When it comes to upper body exercises, low cable row is not exactly what comes to mind.
Sure, the bench press is pretty much in every gym-goers tongue as the go-to exercise to build chest strength, but what about back exercises?
The low cable row is a compound exercise that covers just that.
The low cable row is a compound exercise that uses pull motion meaning it targets the middle back as well as the lats, biceps and shoulders.
It may also be worth mentioning that you require gym equipment to perform this exercise. It may not be very common but it sure is a fantastic upper body workout.
That’s great and all but let us see how these low cable rows are done;
- Requirements: Cable machine.
- Set up: Sit on the bench and have your knees bent and grip the cable attachment. Have your knees slightly bent so you have to reach to grab the handle with outstretched arms with your back straight. Engage your abdominals and your all set.
- Pull the handle toward the lower abdomen and do not use the momentum of the row too much. Move the torso back with the arms to avoid this.
- Target the middle to upper back by keeping the back straight and engaging your shoulders as you row. Have your chest out as you do this.
- Return the handle forward with gradual control, remembering to keep your back straight even though it is engaged at the hips. Repeat the cycle for reps. Be sure to use weight you can handle without hunching your back.
I feel the need to emphasize that you should not have what we call a rounded back. Keep your back as straight as humanly possible from the start of the exercise to its very completion. If you want a more visual demonstration, you can check out this video.
WHAT MUSCLES ARE WORKED BY THE LOW CABLE ROWS?
The low cable row is a compound exercise that primarily targets your back, particularly your lats. The secondary muscles targeted are the biceps, and shoulders.
If you want to be technical the back muscle targeted primarily is the latissimus dorsi also known as the lats. But we will cover that in the next section.
The secondary muscles in the back worked include the trapezius, levator scapulae and the rhomboids.
These muscles are able to move the upper limb in pretty much all directions, twisting, bending you name it. They are very essential for general arm strength.
Being the primary muscle worked in the back, I thought it wise to cover if on its own.
This muscle is found at the middle back and is the largest of the back muscles and it covers most of the middle and lower back.
It goes all the way from the bone of the upper arm to the spine and the hip. Yeah, I know, it’s pretty large. Well developed lats not only improve the overall aesthetics of the back but also general arm strength.
You might know these as the ‘guns’. They are located on the anterior side of the upper arm and are probably the most noticeable sign of strength in the body. Not only do well developed biceps appeal aesthetically, but they also enhance upper body resilience.
The shoulders are made up of 8 muscles including largest being the deltoid. These muscles are used in a wide range of motion such as rotation, twisting and bending the arm. They bear most of the load of the arm.
BENEFITS OF LOW CABLE ROWS
I know you are wondering what the benefits of low cable rows are. Here are some of the benefits;
GREAT COMPOUND EXERCISE
Being a compound exercise, it works multiple muscle groups at a time which is a great advantage. They increase upper body strength by activating multiple muscle groups including the back muscles. In addition, they use your biceps and triceps as stabilizers in the exercise.
ENCOURAGES GOOD POSTURE
When you perform a low cable row with perfect form, your back should be kept straight and your knees slightly bent. Maintaining this position will work muscles that better your everyday posture as well as make it easier to do other related exercises.
LESS STRAIN ON YOUR LOWER BACK
The position of a low cable row puts more focus on your upper back than your lower one which significantly reduces the stress on your lower back that is common with other related exercises like deadlifts or dumbbell rows.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE LOW CABLE ROWS
If for whatever reason you do not like the low cable rows, we have a few other options you can try that will still target the same upper body muscles. Starting the list strong is the dumbbell bent over row.
DUMBBELL BENT OVER ROW
Here is an alternative that is all about the upper back. It also uses the biceps and triceps as stabilizers making it a great alternative. Here is how you can do it;
- Stand straight and hold a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip. Bend forward at your hips until your torso is almost parallel with the ground (or slightly above).
- Begin the movement by moving the elbows behind the body while engaging and contracting the shoulder blades. Ensure your arms are close to the body while doing this.
- Pull the dumbbells towards your chest until the elbows are just about midline and then gradually and with control, lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
- Repeat the cycle for reps. Do as many as you are comfortable with.
Bonus tip, keep your abdominals engaged as you pull the dumbbells into your torso to ensure your do not arch your back excessively.
This is almost like your conventional body weight pull ups but with a slight twist. Here is how it is done;
- First, set the bar about waist height and lower the bar for a more difficult movement. Position yourself under the bar and face up.
- Grab the bar with and overhand grip and contract your abs and glutes but keep your body in a straight line. Then pull yourself up to the bar until your chest touches the bar.
- Lower yourself back and repeat the cycle for reps.
COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN DOING LOW CABLE ROWS
Your elbows should remain against your body during the pulling phase. Avoid lifting your elbows out as this engages the biceps instead of the lats and rhomboids.
This is probably the most common mistake. Maintain a neutral back by engaging your abdominals.
When it comes to back exercises, particularly the upper back, the low cable rows are a pretty good one to consider. Not only that, but your biceps will also benefit since they act as stabilizers. In conclusion, the low cable row can be a fantastic choice for you if you are looking to tone your back rather than gain mass. Give it a go, you will not regret it.