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20 Cable Machine Back Workouts and Exercises You Should Try

By Thomas Wooten


Updated on

Working out is the best decision you could possibly take, not just for the aesthetics of it but more so for the health benefits that come from it.

While professional bodybuilders are anything but healthy, let’s just say that you can’t go wrong by going to the gym three to five times a week or so and just doing your best.

The only problem here is that you often times don’t know what to do to actually work out, but luckily we’re here to help.

So, in this short article we will be discussing the top 20 best cable machine back exercises that you can easily do without any help, but before we get into any of that how about we cover the basics on what makes cable machines so good in the first place?

Are Cable Machines Good for Strengthening the Back?

Cable Machine Crossover
Photo by Total Shape / pexels.com

Believe it or not but most cable exercises can end up making your back stronger as long as you do them properly.

At the same time though, some exercises are better at it than others, and cable machine exercises are always going to be superior to most other exercises simply because they are safer and easier to max out on.

In fact, you can see this very easily at your local gym where most of the biggest guys are sure to be using the cable machine to make their back stronger than ever before.

The Benefits of Cable Exercises For Your Back

Seated Cable Row
Photo by ŞULE MAKAROĞLU / unsplash.com

So, here are the top benefits to using these back cable exercises, starting off with:

Using Cables Increases Your Strength and Muscle Building Capacity

As we mentioned previously, using the cable machine can increase your muscle mass and strength potential tenfold simply because it is the best at targeting specific smaller muscles while also continuously keeping tension on the back.

Cable Machines Can Be Used by All Fitness Levels

Since the time under tension is unmatched with cable machines, it’s safe to say that anyone can use them without a care in the world

Advanced lifters will always go for cables alongside dumbbell or barbell exercises, but as a beginner you may be scared to pick those up so instead you can use the safer alternative, which is of course using cables.

Cables Teach You Proper Form

The most important part about working out is always going to be using the proper form and not breaking anything while you exercise.

This is also a huge advantage that you will have when using cables, since they pretty much ensure that you always have proper lifting form.

This is why dumbbells and barbells are considered to be freeform exercise tools, since they can be moved around a lot, while for cables it is a lot harder to mess up the form and technique.

Cables Keep Constant Tension on the Muscles

We mentioned this before briefly, but it is a huge advantage that not enough people talk about these days.

Instead of lifting super heavy, you can lift some really low weight and get a lot more out of it muscle building wise since you’re keeping your muscles constantly under tension.

Cables Work Out Your Whole Back

While we can’t really go all that in depth about the back’s functions and whatnot, here are the muscles that you are sure to activate while lifting using the cable machine:

  • The Trapezius
  • The Rhomboids
  • The Teres Major
  • The Teres Minor
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Erector Spinae

The Best Cable Machine Back Workouts and Exercises

Having said all that, now that we know why we need to use the cable machine, let’s jump right into the top 20 best back cable exercises you can do as soon as your next back day starts:

1. Standing Cable Lat Pulldown

Starting off our list we have one of the best exercises that you could do for your lats and your shoulders right here.

On top of that though, this exercise also works out the long head of your triceps while also giving your chest a good pump which is always nice to see. Just make sure that you don’t use too much weight because this can easily result in ego lifting if you’re not careful.

Also, don’t ever round out your back, instead just use your arms and shoulders to push down the cable so you can get that good stretch in.

2. Wide Grip Pulldown

While it is quite a controversial exercise to do, mostly because a lot of influencers are saying that it is not the most optimal option you have, we still love the wide grip pulldown because it is super fun to do and really effective nonetheless.

It is very similar to pull-ups, and interestingly enough, the more you do this exercise the more likely you are to get better at them in the future.

So, if you desperately want to learn how to do pull-ups then you can always just try to superset wide grip pulldowns for now.

3. Seated Cable Row

This is by far one of the most popular back cable exercises out there, and for good reason too. The stretch you can get from this exercise alone is insane, and as far as muscle building capacities go, let’s just say that this exercise trumps most other out there, cable or otherwise.

You will get to use a lot of your primary muscles doing this exercise too, including the lats, the rhomboids and of course, the traps as they will be taking a lot of the load “off of your shoulders” too.

4. Close Grip Lat Pulldown

You may think that simply shifting your grip from a wide one to a close one isn’t going to do much to your overall physique, but you’d be mistaken as doing this will instantly change the primary muscles used in the exercise.

In this example, you can see that the angle changes the focus directly towards the upper lats, becoming one of the best upper back exercises that you could do in the gym for sure.

Keep in mind that your hands should be around shoulder width apart or so, but if that is too uncomfortable for you, you can always slide your hands slightly outward, allowing your shoulders to take a bit more of the load.

5. Face Pulls

Face pulls are absolutely amazing if you want to build your posterior delts, your rotator cuff muscles, your rhomboids and your traps all at the same time.

Just keep in mind that as you do this exercise you will need to pull the rope as slowly as possible towards your face as this will cause your back to grow exponentially more than by simply doing them fast and with a lot more weight on each rep.

If your palms are sweaty or sensitive when doing these rope pulls you could always use a pair of proper workout gloves to maximize your grip and for extra protection.

6. Single Arm Seated Cable Row

Yet another simple yet incredible variation that you can use this very moment, changing your stance from using both of your arms to just one will make your seated cable rows way harder but also way more rewarding at the same time.

While you do so though, keep in mind that your back will need to be somewhat straight, don’t allow for the rotation of the spine too much as this will take away the tension and make it a lot effective. 

7. Reverse Cable Flyes

For the most part, this exercise will work out your rhomboids and posterior delts, and while it may seem weird and hard to do as a beginner, trust us when we tell you that you will instantly get it what the fuss is all about the moment you start doing it yourself.

Just make sure you don’t end up ego lifting, because doing so will instantly put a huge emphasis on your arms and delts, pretty much ignoring the rhomboids altogether.

8. Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown

If you think that the reverse grip is the exact same as the normal grip, just try to think of the difference between pull-ups and chin-ups and you’ll instantly understand why they are categorized as two different exercises altogether.

While the wide grip is technically better if you want to work out your upper back, if you want to also include your arms into the mix alongside putting a heavier emphasis on the shoulders, you may want to switch to a reverse grip.

9. Shotgun Row

If you want to work out your rhomboids alongside your lats then you may want to try out this variation of a seated cable row.

The thing about the seated cable row is that it is one of the best back exercises out there, as such it is often times taken already. If you don’t want to have to wait for it to clear out then you can always do this instead and get the same results from with ease.

10. Standing Cable Row

Similarly to the Shotgun Row variation, standing cable rows are always great to do if the seated cable row machine is taken already.

But, what’s interesting about this exercise is the fact that it also does workout your posterior delts too, alongside your biceps and core which will work overtime to keep you stable.

11. V-Bar Pulldown

V-Bar Pulldowns are interesting because they really do put a lot of emphasis on your lats, but at the same time this exercise does also give your middle and lower traps a run for their money too.

It may feel a bit unstable at first, but the moment you get the movement down you will absolutely love to do it every time a heavy back day starts.

12. Wide Grip Seated Cable Row

This is a hard exercise to recommend fully because a lot of people end up doing it wrong. If you do it properly though, you will instantly feel the sudden shift to the upper back, which is because you are now fully focusing on your rear deltoids, your rhomboid and your trapezoid at the same time.

So, if you want to have that demon back you will definitely want to implement this into your workout for your next session.

13. Kneeling Cable High Row

Utilizing a high row variation is always recommended since it greatly increases the range of motion, especially so while using a rope attachment.

This angle also helps you grow a wider back, since it targets your upper back a lot, giving you a whole different stretch than you are used to.

14. Cable Bent Over Row with Bar

This exercise is amazing if you want to workout your back muscles as well as your core. Essentially, doing this exercise with heavy loads is not recommended since you will be wobbling around everywhere.

So, if you want to workout your upper back while also putting a lot of emphasis on your core, this may very well be the perfect exercise for you.

15. Cable Deadlift

Deadlifts may not be the absolute best exercise for building your back, but using cables to lift the weights up is going to make them a lot more effective, pretty much turning a good compound movement into an amazing full body experience.

On top of that, using cables to do your deadlifts will greatly improve your deadlift form, making this the perfect exercise to perfect before you eventually move on to doing normal deadlifts.

16. Cable Pull Throughs

If you want to workout your posterior chain while also improving your deadlift by a lot, this is definitely the exercise that you need to work on the most.

This is because you will be able to propel yourself higher than ever before doing this exercise, which is one of the most important parts when it comes to deadlifting.

It will definitely feel a bit awkward to do this exercise at first, but trust us when we tell you that your back will thank you. Just remember to use your legs and your lower back to push yourself up, not your arms.

17. Cable Shrug

The cable shrug is incredible because it really does put a lot of emphasis on your trapezius muscle, pretty much working it out even more than the average shrug since you will constantly keep your muscle under tension.

On top of that, you can also use a whole lot of different body angles to make the exercises a lot harder or easier depending on how you’re feeling.

That’s the great thing about cable exercises in general, a lot of these are just cable variations of ordinary exercises, but because of all of the advantages we mentioned previously, they’re pretty much superior to any other variation out there.

18. Cable Squat Row

Compound exercises are always great to see because they burn a lot of calories while also building a lot more muscle than simple exercises.

This variation in itself is a combination between a squat and a row, making it one of the perfect exercises to add to your list if you only have a few minutes left and you want to do everything in one simple movement.

Even so though, we recommend that you use a smaller weight to pull this movement down properly, because if you ego lift you can easily lose your footing and get hurt.

19. Cable Single-Arm Bent Over Row

This exercise in itself may actually be better for your back than simple barbell rows. That is because this exercise allows you to focus on all of the working muscles, one side at a time, causing your muscles to grow a lot faster.

If you have any sort of muscle imbalances for example, this exercise will also make it easier to spot them and the more you do these movements, the more aesthetic you will look since your body will grow uniformly.

20. Cable Lying Pullover Extension

If you want to workout your shoulders and your lats at the same time without the fear of hurting yourself this may be the perfect exercise for you.

At the same time, cable lying pullover extensions are great for shoulder mobility, just make sure that you don’t use too much weight to begin with since you can end up pulling something if you drop the weight down from this position.

Arnold Schwarzenegger stated in an interview that this was one of his favorite cable exercises, so do we even need to say anything else anymore? It is super effective and we love to do it any chance we get.


Cable Machine Back Workouts
Photo by bnenin / stock.adobe.com

The back is a very big part of your body, and that’s a fact. Working it out may sound easy since it is so big in the first place, but in reality, it is a lot harder to get everything fired up at the same time.

So, if you want to get a proper back workout, you need to take a closer look at these cable machine exercises and make sure that you implement a handful of them into your next couple of sessions.

If you like any of them, definitely use them more because you will definitely notice a huge muscle growth by doing them as much as possible.

About Thomas Wooten

Thomas is a certified fitness coach hailing from the bustling streets of New York City. With a degree in exercise science and nutrition and a background in competitive bodybuilding, he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our site. Please read our Disclaimer.