Seated Cable Row Exercise Guide
The seated cable row (seated pulley row) is a key muscle builder and strength developer for your back. However, good technique is important if you are to achieve optimum results safely. Keep in mind that this is a deceptively complex exercise, with stiff penalties for poor execution. Novice exercisers often assume it’s safe – it does use a machine, after all – so they fail to observe the postural precautions they’d employ if they were working with free weights. The seated pulley row is a good exercise for developing the thickness of your middle back area.
Seated Cable Row Exercise Technique
STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Select the desired resistance from the stack and sit on the bench with your legs extended in front of you. Keep your legs slightly bent and reach forwards to grab the V-handle attachment with both of your hands in a neutral grip (so that your palms face each other). Start with your hands over your ankles, your back arched, an your knees slightly bent.
MOVEMENT (ACTION): As you pull the handle towards your midsection (abdominal region), squeezing your shoulder blades back and down, lean backwards (keeping your back arched) to about 5 degrees past perpendicular. To repeat, lean forwards to about 5 degrees less than perpendicular and slowly straighten your arms, then pull the handle towards your torso again as you lean back to 5 degrees past perpendicular. The set should be done within this 10 degree range. Make sure you keep your legs slightly bent, your back arched, and your elbows shoulder-width apart (close to your torso).
Seated Cable Row Additional Tips & Key Points
- Stabilise by using your abdominal and back muscles to maintain an upright posture.
- A slow continuous movement in the horizontal plane.
- Keep your feet braced flat against the foot rest of the rowing machine.
- Pull the handles back into your body at the level of your middle or upper abdomen.
- You should be pulling your elbows and shoulders directly backwards as far as possible.
- Your shoulder blades must squeeze together in back at the point of full contraction (when the bar touches your torso).
- To achieve maximum back development, keep your torso nearly upright during the entire movement – it should not move forwards or backwards more than 10 degrees.
- Rounding your back;
- Too much movement in your torso (i.e. leaning forwards or backwards too much);
- Elevating your shoulders;
- Don’t let the weight pull you in towards the stack;
- Bringing you hands up to your chest and holding your elbows away from your body;
- The movement of the bar is horizontal; your torso oscillates in narrow 10 degree arc.
- Main muscles: latissimus dorsi, brachialis, biceps, teres major and minor;
- Secondary muscles: rhomboids, triceps (long head), brachioradialis, trapezius (middle and lower), deltoid (rear), lower back muscles;
- Antagonists: deltoid (front), pectoralis major, triceps;
To target the trapezius pull the handles or bar through a high trajectory toward the chest, a low trajectory towards abdomen works the latissimus dorsi!
With your arms beside you and your elbows in close, you will emphasize the lat muscles slightly more. If you use a bar attachment on the cable, placing your elbows out to the sides (armpits forming a 90-degree angle), you will place greater emphasis on the rear deltoids and rhomboids.
Exercise Modifications / Variations
- Perform cable rows with any number of handles and attachments, including a lat pull-down bar (take a wide grip to focus on the lower latissimus muscles for back width), a rope, or a wide neutral-grip bar.
- Change your grip position to either supinated (with your palms up) or pronated (with your palms down).
- To target the trapezius pull the handles or bar through a high trajectory toward the chest, a low trajectory towards abdomen works the latissimus dorsi.
Replacement Exercises (Substitutes)
If you want to take your training to a new level, try this pure strength move commonly used by athletes and bodybuilders. This excellent exercise for the middle back was popularized by Vince Gironda, although he did not invent it. Seated cable row is the perfect exercise for sculpting the entire back, especially the upper-middle back.
This machine is among the oldest you will see in any gym. It allows you to lift a heavy load, providing you are careful not to hurt your lower back. It develops and broadens the latissimus dorsi very effectively, while also working the entire back. People suffering from lumbago or other lower back problems should choose the machine equivalent, which provides support for the chest and abdomen.