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What Is a Row Plate on a Home Gym? (Explained by a Gym Rat)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: July 23, 2023

One of my clients recently had some difficulty with home gym equipment that he was trying to expand. The problem he had was finding the right plates for his multi-gym setup.

It was the weight amounts that were the problem, but his instruction manual made references to row plates.

So, I reached out to a few of my personal trainer colleagues and the members of our team here at Total Shape to see if we could find out how these plates are different and how you would use them on a multi-gym.

Quick Summary

  • Multi-gym machines come with a host of different adjustable weight plates that you can stack for different exercises.
  • While pulley systems are straightforward in how you adjust the load for each workout, an Olympic-style weight plate system works differently.
  • Attaching the right kind of weight plates on different parts of a multi-gym is important to ensure that the machine works smoothly.

What Is A Row Plate On Home Gym Equipment?

Row plate machine isolated in light blue background

A row plate on home gym equipment is a specific size weight plate that attaches to the rowing mechanism of the machine.

In the majority of machines that I looked at for my research, these row plates were a different size from what you would attach to a barbell.

And this is where people can run into problems.

If you attach a standard Olympic plate to the rowing mechanism, it might fit perfectly.

But as soon as you pull on the handles, these larger plates can get caught on the arms or frames of the rower.

In minor situations, it might just cause noise and not be overly noticeable in the movement.

But I’ve also seen equipment where the movement stops midway and can cause some damage.

Plus, you could end up with injuries and unnecessary muscle strain when your movement is suddenly interrupted [1].

Fortunately, you’ll find that these gym equipment manufacturers tend to have designated row plates that have a different thickness rather than diameter.

How Do You Set It up on a Workout Machine?

A person doing a weight row for his back muscles

You set up row plates on a workout machine by adding the same weight load on each side of the machine.

This is different from a pulley system, where there is one weight stack where you make all the adjustments.

A rowing workout machine with plates will typically have two handles, one for each hand, and you need to make sure that you add the same load to each side.

It’s something that beginners often get wrong, and because the row plates are a bit different from standard Olympic plates, the process is a bit different.

What you need to do is add up the numbers on the plates, as they generally have the same diameter but a different thickness.

As long as the load is the same on each side, you’re good to get started with your home gym workout plan.

Other Ideas for Using These Plates

Different back muscles featured during a flex in muscles

For bodybuilders who like the freedom of working with free weights, there is another option for using these row plates.

“The bent over row primarily works the latissimus dorsi (the large wing-like muscles in your back), the middle and lower trapezius, the rhomboids, and the posterior deltoids.“

- Danielle Hildreth, RN

One of my favorite ones is the bent-over using a heavy row plate rather than a barbell or set of dumbbells. First of all, I love the way I’m forced to change my grip when holding a simple plate in both hands.

And secondly, this exercise allows you to get your hands closer together than you’d be able to safely do with a barbell.

Here’s the setup I use:

  • Stand the row plate on its edge about 12 inches in front of your feet.
  • Bend your knees and grip the plate with a hand on each side.
  • Straighten your legs slightly but remain in a bent-over position with a completely straight back.
  • Now pull the plate up to your chest and then lower it back down again.

The important thing to keep in mind is that slow movement with a straight back will get you better results and help you avoid injuries [2]. 

Get Your Weight Machine Set Up Properly

If you have a home gym machine that is based on weight plates, then make sure you follow the size restrictions on the instructions for the row plates.

It can be frustrating and dangerous to order and use the wrong kind of plates, so make sure you avoid such issues.

And if you need some details about Smith machines that offer the best configurability and expansion options, then check out our dedicated guide on the top Smith machines.

We spent months testing these machines and have seen them in use in many home gyms.


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