Cable back workouts target the muscles of the back, including the latissimus dorsi, the trapezius, and the rhomboids. Cable back workouts provide constant tension on the muscle throughout the entire range of motion, allowing for a more effective muscle contraction. The exercises also offer a wide range of exercises that target different aspects of the back muscle such as pull-downs, rows, and pullovers. Additionally, cable back exercises are easily modified to suit a wide range of fitness levels and goals, by adjusting the weight, resistance, and angle of the cable.
There are a lot of primary and secondary muscles you need to engage in a workout in order to fully build a well-developed back. To build strength in a balanced manner, you’ll need to incorporate a variety of back exercises that target your upper and lower back muscles, including the lats, upper-mid portion of the back, lower back, and all the secondary muscles in between. Today, we’ll examine the benefits of cable back workouts, several exercises to add to your routine, and an example of a cable work workout incorporating the same exercises.
- What are the benefits of cable back workouts
- The 10 best cable back exercises
- What cable machine back workouts can I do?
- Conclusion: Cable machine back exercises
What are the benefits of cable back workouts
The benefits of cable back workouts include improvement to overall upper body strength and function, as well as an increase in muscle mass and definition in your back. Incorporating cable back exercises into your regular workout routine can help to prevent muscle imbalances, improve posture, and enhance athletic performance. The constant tension from the cable also allows for a higher level of muscle activation and fatigue, which leads to better muscle growth and definition.
Some examples of cable back exercises include the following.
- Cable rows
- Cable pull-downs
- Cable pullovers
- Cable lat pulldowns
- Cable T-bar rows
It’s important to note that cable exercises should be paired with other types of exercises such as bodyweight exercises, free weights, and machine-based exercises to provide a well-rounded workout. Cable exercises can be used to supplement other exercises and to target specific muscle groups that may be weak or lagging.
The 10 best cable back exercises
Incorporating cable back workouts into your workout will increase your strength and muscle mass. Cable back exercises will also translate to better gains when you return to primary lifts like the deadlift or military press.
Below, we’ve collected the ten best cable back workouts to add to your workout routine.
1. Straight-Arm Pulldown
The straight-arm pulldown is a great cable exercise for focusing on and isolating the lats. Follow the instructions below to complete the exercise.
- Using a straight bar, grip the bar overhand, hands shoulder-width apart, and press down towards your thighs.
- Keep the core tight and focus on the lats throughout the movement.
Some people bend forward at the hips for an increased range of motion and a stretch through the shoulders at the top. If this is your first attempt at a straight-arm pulldown exercise, stay lighter in weight. Keep your arms bent on the movement to target the right muscles before going heavier.
2. Face Pull
The face pull is a favorite for etching in and revealing the muscles of the posterior delts, traps, rhomboids, and rotator cuff muscles. The instructions below will walk you through the cable back exercise.
- Set the rope attachment so the pull comes eye-level.
- Pull the rope directly towards your face, keeping your elbows up and out to the sides.
- As you pull, separate your hands until the elbows travel slightly behind the back and your hands are to the sides of your head.
The movement should be slow and controlled. The face-pull simultaneously works for a shoulder program and to develop the upper back muscles.
3. Close-Grip Lat Pulldown
The close-grip lat pulldown is an effective compound exercise that hits the upper lats and increases strength throughout the entire back. Using the close-grip position increases your elbow’s range of motion. This cable back workout is done seated, legs stabilized beneath the pad. Follow the instructions listed below.
- Taking a close-grip, your hands should be at or closer than shoulder-width.
- Tighten your core and keep your chest up as you pull the barbell down and towards your chest.
- Be sure to pull with your lat muscles.
- Once the bar is at your chest, slowly allow it to return to the starting position keeping tension throughout the movement.
4. Wide-Grip Lat Pull-downs
The most efficient cable back workouts will include a wide-grip lat pull-down or pull-up which focuses on the upper back muscles. The cable lat pull-down is beneficial for building muscle mass and it works multiple muscles in this one simple exercise.
The wide-grip option of the lat pull-down targets the lats and the secondary muscles of the traps, rhomboids, and delts. Here’s an overview of a wide-grip lat pull-down cable back workout.
- Perform the movement with a slow and controlled motion to maintain the correct form.
- Your butt should remain in the seat throughout the movement; chest up; squeeze your elbows down and in toward your tailbone.
*Important note: Do not pull the bar down behind your head when doing wide-grip lat pulldowns. Doing so can negatively affect the rotator cuffs.
5. V-Bar pulldown
The V-bar pulldown effectively hammers your lats while simultaneously targeting the lower and middle traps, rhomboid, and serratus. Unlike the overhand and underhand pulldowns, the close-grip pulldown uses a V-bar attachment with a palms-facing.
Keep to the instructions listed below for a v-bar cable back workout.
- Lean your torso back slightly, knees secure under the pad as you sit, and retract your shoulder blades to bring the bar towards your chest.
- Keep your elbows tucked in throughout the movement and focus your attention on squeezing the lats at all times.
6. Reverse Lat Pull-Downs
The reverse lat pull-down puts more focus on the lower lats by allowing you to keep your elbows tighter to the body. It’s similar to the close-grip lat pulldown with a simple change of grip from palms out to palms facing. Keep your shoulders down and resist using momentum to pull the bar during your cable back exercise.
7. Seated Cable Row
The seated cable row is another favorite cable back workout. Seated cable rows work the primary muscles—specifically the lats, mid back, and traps. There’s also some emphasis on secondary muscles like the posterior delts and biceps.
The seated cable row can replace or enhance exercises like the dumbbell row and barbell bent-over row.
Keep your form strict on the cable row by pulling back the shoulder blades with each stroke.
8. One Arm Seated Cable Rows
The one-arm cable row is a variation of the seated cable row where the focus is on one side at a time. A one-arm cable row achieves a greater range of motion with maximized contraction of the back muscles. Adding a trunk rotation will provide an additional core workout. Stick to the following instructions to safely complete the cable back workout.
- To do the single-arm cable row, keep your shoulders down and back.
- Rotate your wrist as you pull and remember to keep your elbow close to your body as you pull back.
The back exercise above is a great addition to your workout program if you are dominant on one side of your body. The single-arm exercises will balance out your strength.
9. Wide-Grip Seated Cable Row
The wide-grip seated cable row focuses more on the upper back and includes more of the trapezoid, rhomboid, and rear deltoid muscles. The cable machine workout is great for building a thick upper back. It also helps to correct posture problems, especially for individuals who do a lot of bench presses. The steps will walk you through a wide-grip seated cable row.
- From a seated position, grasp the straight-bar attachment keeping your hands a little bit wider than shoulder-width.
- Keep your chest forward, shoulders down, with a slight arch in your back.
- With a slow, fluid movement pull the bar toward your chest making sure to squeeze and contract the muscles before returning the weight to the starting position.
10. Cable Reverse Fly
The cable reverse fly works as a great finisher for your cable back workout and puts a high focus on the rhomboids and posterior delts. Read the instruction below to understand the exercise.
- Start with a low weight until you are comfortable with the motion of the exercise. Going too heavy too soon will switch the focus to your arms rather than the rhomboids.
- You’ll face standing pulley cables, hands grasping the stirrup cable attachment at shoulder height with the cables crossed in front of you.
- Step back away from the machine so the cable is taut and pull the cables out to the sides.
- Keep the upper arms in a horizontal path at shoulder height and maintain a stiff elbow position throughout the exercise.
What cable machine back workouts can I do?
Here’s an example of cable machine back workouts you can do with the exercises we’ve listed above. For this workout, all you need is a cable-cross stack and a couple of different handle attachments. It will take about 45 minutes to complete, keeping rest periods around 45 to 60 seconds. As your body adapts to the routine you can begin to add weight, decrease rest, or play with the order of the exercises.
- Wide-grip lat pull-down, 4 sets, 8-10 reps. See the exercise here.
- Reverse grip cable pull-downs, 4 sets, 8-10 reps. See the exercise here. If you’re looking for maximum burn and fatigue in the upper back, you can superset exercise steps 1 and 2. Do a set of wide-grip lat pull-downs and follow it immediately with a set of reverse grip pulldowns.
- Straight-arm pull-down, 3 sets, 10-12 reps. See the exercise here. Keep your tailbone tucked under and focus on using the lats to bring the bar down rather than the arms.
- Face pull, 3 sets, 15 reps. See the exercise here. Stay light on face pulls until you’re comfortable with the movement. Remember to keep a slow, controlled movement throughout the exercise, and don’t let your elbows drop.
- Seated one-arm cable pulley rows, 3 sets, 10-12 reps. See the exercise here. One-arm pulley rows can be done seated or standing. The standing variation is called “shotgun rows” and emphasizes the stretch on the negative portion of the movement.
Conclusion: Cable machine back exercises
Your back is one of the biggest support systems of your body’s frame. Attacking the larger muscles through cable machine back workouts helps build strength, increase size, and incinerate calories. Most workout routines for the back include standard deadlifts, pull-ups, bent-over rows, and one-arm rows to build strength and mass. By including the cable back exercises we’ve explored into your routine, you’ll see the benefit of a stronger, more developed physique that includes both the primary and secondary muscles as well as strengthens stability muscles.
Remember to always consult your physician before starting any exercise program.