The seated row is a popular exercise used to develop your upper back muscles. However, some people have trouble performing the exercise because they don’t know how to do it, or they’re intimidated by the machine and they’re scared they are going to make a fool of themselves. Couple that with a risk of injury if performed incorrectly and suddenly you find yourself avoiding the exercise completely.

That shouldn’t be the outcome. In this post I will be teaching you how to perform the exercise correctly and how to use the machine so you can confidently and safely do a seated row.

Let’s get started!

Seated row

How to Perform a Seated Row

Step 1: Find a cable machine and attach the v-bar attachment.

Step 2: Take a seat on the floor or the seat provided and place your feet against the bottom of the machine or the food pedestal.

Step 3: Keep your knees slightly bent, your core braced, and your shoulder blades retracted.

Step 4: Lean forward to grab the handle. You will only be in this position when you first grab the handle and at the end of the set when you release the handle.

Step 5: Return to an upright position and start the movement by pulling the bar towards your sternum.

Step 6: When the bar gets closer to your body, start pulling your shoulders back.

Step 7: Squeeze your back muscles once you the bar reaches your sternum and slowly return to the starting position.

Step 8: Repeat for the desired amount of reps.

Tips for Good Form and Things to Avoid

Seated row

Retract your Shoulder Blades

A good cue is to tell yourself to pull your shoulders back and down. This will prevent your shoulders from slouching forward and it will prevent shrugging.

Keep your Back Straight Throughout the Movement

Do not round your back when you do this exercise, it could lead to injury which is a big no. You should be keeping your spine neutral which means no hunching or excessive arching.

Keep the Movement Slow and Controlled

Do not use momentum to move the weight. You will be able to contract your muscles more effectively by controlling the movement. Using momentum is cheating which is fine under certain circumstances but shouldn’t be done regularly. If you are still new to lifting it is best if you leave cheating techniques until you are more experienced with a good training and muscle foundation.

Pull with your Elbows

This will help you activate your back muscles better which is important since you are doing the exercise to build these muscles.

Muscles Worked When Doing A Seated Row

Sculpted back


Your rhomboids are known as your stabilizer muscles and help you maintain good posture.


Your traps start at the base of your skull and covers most of your upper back. Training your traps are especially important for good posture as weak traps could lead to a postural problem called kyphosis (rounding of the upper back).


During a seated row you will have to bend your elbow as you pull the attachment toward your body. This causes your biceps to be recruited as your bicep muscles are responsible for bending your elbow.

Rear Delts

Your rear deltoid is one of your three main shoulder muscles and is also important for good posture. Training your rear delts will help to get rid of rounded shoulders.

Erector Spinae

The erector spinae muscles are responsible for keeping your body up right. Strong erector spinae muscles are important to decrease your risk of lower back injuries and kyphosis.

Benefits of Performing Seated Rows

A Stronger Back

The seated row works most of your back muscles to some degree which means it is a good exercise to develop overall back strength.

Reduced Risk of Injury

The seated row strengthens your back muscles which in return reduces your risk of injury. This is because stronger back muscles improve posture and ensures proper spinal alignment. Both are important if you want to stay pain and injury free.

Increased Functionality and Mobility

A stronger, healthier back means you will be able to move more freely and will be able to go about your daily tasks without limitations and pain. Exercising is not just about looking good; it helps to improve your quality of life too.

Which Exercises Can Replace a Seated Row?

Barbell Bent Over Row

Dumbbell Bent Over Row

T-bar Row

Reps, Sets and Weight Recommendations for the Seated Row

Below are some recommendations for ret and set schemes as well as some guidance on how to choose how much weight to use.


To improve your muscular endurance, perform 2 to 3 sets of 12 or more reps.

You should be using a weight that is light enough complete the set but still challenges you.

Muscle Growth

To grow your muscles, perform 3- 4 sets of 6 to 12 reps.

To determine what weight you should use, load the machine with a weight you think you could complete for 12 reps. If your form is poor or you can’t complete the set, reduce the weight. If it is challenging you, increase the weight.


If your goal is to improve your strength then perform 2-6 sets of 6 or less reps.

The weights you use for your strength sets will be much heavier because you are doing less reps per set. To select your weight for your strength building sets, follow the guidance above.

How to do the Seated Row at Home?

If you do not have access to a cable machine you can perform this exercise at home.

You have two options here. You can use regular resistances bands or you can use one of those resistance bands sets that come with a door anchor.

If you decide to use regular resistance bands, you will need to tie the band around a sturdy object. Make sure that the object will not shift or break. Safety first.

If you decide to use the set with the door anchor, you simply secure the door anchor to a sturdy door and attach a resistance band with the handle attachments. Then you just follow the steps described above. As simple as that!

The next step is for you to put all this info in action. Start by adding the seated row to your current routine. Throw it into your back routine if you have a dedicated back day or into your upper body day if you follow an upper/lower body split. Practice until you get your form right and then you can start adding weight to help build a strong and sexy back!


Time to kick @$$ and take names!

Happy lifting!

Anna Mathis, CPT,CNC
Anna Mathis, CPT,CNC

Anna is a certified personal trainer, certified nutrition coach, and science junkie who has a passion for teaching women about weight training, nutrition, and wellness.