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How to Build A Muscular Back with the Cable Row – Technique and Mistakes to Avoid

Take your body and strength to the next level.

Welcome to the complete guide to the Cable Row.

What is the Cable Row?

The Cable Row is a horizontal seated pulling exercise that challenges and improves the upper body.

The feet are braced in position and the athlete sits on a bench in order pull the weighted cable and complete the exercise.

Muscles Worked by the Cable Row

The exercise will effectively target the upper body and works all of the following muscles:

Back

  • Trapezius (neck, shoulders, and upper back)
  • Latissimus dorsi (middle of the back)
  • Rhomboids (located between the shoulder blades)
  • Spinal Erectors (help to support the spine)

Arms

  • Biceps brachii
  • Forearms
  • Grip

The primary muscles that are targeted are the lats and traps. The biceps are also worked hard by the pulling range of motion.

dumbbell shoulder exercises landmine row cable rowSource: Photo Courtesy of CrossFit Inc
Build a strong back

Benefits of the Cable Row

The Cable Row has numerous benefits for athletes and individuals.

Creates Good Posture

During the movement it is essential that a straight spine and strong back position is maintained. This helps to prime the body for this posture in regular life as well.

Puts Less Stress on the Lower Back

In comparison with other back exercises such as the Bent Over Row the Cable Row places much less strain on the lower back.

This is great for building confidence, training around an injury and targeting the upper back specifically.

Works a Variety of Muscle Groups

The exercise targets the entire upper body, specifically the upper back and arms.

Builds Solid Grip Strength

An iron grip is a hugely valuable asset for any athlete. It will help with almost every exercise that exists and the Cable Row will both test and develop it.

How to do the Cable Row

Make sure you use a weight that enables you to complete all the reps with good form, even when close to failure.

  • Sit on the Cable Row machine
  • Brace your feet securely on the platform. Make sure the entire sole of each foot is pressed against the platform and not hanging over the edges
  • Bend your knees slightly in order to move forwards and grip the handle with both hands. Use a neutral grip with both hands facing each other
  • Extend your legs and move yourself to the starting position with the arms outstretched. Make sure that the back is straight
  • Rotate your shoulders outwards and activate the lats
  • Inhale and brace the core, glutes and grip
  • Tense the lats and bend the elbows to pull the cable towards your body
  • Pull until your hands touch your body
  • Pause and squeeze the lats as tight as you can
  • Slowly return the weight to the starting position
  • Exhale
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps

Training Tips for the Cable Row

Make sure you keep the elbows close to the body at all times.

Ensure that the core is straight, solid and fixed in space at all times.

Keep the movement slow and controlled at all times. Try to feel how the muscles contract and work to move the load. Pay attention to your body and how it moves.

Don’t use momentum to power the weight. That will only reduce your chances of building muscle and strength.

Cable Row Mistakes

Are you making any of these mistakes?

Hunched Over Back

The spine must be straight at all times. A rounded back can lead to injury.

Shrugged Shoulders

Make sure your shoulders stay back and down while you lift.

You don’t want to shrug your shoulders with the Cable Row. This is often a sign that the weight is too heavy. Drop the load and focus on building up strength over time.

pull up back workoutsSource: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc

Moving Too Quickly

The cable should move in a focused and slow pattern. Stay in control at all times and don’t let the force of the weight move you.

A Swinging Torso

The torso must remain still. It is the arms that should be moving.

Locked Out Knees

A slight bend should be established in the knees at all times.

Partial Reps

The full range of motion should be adhered too with every rep. If you limit the range of motion, then you will limit your gains.

Cable Row Variations

The following are all great variations when you want to vary the stimulus of the exercise:

  • Wide Grip Cable Row
  • Rope Pull Cable Row
  • Single Arm Cable Row

Cable Row Alternatives

You can try these alternatives when you need to substitute the Cable Row for a similar exercise during your training sessions.

Cable Row FAQs

If you still have any questions then scroll through our FAQs.

Is the Cable Row Good?

Yes, the exercise is a safe way to build strength and muscle in the back and arms.

They are also an effective way to teach the body how to fire the lats and improve the mind muscle connection.

Does Seated Row Work Chest?

A small amount but not to any considerable degree. The main force for movement is generated by the back and arms.

There are slight benefits for the shoulder muscles, including the posterior deltoids, infraspinatus and teres minor. The brachialis and brachioradialis in your arms must work hard and the pectoralis major and sternal head (lower chest muscles) are also targeted.

Does Seated Cable Row Work Biceps?

Yes, the biceps are worked hard during the exercise. The back muscle groups are the primary target however the arms work to stabilise and pull the weight as well, so they will also develop and improve.

Learn More

Expand your fitness knowledge with the Arnold Press or Chin Up.

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