Cable rows target the major muscles in your back which are the rhomboids, latissimus dorsi and trapezius, with the biceps acting as the secondary muscle. Cable machines pull the muscles in both directions, eccentrically and concentrically, which give the muscles a complete workout. You have to lift the weight in the concentric motion, or the pulling motion. On the eccentric, or relaxation phase, the weight actively pulls you down, requiring you to control it. There are many variations of cable rows so add them to your back routine to achieve your goals faster.
For general toning and basic strength, the National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends lifting a weight that fatigues your muscles in 12 to 15 repetitions for about three sets. For muscle building, increase the weight slightly, and lift to fatigue your muscles in eight to 12 repetitions. For strength gains, further increase the weight to max out at six to eight repetitions. Work out your back once or twice per week on non-consecutive days.
According to the American Council on Exercise, seated rows emphasize the rhomboids and trapezius muscles. Start with a close grip attachment in which your palms face each other. Sit straight up and allow the weight to pull your shoulders forward slightly. Pull the weight toward your lower ribcage, simultaneously squeezing your shoulder blades together. Release slowly, emphasizing the eccentric contraction. Try wide grip cable rows to emphasize the lateral rhomboids and increase width of your back.
Seated rows isolate the back muscles because you do not have to stabilize your body, but standing rows engage the entire body and core. You have to brace yourself against the weight to keep from being pulled forward during the eccentric move. Start off with a lighter weight than seated rows. Position the cable handle so it is at ribcage level and proceed to pull and release similar to seated rows.
Single Arm Rows
Single arm rows, both seated and standing, are ideal at building muscular symmetry and involving the core. When you use a single attachment for both hands, the stronger arm may overcompensate for the weaker one. Start with your weakest side, and choose a weight that fatigues your muscle within your goal repetition range of six to 15 reps. Then switch to the stronger side and do the same number of repetitions. This ensures the weaker side builds to the level of the stronger side.
Low and High Rows
Change the cable position during standing rows to incorporate low and high rows. Low rows, starting with the cable down low and lifting it up to ribcage level, helps build the upper back muscles of the rhomboids and trapezius. High rows, starting with a high cable attachment and pulling down to your lower ribs, target the lower rhomboids and low latissimus dorsi. Also, vary from wide grip to narrow grip to work the muscles laterally and the muscles closer to the spine respectively.
- American Council on Exercise: Back Exercises
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning; National Strength and Conditioning Association; Thomas R. Baechel and Roger W.Earle