One-Arm Cable Row Exercise Guide
The one-arm cable row (one-arm low pulley cable row) will help you achieve great results in terms of your back strength and development with minimal risk of injury.
One-Arm Cable Row Correct Technique
STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Attach a handle to a low pulley cable. Grip the handle with your left hand, your palm facing in and your arm fully extended. Step back a foot or two (about 30 to 60 cm) so the weight doesn’t rest on the stack. Lean forward, keeping your knees slightly bent and one foot forward of the other. Your back should remain straight. Brace your right hand against your right thigh.
MOVEMENT (ACTION): Pull the handle toward your side. You should feel your left lats contracting as your elbow travels past your side and moves inward toward your back. Pull until the handle lightly touches your chest. Pause, then slowly return to the starting position. Perform all reps with that arm, then switch arms.
Additional Tips & Key Points to Remember
- Begin with your knees slightly bent, your torso flat and at about a 45-degree angle to the floor, your working arm extended down toward the floor (palm facing in), and your nonworking hand grasping the machine or on your thigh to stabilize yourself.
Muscles Engaged While Doing One-Arm Cable Row
- MAIN MUSCLES: latissimus dorsi, brachialis, teres major and minor
- SECONDARY MUSCLES: biceps, lower back (lumbar and paravertebral) muscles, rhomboids, triceps (long head), brachioradialis, trapezius, deltoid (rear)
- ANTAGONISTS: deltoid (front), pectoralis major, triceps
Two-arm cable row (two-arm bent-over low pulley cable row)
Two-arm cable row is similar to the T-bar row (and barbell row) but using a cable. It has the advantage of a smooth movement with constant resistance if your technique is good. On the downside, you will have to use somewhat less weight to avoid losing your balance, as the pull is diagonal (not vertical as in the barbell row). The most difficult part of the exercise is holding your back and the rest of your body in position. It is not widely used because of this.
STARTING POSITION: Attach a short straight bar to the low cable. Face the weight stack and grab the bar either with an underhand or overhand grip (it’s up to you to choose). Stand about 2 feet from the weight stack and bend over about 45-degrees at the hips, keeping your lower back slightly arched and your knees bent.
MOVEMENT: Pinch your shoulder blades together behind you then pull the bar up toward your abdomen until the base of your hands make contact with your torso. Keep your elbows close to your sides all the time. Pause, then return to the starting position and repeat.
Replacement Exercises for the One-Arm Cable Row
To add variety to your middle back workout routine, replace the one-arm cable row with a different exercise that works the same muscles (latissimus dorsi). Use the barbell, dumbbells, a gym machine or your own body weight to perform the rowing motion without using the cable.
Let’s look at the best middle back exercises with the rowing motion for building muscle and strength.
- Seated cable row
- One-arm dumbbell row
- Smith-machine bent-over row
- Chest-supported dumbbell rows
- Machine row
- T-bar row
- Supported T-bar row
- Body row
- Bent-over barbell row
- Two-arm dumbbell row
Working (rowing) unilaterally (just like in one-arm cable row) lets you pivot your torso toward the side of the working latissimus dorsi. This little torso rotation lets your elbow go very far toward the back. The contraction, especially of the lower latissimus dorsi, is much better too. It is impossible to obtain these productive inches if you are working bilaterally (just like in two-arm cable row).
The position is similar to the one-arm dumbbell row although you should keep your torso straighter. Paradoxically, you will be able to use proportionally more weight on the side of the back being worked, though not in absolute terms. This is because the pressure on the vertebrae is less, although holding the torso steady to avoid rotation can be difficult.