Seated Cable Row (How To, Muscles Worked, Benefits)

The seated cable row is a strength training exercise that targets the muscles of the back, particularly the latissimus dorsi (lats) and the rhomboid. The exercise is performed using a cable machine, where the weight is attached to a cable and the lifter sits on a bench with their feet firmly planted on the ground or a foot plate.

In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to do Seated Cable Rows including important coaching points, muscles worked and a few alternative exercises.

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How To Do Seated Cable Rows

Equipment Needed

  • Cable Pulley Machine

Muscles Worked

  • Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)
  • Teres Major
  • Posterior Delts
  • Biceps, Brachialis & Brachioradialis
  • Trapezius and Rhomboids (during full contraction)
  • Erector Spinae (as stabilizers to hold posture)

How To

  • 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*.

Coaching Points

*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.

Benefits of Seated Cable Row

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.

How Many Reps?

I generally program Seated Cable Rows as a supplemental strength exercise that is also effective at developing hypertrophy. Rep ranges are typically 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps per set.

Seated Cable Row Alternatives

Need an alternative for Seated Cable Rows? Here are a couple of exercises you may be able to use as a replacement.

Need more options? Here are 10 of my favorite Seated Cable Row alternatives to develop a strong back.

Inverted Rows

Inverted Rows with Gym Rings
Photo Credit: Mariia Korneeva /

Inverted Rows, also known as bodyweight rows, are a great exercise that can be used as a replacement for seated cable rows. Inverted rows are a type of bodyweight exercise that targets the same muscles as the Seated Cable Row, including the latissimus dorsi (lats), the rhomboids, and the biceps.

Inverted rows can be performed using a barbell (on a rack) or a TRX suspension system, and they can be modified to be easier or more challenging depending on the individual’s strength level.

Unlike Seated Cable Rows, which require a cable machine, Inverted Rows can be performed using a variety of equipment and in a variety of settings. This makes them a more versatile exercise that can be done in the gym, at home, or outdoors.

Dumbbell One Arm Row

One Arm Row

Dumbbell One Arm Rows are a great exercise that can be used as an alternative for Seated Cable Rows.

Like the Seated Cable Row, Dumbbell One Arm Rows target the latissimus dorsi (lats), the rhomboids, and the biceps, making them an effective exercise for building strength and hypertrophy.

Unlike Seated Cable Rows, however, Dumbbell One Arm Rows can be performed using a single dumbbell, which makes them a more accessible exercise that can be done at home or in a gym without the need for specialized equipment.

More Links and Info

If you’d like to see more upper body exercises targeting the chest, back and shoulders, make sure to check out the Upper Body Lifts section of our Exercise Library. There you’ll find dozens of exercises, all with complete step-by-step instructions.

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