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Seated Cable Rows - Exercise for the Muscles of the Back



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Seated Cable Rows

Home -> Exercises -> Seated Cable Rows

Primary Muscles Worked: Description:
Latissimus Dorsi (Lats) The largest muscles of the back.
Secondary Muscles Worked: Description:
Rhomboids, Teres Major, Trapezius Upper back muscles that move the arm backwards.
Biceps Brachii Flexing muscles of the upper arm.

The Cable Row is a good exercise for developing the thickness of your middle back area. It is done on a low cable machine with a flat bench attached and foot plates to set your feet on. Do not mistake using momentum with proper form in this exercise, as is the temptation. This will reduce the workload on the target muscles and can lead to injury.

How to Do Seated Cable Rows:

Seated Cable Rows Seated Cable Rows
  • Sit facing the weight stack with a grip on what will probably be a V-bar, though you can use a straight bar or handles for this movement as well.
  • Keep your knees bent throughout the movement.
  • With the upper body vertical and lower back straight and tight, allow the shoulders to stretch forward.
  • Do not lean over at the waist as this puts unnecessary stress on the lower back.
  • Begin the motion by first drawing the shoulders back without bending the arms.
  • Row the weight back towards your abdomen.
  • As you continue the motion, concentrate on pulling from your elbows.
  • As you pull back, arch your lower back and puff your chest out.
  • Pull into your lower abdomen.
  • Lower the weight slowly, allowing the shoulders to stretch forward but without losing tension in the back.
  • Do not lean forward to get a better stretch. Stretch forward, keeping the upper body relatively vertical.

Tricks for Performing Seated Cable Rows:

1. Wrap around a ball

As you pull back, lean back slightly. Imagine you are leaning over a ball that you are wrapping your back around. This arching and leaning will help to activate the lat muscles.

2. Squeeze the shoulder blades

Hold the contraction at the top of the movement where the handle is near your abdomen and try to squeeze your shoulder blades together behind your back.

Common Errors in the Seated Cable Row Exercise:

1. Pulling with the lower back

This error stems from leaning forward at the waist at the start of the rep. In order to get into proper position for the exercise from that bent-forward position, you must lean back, tempting you to use that momentum to keep the movement going. Do not do this as it can strain the lower back.

2. Leaning forward to get more stretch

While this does stretch the lower back, it does so in a very harmful position to the lower back. It doesn't, however, increase the stretch on the target back muscles. The stretch should occur at scapulae (shoulder blades) by letting your arms stretch forward.

3. Rowing with a straight or hunched back

Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessarily harmful to arch your back.

  • It can be harmful to excessively arch your back but the arch, besides being one of the strongest architectural structures, is your back's normal proper position.
  • The arch is also essential for activating the lats as they cannot be activated without an arch in your back.
  • Rowing with a straight back forces you to rely on your biceps and upper back more, at the expense of the lats, and can also lead to back strain.

Variations of the Seated Cable Row Exercise:

1. One Arm Seated Cable Rows

This variation is done using a single handle attachment or holding only one of the grips of the V-bar. Allow the upper body to rotate when stretching to get a longer stretch.

  • The first part of the movement is bringing your shoulder back followed by bringing the hand back.
  • Hand position can be varied from neutral to overhand to underhand.
  • Try to bring your elbow back around behind your body at the top of the movement to get a peak contraction.

The easiest way to do alternating one arm rows is to attach two handles onto one clip then clip it onto the cable.

  • Keep both hands on the handles at all times. As you pull back with one, keep the other one forward to keep the tension off that side. Repeat on the other side.
  • You may also wish to do a both-arm rep in between each rep of one arm (e.g. left - both - right - both - left - both, etc.).
  • A good technique to use with this is to go for very strict form on the both-arm reps and go for power on the one-arm reps.
  • If the two-arm weight is a little light for you, squeeze your back at the top for a 5 count.
  • It is also possible to do one arm cable rows from a standing position. Stand in a lunge position for better stability.

To hit your lower lats hard with the one arm version, try these tips.

  • Use an underhand grip, push your pinky against the bottom of the handle.
  • Try to lead with your pinky when you pull back.
  • Keep squeezing into the midline of your body as your row.
  • Expand your ribcage with a deep breath and hold it.
  • Pull down and in behind you, crunching your torso over to that side somewhat.


Other Back Exercises

Close Grip Pulldowns
Bent-Over Barbell Rows
One Arm Dumbell Rows
Wide Grip Pulldowns to the Front

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