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I recently had to switch gyms. One of the downsides to my new gym is the seated row part of my current workout. There are two parts to the cable pulley machine that are sub-optimal for my situation: it doesn't have the widest grip attachment, and the weights don't go high enough for my low-rep sessions. The new gym does have one of the machines designed for seated row; I think it's this machine:

The grip there is also not quite as wide as I would like, but the weights go up much higher than I need at the moment.

I normally prefer to avoid machines due to the restricted motion they imposed on the movement. But I can't think of any way that the seated row machine is restricting my movement that the cable pulley isn't. Am I actually giving up anything in my biomechanics if I switch to the machine for the higher weight sets?

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I have revised this answer to fit the edited question.

First off, just to get it out there; there's no reason not to do both.

They both have advantages and disadvantes, the largest of both being the fixed and unfixed grip width, and double axis movement.

Cable rows allow you to switch grip types, which is a huge advantage when you want to perform the movement with some progressive overloading in terms of which muscles get more focus. It also allows you, to some extent, to choose to pull it higher towards your chest, or lower towards your stomach for increased variety.

Leverage seated row (as I believe it's called) is a machine where the trajectory of the pull is at all times fixed. This means that the distribution of the work load also is fixed every time. This is both a disadvantage (see previous paragraph on cable rows), and an advantage, because there are fewer factors to keep in mind in terms of form. I would put this as an "auxiliary exercise" at the end of the workout, just to get that last minute squeeze and really wear down the muscles in your biceps and upper back. The benefit here is that when you're already weary, form tends to break. This is less of a factor with fixed-trajectory machines.

Conclusion

So the bottom line, much like the top line, is that both are good. On any day where you train upper back, I would sincerely suggest doing some rows early (like barbell rows and/or cable rows), and then finishing with leverage seated rows at the end.

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  • That's not the rowing machine I meant. "Rowing machine" may not be the correct word for it. I'll try to find a photo to clarify. – Colin McFaul Jun 28 '15 at 17:03
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    @ColinMcFaul - Sorry of the misunderstanding. I have rewritten my answer to reflect the question you intended. – Alec Jun 28 '15 at 20:57

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