>> Attach a rope handle to a low-pulley cable and sit on a bench facing the weight stack. Adjust the seat or your position so that when you place your feet against the footplate, your legs are slightly bent and your trunk is erect.

>> Lean forward at your hips to grasp the rope handle with a neutral grip (palms facing each other), then lean back until your torso is once again erect and your arms are straight. This is the start position.

>> Inhale and hold your breath as you pull the rope toward your midsection while keeping your elbows near your sides.

>> As your elbows approach your body, turn your palms downward so your grip is pronated. Pull your elbows as far behind your body as possible.

>> Hold the peak contraction for 1-2 seconds, exhale and return to the start position. Keep your torso erect throughout the movement.

>> Allow your arms to stretch and your shoulder blades to relax before repeating for reps.


>> Concentrate on pulling back with your latissimus dorsi and rear delts; don’’t purposely use your upper body. Try to prevent your back from rounding as you lean forward and/or hyperextending as you pull back, both of which exert exceptionally high forces on your spinal discs that can cause serious pain or injury.

>> Be careful not to let your biceps dominate the pull, which decreases the overall effectiveness of the exercise.

>> Maintain an erect torso throughout the entire motion, leaning forward or backward no more than 10 degrees.

>> To achieve peak contraction, squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull your elbows back as far as possible.

>> Holding your breath during the pulling action helps stabilize your torso and facilitates greater muscular force so you can handle heavier weights.

>> Concentrate on isometrically contracting your erector spinae muscles to maintain the normal curvature of your spine.

The Lift Lowdown

When: Perform the seated cable rope row following your heavy rowing exercises.
With: Follow this exercise with wide-grip lat pulldowns or straight-arm pulldowns.
How: Do 3-–4 sets of 8-–10 reps.

Primary Muscles and Actions Involved

Five major muscles are involved in the seated cable rope row.

Muscle Location Movement
Latissimus dorsi Upper sides and lower half of back Extend and adduct upper arms (bring arms behind body)
Teres major Upper sides of back Assist in extension and adduction of upper arms
Posterior deltoid Back part of three-headed muscle that covers shoulder Extend arms backward at shoulder joints
Trapezius Large, diamond-shaped muscle in middle of upper back Adducts scapulae (brings shoulder blades together)
Rhomboid Upper-middle back, underneath trapezius Adduct scapulae

Sport Uses

The seated cable rope row activates muscles in the shoulder joint that are important in all actions that require pulling inward when the arms in front of the body. Sports that involve this type of movement include rowing; gymnastics, when executing various moves on the rings and in free exercise; football, when pulling the opponent in close to the body for tackling; judo, in preparation for throws; and swimming, when doing the crawl and butterfly strokes. Wrestlers use the scapular-retraction portion of the rowing motion when trying to keep a shoulder off the mat to prevent being pinned.