As Lance Bumgarner says, the seated row exercise strengthens the back muscles: lats and lower and mid traps and the biceps to a certain extent. There is also some involvement with rhomboids. To reiterate the main points:
- Sit with feet lower than hips and a slight bend in the knee so the low back is straight and not rounded.
- The upper back needs to arch backwards, so the majority of people need to loosen up their upper back before doing this – or any back exercise.
- Shoulders are low and the chest very open.
- As the weight is pulled in, the chest opens more and the shoulder blades move towards each other and downwards. It helps to imagine the bottom point of the shoulder blade digging into the back of the ribs.
- Maintain the tension in the back muscles as the weight returns.
- Relax tension briefly before repeating.
- If you can’t feel this exercise in your back, that’s because the muscles are working – your upper back will be too rounded.
- Back exercises should have more reps than chest exercises.
Things that go wrong.
- The shoulders lift. This error will lead eventually to the shoulder elevators: the upper traps, the rhomboids and the levator scapulae getting over tight and eventually going into spasm, at which point all exercise will cease because of the pain. And money will be spent trying to get out of pain. And whilst this is happening, once again we’ll look all weedy.
- The shoulders roll forwards as the hands near the body. This error leads to the pec minor getting over strong, so we look like a gorilla. The back muscles and triceps will get harder and harder to engage and therefore weaker and weaker. We end up looking like a pipe cleaner with blobs on the front. It can be a good idea to do this exercise with only one cable and an attachment that both hands can grip, so we can’t pull it so far back and then progress to using cables, as in the above video.
- Lack of extension in the upper back – as already said, the upper back needs to arch backwards. What often happens is all the extension comes from the upper part of the low back (or lumbar spine), which can cause back ache and insufficient engagement of the lower trapezius, so not such a good result. Using a foam roller will help – but Z health is better.