Seated Row

Seated Row

Having a strong back is critical to leading a healthy and happy life.

The seated row is a back exercise that plays a big part in maintaining a healthy back and proper posture. The exercise targets a variety of muscle groups in the back, including your erector spinae, middle and lower trapezius, rhomboids, and more.

An Exercise for the Ancients

Although the rowing machine at the gym is a relatively modern development, the seated row is an exercise that has been done by men and women since the dawn of civilization. The motion mimics rowing a boat, which can be traced back to Ancient Greece and earlier. In the Ancient Greek military, the soldiers rowed triremes, which was a war galley powered by over 170 oar men. They had to train to strengthen the muscles engaged in rowing to make this vessel resilient against the sea.

Seated Row 101

Now, the seated row is primarily done at the gym through the use of a cable row. It still largely mimics the same motions but is more confined to isolate specific muscle groups in your middle back. To do it, sit down at the machine and grab each handle with your palms facing each other. Place your feet on the crossbar in the front, with your knees bent. Do not let your knees locked or you could get injured.

Then, while grabbing the handles, extend your arms. Then, pull back using your back and torso until your legs and torso reach a 90-degree angle. Your chest should be slightly puffed out. This is where the exercise begins. While holding the torso in the position, taut, pull the handles back while squeezing your back muscles. When you get your wrists to touch your abs, hold the pose, and then slowly return. Repeat this rep as many times as you want, adding weight accordingly. 

Variations and Upsides

There are many variations of this exercise for more advanced folks. The exercise can be done not only on a machine. To do this, you should lie on an incline bench and use dumbbells. Then, pull back similarly while your chest is tight to the bench. This provides a bit more liberty, but for beginners, it may be challenging to keep the form intact.

You can also do a one-arm barbell row, which targets your lats even more. This is usually done for weight and involves a person standing up while hunching their torso in a position that mirrors their position with the machine, except angled at the floor. They then lift barbells with one arm at a time. These are done more for strength building than for reps.

The benefits of this exercise include strengthening your back muscles and helping to keep your spinal column correctly aligned. This action also reduces the risk of injury, and future back pain and deterioration. In addition to working the back, the seated row also works to build up the arms and shoulders.


This exercise is one of the most important that a person looking to strengthen their back can do. It not only builds short term strength but can help with long term back health and reducing the potential of future back pain.

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