Best cable exercises for the back: There are many primary and secondary muscles that you need to engage in a workout to create a fully developed back. To build strength in a balanced way, you need to combine a variety of back exercises that target your upper and lower back muscles, including the lats, upper-mid back, lower back, and all secondary muscles. between.
Incorporating the cable machine into your back workout will increase your strength and muscle mass, and will also translate into better gains as you return to primary lifts like the deadlift or military press. Here are some of the best cable exercises for the back:
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10 Best Cable Exercises for Back
1. Straight-Arm Pulldown
The straight-arm pull-down is a great cable exercise to focus on and isolate the lats.
- Using a straight bar, grasp the bar overhead, hands shoulder-width apart, and press against your thighs.
- Keep the core tight and focus on the lats throughout the movement.
Some people lean forward from the hips for a greater range of motion and stretch across the shoulders at the top. If this is your first time trying this exercise, stay lighter in weight before it gets heavier without allowing your arms to bend to target the right muscles in the movement.
2. Face Pull
A facelift is a favorite for eroding and exposing the muscles of the posterior deltas, traps, rhomboids, and rotator cuff muscles.
- Adjust the rope attachment so that the pull is at eye level.
- Keeping your elbows up and out to the sides, pull the rope straight towards your face.
- As you pull, spread your hands apart until the elbows are slightly back and your hands are at the sides of your head.
Movement should be slow and controlled. Face-pull works for a shoulder program and to develop upper back muscles at the same time.
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 exercise is done sitting up, legs are fixed under the pad.
- Your hands should be at or closer than shoulder-width apart.
- Tighten your core and keep your chest up as you pull the barbell down and toward your chest.
- Make sure you pull with your lats.
- Once the bar reaches your chest, allow it to slowly return to the starting position, maintaining tension throughout the movement.
4. Wide-Grip Lat Pull-downs
The most efficient back workouts include a pull-up and/or lat pull-down that focuses on the upper back muscles. The cable lat pull-down is beneficial for building muscle mass and works multiple muscles in this simple exercise.
The lat pulldown’s wide grip option targets the lats and secondary muscles of the traps, rhomboids, and delts. To do it with proper form, you need to perform the movement in a slow and controlled motion. Your butt should stay on the seat throughout the movement; chest up; squeeze your elbows down and toward your tailbone.
*Important note: Do not pull the bar down behind your head when doing wide-grip lat pulldowns. Doing so may adversely affect the rotator cuffs.
5. V-Bar pulldown
The V-bar dropdown effectively hammers your lats while simultaneously targeting lower and middle traps, rhombuses, and serratus. Unlike the top and bottom drop-downs, the close-grip combo uses a palm-facing V-bar attachment.
- Tilt your torso back slightly, lock your knees under the pad as you sit, and pull your shoulder blades back to bring the bar toward your chest.
- Keep your elbows in throughout the movement and always focus your attention on squeezing the lats.
6. Reverse Lat Pull-Downs
The reverse-grip variation of the lat pulldown 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.
7. Seated Cable Row
The seated cable row is another favorite cable back exercise. It works the primary muscles, especially the lats, mid-back, and traps. Weight is also placed on secondary muscles such as the posterior delts and biceps.
It can replace or enhance exercises such as the seated cable row, dumbbell row, and barbell bent row.
Keep your form tight during the cable by pulling back the shoulder blades with each stroke.
8. One Arm Seated Cable Rows
The single-arm cable row is a variation of the seated cable row where the focus is one side at a time. Using this method, you can achieve a greater range of motion with maximum contraction of the back muscles. Adding a trunk rotation will provide an additional core workout.
- Keep your shoulders down and back to do the single-arm cable row.
- Turn your wrist as you pull and remember to keep your elbow close to your body as you pull back.
- If you are dominant on one side of your body, this is a great addition to your workout. Single-arm exercises will balance your strength.
9. Wide-Grip Seated Cable Row
When done properly, the wide grip row will focus more on the upper back and involve more trapezoid, rhomboid, and posterior deltoid muscles. This cable machine exercise is great for building a thick upper back and also helps correct posture problems, especially for people who do a lot of bench presses.
- From a seated position, grasp the straight bar attachment with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your chest forward, shoulders down, with a slight arch across your back.
- Pull the bar toward your chest in a slow, fluid motion, making sure to tighten and contract the muscles before returning the weight to the starting position.
10. Cable Reverse Fly
The cable reverse tip works as a great finisher for your workout, with a high focus on the rhombuses and back holes.
- Start with a low weight until you are happy with the movement of the exercise. Getting heavy too soon will shift the focus to your arms rather than the rhombuses.
- You will encounter standing pulley cables, grasp the stirrup cable attachment with your hands at shoulder height and the cables cross in front of you.
- With the cable taut, step away from the machine and pull the cables sideways.
- Keep the upper arms in a horizontal path at shoulder height and maintain a firm elbow position throughout the exercise.
Full Cable Back Exercise Example
Here’s an example of how you can use the exercises we just discussed to put together a full-back workout with cables.
All you need for this workout is a cable cross-stack and a few different grip attachments. This workout takes about 45 minutes from start to finish and keeps rest periods around 45-60 seconds. As your body adjusts to the routine, you can start adding weights, reducing rest, or playing in the order of the exercises.
1. Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown
4 sets, 8-10 reps
2. Reverse Grip Cable Pulldowns
4 sets, 8-10 reps
*If you’re looking for maximum burn and fatigue in the upper back, you can superset exercises 1 & 2. Do a set of wide-grip lat pulldowns and follow it immediately with a set of reverse grip pulldowns.
3. Straight-Arm Pulldown
3 sets, 10-12 reps
Keep your tailbone tucked under and focus on using the lats to bring the bar down rather than the arms.
4. Face Pull
3 sets, 15 reps
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.
5. Seated One-Arm Cable Pulley Rows
3 sets, 10-12 reps
These can be done seated or standing. The standing variation is often called “shotgun rows” and can emphasize the stretch on the negative portion of the movement.
Your back is one of the biggest support systems of your body’s frame. Attacking larger muscles build strength, size, and burns calories.
Most back workout routines include standard deadlifts, pull-ups, bent-over rows, and single-arm rows to build strength and mass. By incorporating these wired back exercises into your routine, you will benefit from a stronger, more developed physique that includes both primary and secondary muscles and strengthens the stability muscles. Always remember to consult your doctor before starting any exercise program.
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