When it comes to building a strong and muscular back, there are numerous exercises to choose from. Two of the most popular exercises in many gyms are Hammer Strength Rows and Seated Cable Rows. Both exercises have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, and choosing which one to incorporate into your workout routine can be tough.
Hammer Strength Rows involve using a machine that simulates a free-weight rowing motion and allows you to work isolaterally (each side independent). Seated Cable Rows involve rowing with a cable machine while seated which provides constant tension throughout the exercise.
In this article, I will compare and contrast the Hammer Strength Row and Seated Cable Row, discussing their benefits, variations, and potential drawbacks. In just a few minutes, you should have the info you need to make an informed decision about which one is right for your training goals and preferences.
Hammer Strength Row
- Hammer Strength Iso Row Machine
- Weight Plates
- Latissimus Dorsi
- Teres Major
- Posterior Deltoids
- Start by either standing or seated* with your chest against the support pad.
- Reach forward, grab the handles and then brace your core and set your posture.
- Row the handles toward your chest, quickly pause at full contraction and then slowly lower back to arm’s length.
- Repeat until all reps are completed.
If doing rows seated, adjust the seat to the proper height so your chest is against the pad and you can row comfortably. For taller lifters, you can also do Hammer Strength Rows standing as well. Lower the seat out of the way and find a comfortable position for your feet to stand.
The rowing motion shouldn’t change whether standing or seated.
By far the biggest mistake I see with Hammer Rows is athletes I coach think that because there is a pad to support their chest, they don’t need to have good posture. This is wrong. You should still have the same posture – back and core engaged – as you would if you didn’t have a pad supporting you.
Don’t have a Hammer Strength Iso Row machine? Here are 11 Hammer Strength Row alternatives that are great for developing strength.
Hammer Row Benefits
For starters, Hammer Iso Rows is an amazing exercise for building back strength.
The biggest benefit of using a Hammer Row Machine is the chest being supported. Having the chest supported removes most of the strain from the low back (as compared to exercises like Barbell Bent Over Rows) which makes it much easier to use heavy weight.
Seated Cable Row
- Cable Pulley Machine
- Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)
- Teres Major
- Posterior Delts
- Biceps, Brachialis & Brachioradialis
- Trapezius and Rhomboids (during full contraction)
- Erector Spinae (as stabilizers to hold posture)
- Begin by setting up a cable machine with the desired weight. Adjust the seat of the machine so that it is at a comfortable height for you to sit on.
- Sit on the bench and plant your feet firmly on the ground (or foot plate). Grasp the handle attached to the cable with an overhand grip, making sure that your arms are extended straight in front of you.
- Engage your back muscles and pull the handle towards your body, bringing your elbows back as far as you can. Keep your chest up and your back straight throughout the movement.
- Hold the contracted position for a moment, then slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps. Make sure to breathe evenly and keep good form throughout the exercise.
- When you are finished, carefully release the weight back onto the stack and return the handle to its starting position*.
*Don’t be the person that just lets go of the handle at the end of your set and allows the weight stack to just come crashing down. It just tears up the machine.
Keep your core braced and maintain a static upright posture. Don’t confuse Seated Cable Row with a rowing machine. You shouldn’t be rocking back and forth through the movement.
Don’t have a cable machine? Here are some Seated Cable Row alternatives you may be able to do instead.
The Seated Cable Row is a great exercise for building muscle mass in the back and arms, as well as improving posture and overall upper body strength. Some additional benefits of the Seated Cable Row include:
- Improving grip strength: gripping the handle of the cable and pulling it towards your body can help improve your grip strength and overall hand and forearm strength.
- Developing core stability: the seated cable row requires you to maintain a strong, stable core throughout the exercise, which can help improve your overall core strength and stability.
- Improving posture: the seated cable row can help improve your posture by strengthening the muscles in your upper back, which can help keep your shoulders back and your chest lifted.
- Increasing overall upper body strength: the Seated Cable Row can help improve your upper body strength by targeting the muscles in your back, arms, and shoulders.
- Enhancing athletic performance: the Seated Cable Row can help improve your athletic performance by increasing your upper body strength and power, which can be beneficial for sports such as rowing and swimming.
Hammer Seated Row vs Seated Cable Row: Which is Better?
Now, let’s take a side-by-side look at the two rowing exercises and discuss if one is better than the other for some common lifting goals.
Better For Strength and Hypertrophy: Hammer Seated Row
Let me start by saying that both exercises are excellent options for developing upper back strength.
I’m picking Hammer Strength Rows here, but it really depends on the Cable Machine you have access to. Let me explain.
A Hammer Strength Iso Row machine generally allows you to fit up to 5 45-pound plates on each side. This is more than enough weight for 99.999% of the population (I coached a guy once who could do 5 plates and have a person stand on the plates. He’s still playing in the NFL).
On the other hand, stronger lifters will be able to ‘max out’ many Seated Cable Row setups. This obviously puts a limit on how much strength you can build. But, if you’re not there yet and your cable machine still provides the necessary challenge then both exercises will be extremely close in their effectiveness.
Better For Beginners: Toss Up
When I’m choosing exercises for beginners I want movements that are safe, easy to learn and easy to execute. I think Hammer Strength Rows and Cable Rows both check all three boxes rather well.
Whichever exercise you choose, always remember to start light and focus on technique first. Once your technique is sound you can start to gradually increase the amount of weight you use as your strength improves.
I just spend the back half of this article comparing if Hammer Strength Rows or Cable Rows are better than the other. The truth is, assuming you have the proper equipment and technique, there is no reason you can’t have both exercises in your strength training program.
Both exercises are extremely effective and actually can complement each other well. Plus, by utilizing both exercises you can add variety to your workouts and keep them from getting stale.
So, my final suggestion is to figure out how you can incorporate both Hammer Strength Rows and Cable Rows into your training.