more.

Why?

Because of how well-rounded it is – the mechanism, the shock cord, housing materials, the seat, the rails…it’s all solid.

Let me put it like this – it’s simple, but the simplicity has zero effect on the functionality.

Bottom line

If Concept 2 is good enough for Crossfit games, it’s definitely good enough for a home gym. Be on the lookout (and avoid) knock-offs, though.

Specs

Dimensions (LxW, inches)96 x 24
Weight capacity (lbs)500
Weight of the machine (lbs)57 or 68 (standard or tall legs)
Best for:Cardio, full-body workouts

11 – T-bar row machine – Titan Fitness Lying T-bar

Titan Fitness Plate Loaded Lying T-Bar Row Machine

Who it’s for: Those who do many T-bar rows and can justify the standalone station.

Dominant muscles: Lats, upper back, rear shoulder, traps, rhomboids.

T-Bar Row Machine Muscles Worked

Pros:

  • You can lift more weight compared to bent-over barbell rows.
  • Simple movement with a fixed path – easy to master.
  • Allows you to isolate the back.
  • Excludes core strength as a limiting factor.

Cons:

  • Less activation of the stabilizing muscles and core.

Summary

Here’s a two-point summary:

  1. This machine exists.
  2. Don’t buy it.

T-bar rows are a great exercise – the isolation-like focus is awesome for depth and thickness in the upper back muscles.

But you don’t need a separate machine to do it.

Getting a landmine attachment is cheaper and leaves room in your home budget to get a few different handles to mix things up.

The one advantage of a standalone T-bar row machine

The idea behind the machine is to give you extra depth and contraction at the top. This is usually created by a curved bar and footplates.

Again, it can be recreated.

If you feel like you’re not getting enough depth, get two-stepping platforms, and you’re good to go.

If you still want one, go with Titan Fitness

If I woke up in a parallel reality where I suddenly wanted a T-bar row machine, I’d get the one from Titan.

Raised footplates, two rubber grips, and adjustable height – there’s nothing to add that wouldn’t be a price-jacking frill.

Bottom line

A T-bar row machine is worth the money and space for a select few. If you’re among them, go for the budget-friendly Titan.

Specs

Dimensions (LxW, inches)85 x 39.5 x 22.5
Weight capacity (lbs)440
Weight of the machine (lbs)150
Best for:Cardio, full-body workouts

12 – Pullover machine, best for isolating lats – Panatta Super Pullover

Panatta Super Pullover Machine

Who it’s for: For anyone looking to isolate the lats.

Dominant muscles: Lats, upper back, rear shoulder, traps, rhomboids.

Pullover Machine Muscles Worked

Pros:

  • Great for isolating the lats.
  • Excludes the biceps from the movement.
  • High core activation.
  • Excludes core strength as a limiting factor.

Cons:

  • Not a fit for those with shoulder problems – the unusual range of motion stresses the cartilage and the rotator cuff.

Summary

If you stumble upon a conversation about the pullover machine, it’s one of two contexts:

  1. A debate on whether it’s a chest or a back machine.
  2. What Dorian Yates, the Shadow, says about it.

Let me solve that for you real quick:

  1. It’s both.
  2. He says it’s great.

Moving on to the important part…

A pullover machine is the closest you can get to isolating the lats. That’s because you can’t bend your arms, which excludes the biceps.

Is there a place for them in modern home gyms?

Not really.

They’re hard to come by, and the good ones are crazy expensive. They’re also super niche and the movement can be pretty well replicated with a dumbbell or two.

If you happen to be a very wealthy, professional bodybuilder with a huge home gym, go for it. If you’re not, I’d probably look to deploy your hard-earned cash elsewhere.

Bottom line

If you have money to burn, get the Panatta Super Pullover and enjoy your super cool life (and my envy).

Specs

Dimensions (LxW, inches)86.6 x 59 x 65
Weight capacity (lbs)595
Weight of the machine (lbs)628
Best for:Lat isolation

13 – Reverse fly machine (aka. rear delt/pec deck machine)  – value pick – Body-Solid Plate Loaded PEC

41bHQ++CrkL. SL500ir?t=shgbackmachine 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B000EBBX4W

Who it’s for: For the lifter who likes to isolate or pre-exhaust the upper back. Also, a good option for those with back problems or recovering from an injury.

Dominant muscles: Rear shoulder, rhomboids, traps.

Reverse fly machine muscles worked

Pros:

  • Works the upper back with minimal trunk movement – lower injury risk than similar free-weight exercises.
  • Good for recovering from an injury.
  • Great for shoulder strength (especially the posterior deltoids).
  • Helps with the form of rear-delt flies.

Cons:

  • There’s a learning curve to good rear delt flies, even on a machine.
  • It’s plate loaded – changing the weight isn’t as convenient.

Summary

The reverse delt fly is one of the first gym machines people give up when space and money become tight.

That’s for two main reasons:

  1. It’s usually a combo with a pec deck, the ugly duckling of the chest exercises.
  2. You can do reverse delt flies standing up or lying on a bench.

Simply put, it’s a non-essential piece.

Here’s my take on that….

If you have truly taken the time to learn the proper form on the dumbbell reverse flies, you probably don’t need this.

Good for you.

If you’re one of the people who find the reverse flies so pesky that you stopped doing them, don’t skip the machine as an option.

In simple terms, gym machines like this are for a targeted few:

I’d narrow it down to four groups:

  1. Those recovering from an injury.
  2. Those who seek to lower the injury risk of bent-over rows or lying dumbbell flies.
  3. Those with tight backs/desk jobs who want to correct posture problems (strong and tight rear delts go a long way here).
  4. Those who like the pec deck because they usually come together.

What’s better about this Body-Solid?

It’s the superior value among the machines we looked at.

Let me be precise

Were I to recommend the machine I think is the absolute best, it would be too expensive for most home gyms.

A high-end machine like the Freemotion would set you back about 10 times more.

The geometry problem with the rear delt fly

The one thing that a good rear delt fly machine should absolutely get right is the range of motion.

The machines that do a great job with that are commercial and expensive.

Therein lies the problem.

It’s finding value on a budget without messing up the geometry.

This Body Solid solves that problem:

  • Gets the geometry right – angle is good enough for a full range of motion (ROM) on reverse flies.
  • It’s cheap yet well-made (from the padding to the 2×2 frame)
  • It comes with a Lifetime warranty.

Rotating handles to the rescue

To be clear, I’m not saying that the ROM here is perfect.

The rotating handles are the one thing that sets it apart from all the machines in this price range.

These allow you to find that spot that works for your wingspan.

Bottom line

This Body Solid features a simple design tweak that solves a massive problem on a budget. There are better machines, but you’re unlikely to find better value.

Specs

Dimensions (LxW, inches)32 x 28 x 65
Max user weight (lbs)308
Weight of the machine (lbs)91
Best for:Shoulder stabilization, working out around injuries and back problems

14 – Selectorized rear delt fly machine – Fray Fitness Pec Deck/Rear Delt Combo

Fray Fitness Selectorized Pec Dec Rear Delt Combo

Who it’s for: For anyone looking for a selectorized rear delt fly machine on a budget.

Dominant muscles: Rear shoulder, rhomboids, traps.

Pros:

  • Selectorized stacks are more convenient and easier to use.
  • 11-gauge steel used.
  • Knurled handles.
  • Full range of motion.

Cons:

  • Costs more than the plate-loaded machines.

Summary

My pick in the selectorized (weight stack) category is a commercially-rated machine that costs much less than the competitors.

That’s no small feat…

Granted, it’s not as fancy as Panatta or Steelflex, but it does the same job for a third of the price.

On the other hand…

It costs about twice as much as plate-loaded models, but that’s an unfair comparison.

There are no free weights here – you change the resistance by popping a pin in and out.

And getting the range of motion and the angles right on a commercial machine isn’t even a question worth raising.

Fray knocked it out of the park with this one…it’s a shame few people know about it.

You are now one of the select few.

Bottom line

If the reverse fly machine is a staple in your workouts, invest in a weight-stack machine like this Fray Fitness. The convenience simply can’t be compared to loading plates.

Specs

Dimensions (LxW, inches)48 x 37 x 83
Max user weight (lbs)308
Weight stack (lbs)220
Best for:Convenient reverse flies

FAQs about back exercise machines

Can I build muscle just using back machines?

Yes, you can build muscle just using back machines like the Rogue Monster Lat Pulldown.

The main mass-builders among the back machines are the lat pulldown, low row (chest-supported and classic), and the T-bar machine.

Combine these with back extensions to balance the development of lower and upper back muscles.

Which gym machine is best for the back muscles?

A great lat pulldown and low-row machine like the Rogue Monster is great for building strength and mass in the upper back.

For a complete workout of the back muscles, you’d have to craft a versatile regimen with a seated row machine and varying grips, a back extension machine, and shrugs on a cable machine for the traps.

Basically, for a full back workout you want and need to include horizontal pulling (rows), with vertical pulling (pull ups/pulldowns). You could even throw in some scapular elevation and depression (shrugs).

What is the best exercise machine for lower back problems?

A Roman chair is the best machine for lower back problems.

This is because it trains the core and mobilizes the lower back.
 
It will depend on the problem (which needs to be diagnosed by a suitably qualified medical professional). But a Roman chair (e.g. our pick – the Stamina X roman chair/hyperextension bench) is going to be good for 99% of people.


Back workout machines – resume and key takeaways

Over 200 units of back exercise equipment were in the mix for this guide.

I’m expecting that number to reach 300 in the next update.

It’s such a massive topic…

The grind was worth it because we now have a concise list of the best back workout machines in various categories.

There’s no single winner because choosing one would be comparing apples to oranges.

What that means for you

It means that the choice is more complex than just looking at ratings.

You’ll want to read and understand which of these machines does what and then choose the one that works for your goals and fitness level.

That’s a cliche, and I’m OK with it because it’s as true for the back machines as it ever was.

So, take your time with this one…

If I were to recommend ONE back machine for “most people” it would have to be the Rogue Monster. With the lat pulldown and low row it covers all major muscles on the mid-upper back, the weight stack is about 50% more than most competitors and the quality is unrivaled.

Click here to skip back to the table with the top picks.

Photo of author
Steve Hoyles is a certified personal trainer and gym owner. Since graduating with his Sports Science degree in 2004 he's worked in the fitness industry, helping thousands of people reach their health and fitness goals. His writing has been read by millions of people in over 200 countries as he inspires to help as many people as possible live a healthy lifestyle.

Leave a Comment