Guide to Mastering the Cable Row: Benefits, Form, Variations

The cable row is an effective exercise for building your back muscles and increasing overall upper body strength.

The cable row is a compound exercise that works multiple muscle groups.

Different types of row can be done with different attachments and grips.

In this guide, we’ll break down all aspects of the cable row, so you can get the most out of it.

  • What is cable row?
  • Muscle worked during cable row
  • How to perform the cable rows properly
  • Best variations
  • Tip and Techniques.

What is Cable Row

Cable row is a strength training exercise that primarily targets the muscles in the upper back, shoulders, and arms.

It involves pulling a cable towards your body while sitting or standing in front of a cable machine.

To target back muscle from different angles, this exercise can be performed in various ways.

  • Seated or standing,
  • Different grips positions
  • Using different attachments

You can use different loads to put constant tension on your muscles for bigger gains.

Different Attachment used for cable row exercise

  • V-bar attachment
  • Wide D Handle Row Bar
  • Straight bar
  • Rope
  • Zig zag Handle
  • D Handle

Cable Row – Hand And Grip Positions

Here are some of the ways you can alter your cable row to hit different muscles.

1. Overhand (Pronated) Grip

During overhand grip, the elbow pushing out from the body, due to which upper back and rear delts will receive increased activation.

2. Underhand (Supinated) Grip

On the other hand, an underhand grip will force the elbows to stay close to the body.

This will generally cause greater activation of the middle and lower traps. You will get more bicep activation because of elbow extension.

3. Neutral Grip

However, its main benefit is that it takes stress off the elbow.

People who have elbow pain will love using a neutral grip.


4. Narrow Grip

Using a narrow grip will help you hit your lats and middle and lower traps more.

Additionally, the biceps receive a greater workout with a higher range of motion.

5. Wide Grip

Using a wide grip will force you to use an overhand grip and force your elbows out.

This will enhance the emphasis on the rhomboids, and rear deltoid.

Back Anatomy

Your back is composed of many muscles, which help you move your body, including your head, neck, shoulders, and arms.

Your back muscles help you bend, twist, turn your head and stretch your back.

They also help you carry out everyday actions, like picking up a cup or opening a door.

The muscles in this group are:

  • Latissimus dorsi (lats), the largest muscle in the upper part of your body.
  • Levator scapulae, a smaller muscle that starts at the side of your neck and extends to the scapula (shoulder blade).
  • Rhomboids, two muscles that connect the scapula to the spine.
  • Trapezius (traps), which start at your neck, go across your shoulders and extend to a “V” in your lower back.

Erector spinae, a deep muscle of the back, starting from your lower spine stretching up to your neck. This muscle is responsible for extending and rotating the spine.

The erector spinae is a key part of our lower back and keeps our body working well.

Back anatomy

Muscle Worked During Chest Supported Row

The cable row is a compound exercise, which means it works many muscles at the same time. 

The main muscles worked during cable row are:

Secondary muscles worked during the rows:

Antagonist Muscle worked: Chest, Triceps, Front deltoid.

The muscle groups in the legs as either accessory dynamic movement stabilizers or as simple static support stabilizers.

Muscle Worked During Chest Supported Row

1. Close Grip Seated Cable Row

Seated Cable Rows are an excellent cable exercise to build middle back muscles, and this works on the lower back as well.

This back exercise is done on a cable rowing machine with separate handles and grip position change, the muscle worked involvement.

Seated Cable Row

How To Do Close Grip Seated Cable Row

  1. Sit on a seated cable pulley rowing machine with legs slightly bent and feet supported against the crossbar.
  2. Take hold of the handles with your arms extended and back stretched.
  3. Pull the handles so that they come as close to the lower chest/abdomen as possible.
  4. Thrust your chest out while pulling with your body in an upright position.
  5. Slowly return the handle to the starting position.


  • Keep your knees slightly bent to avoid knee and lower back pressure.
  • Remember, a rounded back is a wrong back. Keep it straight at all times.
  • Keep your upper back stationary, don’t move your upper back, back and forth.

2. Wide Grip Seated Cable Row

The seated row is normally done with a narrow grip. But if you’d like to focus on the wider back, you can use a wide grip.

Wide grip rows can make your back thicker because the majority of the work is done by the muscles in the upper back.

To do it correctly, be sure the movement is slow and fluid – no jerking or raising yourself up to push down with your body weight.


How To Do Wide Grip Seated Cable Row

  1. Sit on a seated cable pulley rowing machine with legs slightly bent and feet supported against the crossbar.
  2. Hold the bar with your arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Pull the bar so that they come as close to the lower chest/abdomen as possible.
  4. Thrust your chest out while pulling with your body in an upright position.
  5. Slowly return the handle to the starting position.


  • Locking your knees is stressful on the joints, so it’s best to slightly bend your knees.
  • To prevent rounding or arching, engage your abs and focus on keeping your spine straight.
  • To fully activate your muscles, perform each rep slowly.

3. Chest Supported Cable Row

The chest supported cable row is performed on a weighted horizontal cable machine with a bench. Cable supported rows are more evenly distributed, and you have more of a constant load on your back muscles throughout the whole range of motion.

The seated cable row exercises the muscles of the back and the forearms. It is an excellent compound exercise for developing the middle back, as well as offering useful arm work.

The supported cable row can be performed with different grip position and using different angles and attachments. 

  • Underhand grip
  • Single-arm high row
  • Neutral-grip,
  • Rope attachment,
  • Long bar
  • Double arm low row….. Get creative!
Incline Chest Supported Cable Row

How To Do Chest Supported Cable Row

  1. Attach a rope handle to a cable set up. Alternatively, you can use D-shaped handles on an extended strap.
  2. Adjust an incline bench to between 30-45 degrees and place it in front of the cable machine with the back of the bench facing the pulley.
  3. Sit on the bench with your chest against the backrest. Grip the handles and extend your arms.
  4. Pull your shoulders down and back and brace your core.
  5. Bend your arms and pull the handles in toward your lower ribs. Lead with your elbows, keep your wrists straight, and squeeze your shoulders together to maximize upper back engagement.
  6. Smoothly extend your arms, let your shoulders shrug forward to stretch your upper back, retract your shoulders again, and repeat.

Know More: How To Perform The Chest Supported Row And Its Variations

4. Underhand Grip Chest Supported Cable Row

The Underhand grip chest supported cable row Aka seated chest supported row is a great movement for shoulder girdle health and for creating balance in horizontal pulling and pushing (especially for the frequent bench-presser).

It is also a bit easier to maintain proper form than in dumbbell, bent-over rows.

Underhand Grip Chest Supported Cable Row

How To Do It Underhand Grip Chest Supported Cable Row

  1. Grip the handle underhand at shoulder width. Brace through the core before beginning the movement.
  2. Pull the handle to your chest, keeping your back upright and tight throughout the movement.
  3. Focus on bringing the shoulder blades together at the end of the range of movement.
  4. Return to the start position under control, maintaining the same braced position in your torso.


  • You must not bend or flex the spine at any point.
  • It is essential not to push the head forward at any movement.
  • Focus on doing the full range of motion with your shoulder blades.

5. Seated One Arm Cable Row

It is a version of the cable row movement that trains the muscles of the upper back one side at a time.

It works well in a variety of rep ranges, but is most popular in muscle-building workouts or as an accessory movement for strength workouts.

Seated one arm cable row

How To Do Seated One Arm Cable Row

  1. Connect a single handle attachment to the seated row. Place your right hand on the handle with a neutral grip (palm facing inwards).
  2. Sit on the bench and place your feet on the footplates.
  3. Hold the handle with your right hand directly in front of your belly button and extend both arms fully.
  4. Bend your right elbow to pull the handle in towards your right side, You should feel a small squeeze between your shoulder blades.
  5. Extend your arm and return to the starting position.
  6. Complete half of the specified repetitions on the same side before completing the remaining repetitions on the other side.


  • Ensuring that your elbow remains in close contact with the side of your body.
  • You may keep your back straight or allow it to gently sway back and forth in a controlled manner.
  • To make the most of this move, your reps should be slow and controlled.

6. One Arm Standing Twisting Cable Row

The standing cable row is a compound exercise that works the upper back muscles of the posterior chain.

The standing and twisting motions of the exercise require greater core activation, which can help improve overall stability and balance.

One Arm Standing twisting cable row

How To Do Single Arm Standing Twisting Cable Row

  1. Start by standing facing a cable machine with a straight back and feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Attach a single grip handle to the top of the cable pulley.
  3. Then, grab the handle with your right hand and step forward with your right foot.
  4. Engage your core and keep your back straight as you pull the cable towards your body.
  5. Keep your elbows close to your sides as you pull the bar towards your lower chest.
  6. As you pull the D handle towards your chest, twist your torso to the right, then return to the starting position.
  7. Repeat the exercise for the number of reps you want.
  8. Then, switch to your left.

7. Low Cable Row

The standing cable row is similar to the seated cable row, but with the added effort of maintaining a good posture.

This works a lot more on your lower back and core.

The low cable row can be performed in different grip positions and attachments. 

  • Underhand grip
  • Single-arm high low row
  • V-Bar Neutral-grip
  • Long bar… Get creative!
How To Do Low Cable Row

How To Do Low Cable Row

  1. Grab the rope with both hands, step back, and let your arms extend out.
  2. Bend slightly at the knees and waist to help stabilize yourself.
  3. Pull the handle towards your midsection, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you do so.
  4. Pause for a moment, then slowly release the handle back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Know More: 18 Best Cable Back Workout And Exercises For Wider Back

Variations and Modification To Change Intensity

You can modify your seated cable rows to match your fitness level.

Make it easier

If you are new to performing a cable seated row, you may want to apply a few modifications to make the exercise easier

  • Start with a light weight and low reps.
  • Once you can do the exercise with perfect form, increase the weight and reps.

Make it harder

When you’ve mastered form and can complete the standard cable row exercise with control and strength, it’s time to challenge yourself with variations.

If you want to work different muscle fibers in the back or if your seated rows are too easy, try these modifications:

  • When you use a chest-supported seated row, your trunk will have to work harder to stay still.
  • You can pull the cable with one arm at a time, or you can pull it with one arm along the side of your body.
  • At the end of the pulling phase, pause for 3 to 5 seconds to challenge your muscles.

Common mistakes to avoid when doing cable row

It’s important to do the exercise correctly to avoid injury and get the most out of your workout.

Here are some common mistakes you should avoid when doing cable row.

1. Using too much weight

The use of too much weight can compromise form and cause injury.

It is important to start with a weight that is manageable.

2. Swinging torso

It is best to avoid moving your torso. Without this, the targeted muscles will not experience any tension.

During the exercise, bracing your core will help stabilize your torso.

3. Hunching your shoulders

Hunching your shoulders can cause strain on your neck and shoulders.

Instead, you should focus on pulling your shoulders down and back while maintaining a straight back throughout the exercise

4. Leaning too far forward

Leaning too far forward can put strain on your lower back.

Instead, keep an upright posture and use your core muscles during the exercise.

5. Rounding your back

Always keep a neutral position. To prevent rounding or arching, focus on keeping your spine straight and engaging your abdominals.

6. Using momentum

 To fully activate your muscles, you should perform each rep slowly. It is best to avoid rapid and jerky movements.

7. Reduced Range of Motion

If the weight is too heavy, you can’t do the full range of motion with good form.

Reduce the weight and ensure you have a full range of motion for this exercise.

Benefits of cable row

  • The cable row improves overall upper body strength.
  • It helps improve posture by strengthening the muscles in the upper back and shoulders.
  • It is a low-impact exercise, making it a viable option for people with joint or lower back pain.
  • Cable row allows for a greater range of motion compared to other rowing exercises.
  • It improves posture and reduces the risk of back pain.
  • Enhanced grip strength.
  • Improved overall athletic performance. It’s good for athletes who do sports that require upper body strength and stability, like rowing, swimming, or tennis.

Best Alternatives Of Cable Row

If you’re looking for a similar exercise to replace the cable row during your training sessions, you can try these alternatives.


What is the difference between cable row and barbell row?

Cable row involves pulling a cable towards your body using a handle or attachment, while barbell row involves lifting a barbell off the floor and pulling it towards your body.

Cable row allows for a greater range of motion and can be easier on the lower back, while barbell row can be more challenging and involve more muscles.

How many sets and reps should I do for cable row?

  1. For muscle endurance: Aim for 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps, with a moderate amount of resistance.
  2. For muscle strength: Aim for 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps, with a heavier amount of resistance.
  3. For muscle hypertrophy (increased muscle size): Aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps, with a moderate to heavy amount of resistance.

What grip should I use for cable row?

For cable row, there are different handle attachments available, and the grip you use can target different muscles.

For example, a wide grip can target the upper back muscles, whereas a neutral grip can target the mid-back muscles.

Try different grips to find the one that works best for you.

Can cable row help with weight loss?

Cable row can be part of a weight loss program because it helps build lean muscle mass and increases overall calorie burn.

But it’s important to combine strength training with a healthy diet and cardiovascular exercise to lose weight.

Can cable row help improve grip strength?

Yes, the cable row can improve grip strength.


Cable row is a great exercise for targeting the muscles in the upper back and improving posture.

There are different handle attachments available for cable row, and the grip you use can target different muscles.

If you want to build strength, grow muscle, or train, choose the cable row variation that suits your fitness level.


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