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How to Do a Close-Grip Seated Cable Row With Proper Form

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I love to work out and I enjoy sharing my methods with others.

Cable row machine

Cable row machine

The CG Cable Row

Remember, the goal of doing specific exercises is to work specific muscles, not to heave as much weight as possible. Just because you can "move the stack" does not mean you are effectively working your targeted muscles. Furthermore, these common mistakes can cause injury or strain.

  • On the seated cable row, it’s easy to get into a routine where you are using momentum to move the weight stack. You can injure your back trying to move the weight with bad form. The goal of the seated cable row is to strengthen and grow your back muscles, and any momentum will take away from that.
  • Another common mistake is to leave your back hunched and do most of the pulling with your arms. Again, this does not help you to benefit from the exercise and puts you at risk of injury.

The following steps illustrate how to sit and how to move while doing a proper seated cable row. The close-grip position is ideal for targeting the back muscles that will help improve your posture.

How to sit properly

How to sit properly

Close Grip Row Form

  1. When you sit at the machine, position your feet on the platform and sit close enough to grip the cable attachment.
  2. Push yourself back in the seat so that you have enough room to do the exercise and move the weight without letting it hit the stack each time. You want to make sure that your back is straight throughout the exercise—do not hunch over or round your back.
  3. The final position is shown in the photos. You want to keep your arms low and push your chest out as you pull the weight to your body. Pull your elbows back as far as possible and squeeze your shoulder blades together. This should be the final position of every rep—back straight, chest out, elbows back, and shoulder blades squeezing together.
Proper movement form

Proper movement form

Proper vs. Improper Technique

In the video above, Joseph Ng, demonstrates how not to do a seated row (using momentum or having a rounded back and using your arms). He then demonstrates proper form, illustrated perfectly by his shirtless back showing how the muscles are moving. Notice how he stays upright and keeps a straight back throughout the exercise and does not hunch forward while lowering the weight. The quote he ends with is the perfect weightlifting philosophy to keep in mind: “lift light until you can lift right.”

In the video below, Nicole Dudas gives another take on the same philosophies, again showing how to move while keeping your back straight and avoiding momentum or too much arm movement. As she says: “momentum is not a muscle!” While it is tempting to lean back as you pull because you can move more weight, it only takes that weight away from working the targeted muscles.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.