How To Use Cable Row Machine Properly

For a machine that was once pushed at the back of the gym, the cable row machine is experiencing a surge in popularity, so much so that there are now entire gyms devoted to it and its awesome total-body benefits.

With the changing times, the cable rowing machine is making a reappearance and experiencing a surge in popularity. This machine is quickly becoming a fan favourite as more people are becoming aware of the incredible benefits it has to offer.

However, most people who have not interacted with it complain that the cable row machine is intimidating at first, because one wouldn’t really know its DOs and DON’Ts.

Always keep in mind that it is about power and never about speed. If you find yourself with sores the moment you are done using the machine, just know you did it wrong.

For a deeper guide on how to use this machine properly, read on.

TIPS TO CONSIDER WHILE USING CABLE ROW MACHINE

LEG ISOLATION

Hold the oar with your arms extended, knees bent, and weight on the balls of your feet. This position is called “the catch.”

With your back straight and core engaged, push back using only your legs, rolling through your feet so they’re flat when your legs are extended.

Remember to keep your arms extended throughout.

ARM ISOLATION

With your legs straight, pull the oar toward your chest, bend your elbows out to the sides and touch the oar just under your chest.

Hold the oar lightly and use your upper back compared to shoulders or biceps to pull the oar towards you. Engage the same muscles as you do for a bent-over row.

HOW TO USE CABLE ROW MACHINE PROPERLY

THE FOUR ROWING MOTIONS

As it is, the rowing machine mimics the sensation of rowing a boat on the open water.

In order to have proper rowing machine form and to complete a proper stroke, it is important to understand the four motions that are involved with rowing: The catch, the drive, the finish, and the recovery.

CATCH

The catch is the beginning of the stroke.

Lean slightly forward while maintaining muscle engagement through the back for good posture.

Extend your arms and keep your shins vertical. The seat should be 6 to 8 inches from the feet and your heels should be slightly lifted.

DRIVE

The drive happens in two phases.

First, extend your knees to drive the seat back. Keep your arms extended and the back long.

In the second part of the drive, your legs should come to full extension. Open your hips and lean back slightly.

As you extend at the hip you feel the glutes engage. Keep the core activated throughout the movement in order to maintain good alignment.

FINISH

The stroke is completed by pulling the handle to the lower part of the ribs while still leaning back slightly.

At the finish, your shoulders will be slightly behind your hips and you will feel your core working. The sequence of movement in the drive is: legs drive first, then body hinges back, and finally the arms pull.

RECOVERY

The recovery is just as important as the drive.

The sequence of movement in the recovery is the reverse of the drive: arms first, then body, then the leg.

The recovery should be slow while the drive is quick. And, you complete the sequence by returning to the catch.

WHAT MUSCLES DO THE CABLE ROW MACHINE WORK?

The cable row machine will work several muscles in your back and arms. These include:

Biceps brachii (front of upper arm)

Latissimus dorsi (middle back)

Trapezius (neck, shoulders, and upper back)

Rhomboids (between shoulder blades)

While using the cable row machine, the primary movers are the lats and rhomboids. Additionally, the trapezius and biceps will also help the movement by assisting the lats and rhomboids.

CABLE ROW MACHINE BENEFITS

ENGAGES MAJOR MUSCLE GROUP

Just the simple act of pushing from the catch to the drive will engage all of the muscles in your lower body, primarily your quads, as well as your core, as you keep your torso upright and engaged.

When you complete the stroke, pulling the handlebar will engage many of the muscles in your upper body like your shoulder muscles, biceps, traps, and rhomboids.

BLASTS EXTRA BODY FAT

Activating all of these muscle groups won’t only increase your calorie burn as you work out, but it also helps you to build more metabolically-active tissue to help blast stubborn belly fat.

KEEPS THE IMPACT LOW

Runners, often suffer from a little bit of knee pain. This is because, inasmuch as running is an excellent way to get in shape, it is a high-impact exercise.

The cable row machine however, is low impact, meaning it will put little to no stress on your weight-bearing joints such as the knee, hip, or ankle.

CABLE ROW MACHINE ALTERNATIVES

These include:

Barbell bent over rows: This alternative uses heavier weights but reduces the use of shoulder stabilizers.

Dumbbell rows:  It offers great strength, stability, and mass development.

Pendlay rows: This row variation mimics the same angles seen in cable rows or the T-bar row. You have to support the position with your lower body.

COMMON CABLE ROW MACHINE MISTAKES TO AVOID

Avoid using the machine in the wrong order as this will divert focus from the target muscles.

Avoid shooting your seat. This is where your seat moves and your legs extend but nothing else moves. It will deliver a major blow to your explosive power and momentum.

Avoid pulling with too much torso as this will put your back in a weak position.

TAKE AWAY

The cable row machine proves itself to be among the superior pieces of exercise equipment because it strengthens every muscle group in the body, is low impact, helps to burn fat and offers good cardiovascular exercise.

However, if you are new to this great machine, it’s important to take a step back to make sure you have proper form and understand the four motions needed to complete a rowing stroke.