Seated Cable Row Muscles Worked – All Main Variations!

May 26, 2022 2 Comments


In this article I will examine the seated cable row muscles worked and look at all the variations. The cable row is a fantastic back exercise that allows you to get a great mind muscle connection and build serious thickness in the back. By using cables you can get constant tension throughout the range of motion. Let me preface by saying that I perform all variations of seated cable rows with strict form. Often I will pause every rep to emphasise the peak contraction. 

With that said let us explore this exercise further.

Classic V-Bar

The classic variation of the seated cable row that the majority of people will be familiar with is the V-bar seated row. When you walk into your gym you will most likely see this attachment already in use for cable rows. 

The V-bar variation targets the mid back and lower back, it also hits the outer lats. With this exercise you can get a great contraction in the mid back and it will also pump a lot of blood into your lower back muscles. If you have ever suffered a mild lower back injury, this exercise works wonders in rehabbing it with high reps and light weight. 

It is an exercise I have used myself for this purpose. I also use it in a progressive manner to improve back strength and develop more thickness. 


EZ-bar Attachment

Another cool variation is with the EZ-bar. This variation will target the lower lats but also hit the mid back really hard. It is up to you whether you utilise a reverse grip or double overhand grip. Personally I prefer the double overhand grip for my rowing. It will bring in the lats a lot more as well. 

Multi Grip Lat Pulldown Attachment

This type of lat pulldown variation is a wider grip one. I like to hold the handles at the end, you have to lighten the load with this. Don’t expect to be able to row what you can using the V-bar with this lat pulldown attachment. 

The muscles worked will be the mid back, lower back and rhomboids. This is a great variation for getting an incredible peak contraction. I would recommend using this version with light weight as a finisher for a few sets. You will get an amazing pump and get some serious thickness over time across your back.

multi grip lat pulldown

Single Handle Attachment

This variation is great for the ability to perform rows with one arm. You would have to lighten up the weight but you can get some serious benefits from one arm cable rows. If you have a pre-existing lower back injury I would not advise performing this version of the exercise. 

You can also utilise two single handle attachments together. This makes the exercise similar to the V-bar but with more freedom of movement. You will work similar muscles to the V-bar version, however I believe using two single handle attachments is superior. This is predominantly due to the greater freedom of movement.

Single handle attachments are akin to using dumbbells in terms of the freedom of movement that they provide. When you use other bar attachments you are fixed in to a single plane of motion. 

Seated Cable Row Tips

Now I am going to provide some tips to ensure you get the best out of this exercise:

  • Think Elbows Back – Many people make the mistake of bringing their biceps into the movement too heavily. Instead of pulling with your arms focus on bringing your elbows back. This will ensure you are engaging the back musculature fully instead of the biceps. 
  • More Rhomboids And Lower Traps – To activate the upper back to a greater degree, simply row to a higher point above your belly button. This will really hit the upper and mid back really hard.
  • More Lower Lats – To hit your lower lats harder all you have to do is row the bar to a lower point closer to your legs and below your belly button. 
  • Use Good Technique – Many people use excessive body english on this exercise and get subpar contractions as a result. It is better to perform the exercise with good technique and use it to make your back thicker and stronger. A better rowing variation to use body english would be the barbell row.

Improve Your Grip At The Same Time

Seated cable rows are an ideal exercise for working your grip strength as well as your back muscles. A great way to work your “oblique grip” would be to wrap a towel around the bar attachments, hold onto the towel and row as normal. 

Your grip can get ridiculously strong over time doing this when you use progressive overload. Just remember to start off with a lighter weight than you would use for the same exercise without the towel. In no time you will add some serious size to your forearms and have a serious grip!


To conclude, in this article I have explored various variations of seated cable rows and the muscles worked. This is an exercise that I stand by as I believe it offers big benefits in terms to adding size and strength to your back. It will also give you a tremendous pump and has the potential to improve your grip substantially when you use a towel as an accessory.

There are many attachments to choose from. The most common is V-bar, but there are also lat pulldown attachments, EZ-bar attachments and more. The variation that I use most commonly is the single handle one. I like the freedom of movement and the fact that you can manipulate the exercise very easily to target different muscles in the back. 

I would recommend doing a complex when you are doing your seated rowing. Use at least two different attachments to hit the exercise from different angles and reap the rewards fully in terms of hypertrophy. 

If you have any questions about the seated cable row please leave them in the comments below. As always, enjoy your training and stay safe! 

2 thoughts on “Seated Cable Row Muscles Worked – All Main Variations!”

  1. I used to row a lot at the gym but unfortunately haven’t been able to for a while as I have developed a tennis elbow so it is now a bit painful to do. Are there any exercises that will help for the tennis elbow that one can do on the rowing machine that works on strengthening the muscles in the elbow rather than irritating time?

    Some of the exercises that you have included here are new ways to row, and I can’t wait to try them out.

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