Cable Bent Over Row – Why a Cable Row Is The Perfect Bent Over Row Alternative

Cable bent over row

Muscles Worked by the Bent Over Cable Row

The bent over cable row is a compound exercise that primarily targets the muscles in the back. The major muscle groups that are worked during this exercise include the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and the middle trapezius.

lats, rhomboids, and the middle trapezius are important muscles

These are muscles that play a crucial role in improving posture, upper body strength, and muscle definition. In addition to these back muscles, the biceps are also heavily worked during the bent over cable row.

The forearm muscles are engaged also, as stabilizers throughout the whole exercise. This means that besides having a heavy focus on your back the bent over cable row also provides quite the tool for arm development as well.

By targeting multiple back muscles simultaneously, on top of multiple muscles in the arm the bent over cable row is an effective exercise for overall back and arm development and can be incorporated into a well-rounded workout routine.

Benefits of the Bent Over Cable Row 

Improves Posture

An outstanding benefit to the bent over cable row and one that most rowing motions also offer is the fact that it can greatly improve one’s posture.

This is due to the fact that as previously talked about this exercise targets many muscles in the back which play a crucial role in improving posture.

Also, it improves upper body strength which is required to maintain good posture over a long period of time.

Good posture is something that is often lacking in the world today, in a world that heavily relies on technology and includes a lot more sitting than may have been experienced in previous generations. That is why this is definitely something everyone can benefit from.

Builds Strength

Since we talked about how the bent over cable row improves upper body strength in order to attain good posture you guessed it this exercise is great for building not only upper body strength but all-around strength.

This is largely due to the fact that this movement is a compound exercise, which means it takes multiple and in this case many muscles working together in order to perform the exercise correctly.

Not only does it work all of the upper body muscles as talked about but it also requires the work of your core muscles and even some lower body muscles to ensure you maintain stability and do not rock or fall over.

These muscles may not be working as hard as the ones previously mentioned but as you progress and lift heavier weight this is when you will really start to notice these stabilizers being put to work.

Prevents Injury

Because of the two previous benefits talked about (improving posture and building strength) we can safely say that the bent over cable row can help prevent injuries in the long run.

A healthy posture is very important and key to maintaining a skeletal system that has strong bones and no bone issues.

It will also help give your body and more specifically your joints the ability to move and operate through a full range of motion without any pain or issues.

Bent over cable row can help prevent injuries especially in the joints

Building strength will help prevent injury by helping maintain that proper posture but also ensuring you do not strain yourself because you are not strong enough to perform said task.

Another small way this exercise can prevent potential injury is that it takes away the possibility of you hitting yourself with or dropping weights on yourself.

Continuous Tension

Due to this exercise being performed on a pully-type cable system this means that it will offer continuous tension throughout the entire row.

When performing something like a barbell row you typically pick the weight off the floor and end the exercise by placing the weight back on the floor, while the weight is on the floor you are doing no work as gravity is pulling it against the floor meaning no tension placed on you or your muscles.

During a cable row, the cable is constantly trying to pull that weight away from you meaning you have to make sure it does not in order to finish your set.

This means continuous tension on the targeted muscles for the whole set resulting in more muscle damage which ultimately leads to more growth.

Pain-Free Alternative

The feeling of constantly pulling one’s arms towards the floor due to gravity pulling against the equipment used such as barbells or dumbbells can really take a toll on individuals with current or even past shoulder or arm injuries.

This makes the cable row, which is more versatile being able to control what angle you are being pulled against and exactly how much resistance is being pulled against you a very common pain free alternative for individuals with the previously mentioned problems, and even many others. 

Interchangeable Grips

Interchangeable grips are an amazing thing that this exercise does offer. Having the ability to change the way you grip the weight to perform the exercise can almost make the bent over cable row feel like a different exercise entirely.

This gives you the ability to change the angle and mechanism at which the muscles talked about are being worked and even help put more emphasis on different muscles, for example using a supinated grip to better target the biceps.

Changing the grip is also an additional way one may be able to make this exercise a pain free alternative if you have shoulder pain using this supinated grip may also relieve this pain by creating more room in the shoulder joint.

How to Do the Bent Over Cable Row

To properly do this exercise, start by setting the cable machine at calf height or lower and attach desired grip, a straight bar handle is recommended for first timers.

Stand facing the cable machine and grab the set grip. Take a step back while keeping your back straight, and slightly bend your knees.

Lean forward from the hips until your upper body is at a 45-degree angle. This is your starting position. (You can change the angle later as desired)

Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, pull the handle toward your abdomen or lower chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together.

Keep your elbows close to your body throughout the movement. Focus on leading with the elbows and bring the handle as close to your body as possible.

Hold the contraction for a second, then inhale and slowly return to the starting position.

Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. Make sure to engage your core and avoid using momentum to complete the movement.

Common Bent-Over Cable Row Mistakes

The bent-over cable row is a popular exercise for targeting the muscles in the back especially the upper back, but many people make common mistakes that can limit its effectiveness.

One of the most common mistakes is using too much weight. This can lead to a rounded back bad posture and improper form, taking the focus away from the targeted muscles and increasing the risk of injury.

Another mistake is not maintaining a neutral spine throughout the movement, this is not always due to too much weight but sometimes just not knowing.

It is important to keep the back straight and engage the core muscles to prevent any excessive strain on the lower back.

People also often pull the cable handle too high, resulting in a shrugging motion and neglecting the intended muscles.

To avoid these mistakes, it is essential to start with a weight that allows proper form and focus on maintaining a straight back and pulling the handle towards the lower chest or abdomen area, using the back muscles instead of the shoulders.

By addressing these common mistakes, individuals can ensure they are getting the most out of their bent over cable row and upper body workout reducing the risk of injury. 

Bent Over Cable Row Sets and Reps

When it comes to sets and reps, it is recommended to start with 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps, depending on our fitness level.

A reminder it is important to choose a weight that challenges our muscles without compromising our form.

As we get stronger, it is recommended to gradually increase the weight and decrease the number of reps.

We can then increase those number of reps again as we get stronger in order to prevent hitting a plate in progress and then repeat this formula over again.

The bent over cable row is an excellent exercise for building back strength and this is why taking full advantage of the exercise is important.

Bent Over Cable Row Alternatives

Bent Over Barbell Row

The bent over barbell row is a compound exercise that primarily targets the muscles in the upper back, as well as the biceps and rear delts.

To perform a bent over barbell row, start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and gripping the barbell with the desired grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

Hinge forward at the hips while keeping your back straight and pull the barbell towards your lower chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together.

Lower the barbell back down with control and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Much like the cable row this exercise is effective for building strength and muscle in the upper back and can be incorporated into any back training routine.

Bent Over Dumbbell Row

The bent over dumbbell row is a great exercise for targeting the muscles in your back, specifically the lats.

To perform the exercise, you start by bending your knees slightly and bending forward at the hips until your upper body is nearly parallel to the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand typically with your palms facing inward.

From this position, contract your back muscles and pull the dumbbells towards your chest, keeping your elbows tucked in. Hold for a second and then slowly lower the weights back down.

This exercise is a great alternative to both the bent over cable and the bent over barbell row as you can move in a more free range.

T-Bar Row

The T-bar row is a popular exercise that targets the muscles in the upper and middle back, as well as the biceps.

It involves gripping a barbell or a T-bar handle and bending forward at the hips to maintain a flat back. With a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip, you pull the weight towards your chest while keeping your elbows close to your body.

This exercise works your rhomboids, traps, and rear deltoids, while also engaging your biceps and forearm muscles.

It can help improve posture, strengthen your back, and enhance overall upper body strength. The T-bar row is a favourite of mine and a great addition to any back-focused workout routine.

Hammer Strength Row

The Hammer Strength Row is an effective exercise for building strength and muscle in the back. This exercise specifically targets the latissimus dorsi especially.

To perform the Hammer Strength Row, sit on the bench and adjust it to the desired height. Grab the handles with an overhand grip and keep your back straight.

Pull the handles towards your body, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Slowly release and repeat.

This exercise not only helps to improve posture and stability but also enhances overall back strength. For more on this amazing exercise see The Hammer Strength Row

Inverted Row

The inverted row is a great bodyweight exercise for targeting the upper back muscles.

It is performed by hanging from a bar or using suspension straps with the body in a horizontal position and pulling the chest towards the bar or straps.

This exercise primarily targets the muscles of the upper back, such as the latissimus dorsi and rhomboids, but also engages the biceps and core muscles for stability.

It is a beginner-friendly exercise that can be modified to increase or decrease the difficulty level by adjusting the body position or angle. 

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