Seated Cable Rows – Back Exercise Guide with Photos

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Muscles Targeted: Seated cable rows are one of the best exercises for targeting your back muscles. It develops your latissimus dorsi (lats), teres major and trapezius. The lats cover the lower and middle portions of the back, originating from the spine and the top of the hip bone and attaching to the upper arm. The teres major is a small muscle that originates on the inside lower edge of the shoulder blade and attaches on the upper arm bone while the trapezius runs from the base of the skull, to the midback vertebrae up to both ends of the collarbone.

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Exercise Instructions: Position yourself on a cable row machine (with pulley attachment) and grasp the rowing handle with both hands. Keep a slight bend in your knees with your back completely upright, your shoulders back and head facing forward. Next, pull or “row” the handle directly back toward you and into your lower stomach area while using your back muscles to pull the weight. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat. Be sure to keep your back straight and perpendicular to the floor throughout the entire movement.

Why This Exercise is Important: This exercise is key for developing your back muscles. It is also one of the best exercises for increasing strength and power in your upper body. Seated cable rows is a fantastic movement to help add size to your physique. A beautiful “V-taper” look with a thick back can create an illusion of a smaller waist, thus drawing the eyes to the size of your chest. A strong back improves your posture, making you look tall and confident. It also conveys strength and power. It helps improve posture so that you don’t experience back issues down the road.

Aside from appearance, the back muscles perform other important functions. The lats are responsible for the downward movement of the upper arms such as pulling your elbows toward you and helping with the inward rotation of the shoulders. The trapezius, on the other hand, assists in overhead pushing and pulling the shoulder blades together and drawing the arms together.

Things To Avoid: Proper posture when executing seated cable rows is critical so that you don’t damage your back. Before sitting down, select the desired resistance first. It should not be too heavy that you have to lean back for leverage, or too light that the muscles are not challenged enough. Then sit down with your back straight and knees slightly bent.

As you pull the weight in, make sure that your back is in an upright position. Draw power from your shoulders and back, not from your biceps. The path of the handles should be straight back and horizontal. Avoid jerky and fast movements since each rep should be slow and continuous. Push with your legs until your arms are fully extended. Bend your knees at around a 90 degree angle. Pull back and draw your elbows in, keeping your feet braced on the foot rests, until the handles are at the level of your upper abdomen. Breathe out as you pull. Pause at the top of the movement, then return to the starting position. Allow your arms to straighten without locking them. Control each movement and do not let the weight pull you towards the machine. Remember, you should never round or hunch your back on the eccentric portion of the exercise so don’t let the weights hit the stack on the way back. Keep your back completely upright and focus all the tension on your lat muscles. Good technique will ensure that you achieve optimum results safely.

Reps and Sets: With seated cable rows, concentrate on the quality of the movement instead of the quantity. Beginners will do well starting with 8-12 reps for 2-3 sets. Work with your body and progress to higher reps and more sets as soon as you feel that the exercise is getting easier to perform.

Other Exercises To Use: Given the size of the back, you need to mix seated cable rows with other back exercises. Do some barbell deadlifts or wide grip pulldowns on the days that you are concentrating on your back and include all of these exercises into an effective back workout routine for adding strength and size to your upper body. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the back.

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