Exercise of the Month: Seated Row

By PCYC Hervey Bay Gym+Fitness Manager, Cat Gallaher.

Seated Rows are perfect for, well, everyone really!  This exercise is especially great for those sitting hunched over at a desk all day, people with grumpy shoulders, those wishing to punch harder (such as a boxer), or people who just want a nice strong back.

Seated rows will help you to bring out those sexy back (mid and upper) muscles, your latissimus dorci (known as lat) muscles and even to some extent your rear deltoids (delts), and of course your core should be engaged to give you some bonus abdominal strength.

My preference is to seek a rowing machine that is iso-lateral.  That means a machine that allows your arms to move independently of each other.  It will offer more variety, allowing your muscles to grow, strengthen and develop by changing things like your rep ranges, weights and time under tension.

Let’s have a look at technique.  As always, we want to ensure you are performing the moves in a manner that will minimise the chances of injury.  I always insist on some mobility moves before all workouts commence.

Technique Tips:
  • One great thing about some of these machines are the benches/padded parts. Use them as a basic guide as to where your body should be placed.
  • Ensure the seat is at a comfortable height so your feet are flat on the floor, or that you can reach the foot plates comfortably. You should be seated far enough away that your arms feel like they are being pulled out of their sockets, yet have enough control to keep them in their sockets.
  • Your head, torso and hips all should stack nicely on top of each other.
  • Your shoulders should be pulled down and back, slightly. Open up the space around your chest. You don’t want to be hunched forward or shrugging.  Keep those shoulders away from your ears.
  • Before each rep, take a deep breath, brace your core and squeeze your glutes.
  • Keep your elbows in tight against your body and don’t allow your elbows to flare out as you perform the exercise. Think about the inside of your arms brushing your shirt as you bring your arms in towards you.
  • Your shoulder blades should reach in towards the centre of your back.
  • During the exercise, your body should remain upright and tall, at all times. Don’t hunch your back, flare your ribs, rotate your torso, spine or hips.  Don’t shift weight from foot to foot. definitely don’t allow your shoulders to shrug upwards!
  • When it comes to breathing, by all means breathe out during the hard part of the move and move with your breath. If you keep your breathing slow and controlled, the exercise should reflect a slow and controlled manner too.  Alternatively, breathe in a manner that feels right for you.
Performing the Seated Row Exercise

Start by picking a weight you can comfortably perform 10 reps with.

  1. Perform 10 reps with both arms.
  2. Release your right arm and perform 5 reps with your LEFT arm only – with a 5 sec hold at the top of each rep (that is when your hand is closest to your body).
  3. Release your left arm and perform 5 reps with your RIGHT arm only – with a 5 sec hold at the top of each rep (that is when your hand is closest to your body).
  4. Rest for 30-60sec and repeat 2 rounds.

For a little bit of variety, try and stimulate different areas of your major muscle groups, by playing around with your grip. Start with palms facing each other.  Try palms facing down to the ground and then reversing that with your palms facing up to the sky.