Seated Rows

Seated Rows

There’s something primally satisfying about the act of pulling oars through imaginary water that just makes you feel good. 

It doesn’t hurt that seated rows deliver an unparalleled workout that will leave even the fittest among us sore for days. 

The seated cable row is a master at developing the muscles of the back and forearms. This compound resistance exercise is executed on a horizontal weighted cable machine featuring foot plates and a bench which can function either as part of a multi-gym or as a stand-alone machine. 


It turns out the history of the rowing machine goes back a very long way and is surprisingly well documented.

The first rowing machine was invented by Athenian admiral Chabrias in 4th century BC. Chabrias built rowing frames out of wood so newly recruited oarsmen could learn how to steer a boat on land before going out to sea. 

The first US Patent for a rowing machine was issued in 1872 to W.B. Curtis, whose design was powered by hydraulics. 

At the turn of the century, many rowing machines utilized linear pneumatic resistance, though these machines didn’t accurately simulate actual rowing and had no means to measure the output of power. 

It wasn’t until the 50s and 60s that we began to see specialty rowing machines that monitored power output throughout much of the world. These typically featured an iron flywheel and mechanical friction brake construction. 

Rowing machines have continued to evolve in terms of both mechanics and monitors since that time. 

In 1995, Dutch engineer Casper Rekers received a US patent for what he called a “Dynamically Balanced Rowing Simulator,” which is similar in style to what we see in gyms across the globe today. It differs from older machines in that the footrests, flywheel, and seat are attached to sliding carriages to add instability to the movement. This forces users to engage stabilizing muscles and more closely mimics the motions of rowing an actual boat. 

How to Perform a Seated Row

The seated row is most often performed on a cable rowing machine. 

Step 1: Adjust the cable machine to fit your proportions and add your desired amount of weight. 

Step 2: Sit on the platform seat and grip the bar or handles of the cable attachment, bending at the knees. 

Step3: Situate your body so that you have to reach out to grasp the handle, but can still maintain a straight lower back. 

Step 4: Engage your lower abdominals as you inhale and slowly pull the cable toward them using controlled motion. Try not to cheat by using momentum. 

Step 5: Keeping your back straight, squeeze your shoulder blades together and push out your chest. 

Step 6: Exhale as you return the handle to start position, maintaining tension on the cable.

Step 7: Repeat for your desired number of reps. 


  • Strengthens the back and forearms
  • Builds muscle
  • Stabilizes the core, hams, and glutes
  • Improves functional fitness
  • Strengthens tendons, ligaments, and joints throughout the upper body
  • Burns calories
  • Increases your heart rate
  • Sculpts the upper body
  • Increases coordination and balance
  • Improves flexibility and agility. 
  • Reduces stress


Rowing provides a challenging and rewarding workout for any level of fitness. As a beginner, you can begin with a lightweight load and work your way up as your body progresses.

If you’re a fitness expert looking for an added challenge, adjusting the hand attachment to utilize a variety of grips helps target different muscles. You can also perform a   cable row, which engages your core to a deeper degree to keep your body in balance. 

Anchor Your Workout Ship to the Seated Rowing Machine

The seated row serves as an integral part of a well-balanced upper-body strength regime. When performed in conjunction with the lat pulldown, lifters can get an effective and comprehensive total upper-body workout from those two exercises alone.

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