Row Seated One-Arm

Start Position
End Position

Starting position:

  1. Grab the D-handle with a closed grip. Position the fist in a neutral position (thumb upward).
  2. Sit straight up with chest up and out.
  3. Place feet firmly on pads/platform. There should be a bend in your knees. Position yourself on the bench accordingly.
  4. Extend arm fully in front of you, maintaining a slight bend in the elbow.
  5. Look straight ahead.

Upward movement/concentric phase:

  1. Pull the D-handle straight toward you until your upper arm is in line with your torso.
  2. Keep sitting up straight for the entire movement. Do not flex or extend torso throughout the entire movement.

Downward movement/eccentric phase:

    1. In a controlled fashion, extend arm in front of you, returning to the starting position.
Do not hold your breath. Exhale during the concentric/phase phase and inhale during the eccentric/lowering phase.


Exercise Data

  • Primary Muscles: Latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius, rhomboids, teres major
  • Synergists: Posterior deltoid, biceps brachii, brachialis
  • Stabilizers: Wrist flexors, rotator cuff muscles
  • Type: Strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance
  • Mechanics: Shoulder extension, elbow flexion, and scapular retraction
  • Equipment: Seated cable row and D-handle attachment
  • Lever: 1st class lever
  • Level: Beginner to advanced
  • FAQ'S & FACTS ABOUT Row Seated One-Arm

    What Is A Cable One-Arm Seated Row?

    A one-arm seated row is a compound resistance exercise, which targets the upper and middle back including the latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius, rhomboids and teres major. This exercise is performed at a seated cable row with a D-handle attachment. This is a unilateral variation of the seated row.

    The concentric portion of the lift is scapular retraction, shoulder extension, and elbow flexion. The eccentric portion is scapular protraction, shoulder flexion, and elbow extension as the weight is lowered.

    The purpose of the one-arm seated row is to strengthen the latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius, rhomboids and teres major while also promoting the hypertrophy (increases in size) of these muscles.

    Why Do A Cable One-Arm Seated Row?

    One-arm seated rows strengthen and develop muscles of the upper and middle back. This exercise allows the lifter to perform scapular retraction from a vertical and seated position. Compared to the standing row variations, the one-arm seated row requires less stabilization from the back muscles, abdominals, and legs. This allows the lifter to place grater isolation on the latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius, rhomboids and teres major as the scapula retracts.

    The one-arm seated row allows the lifter to focus on one at a time. The isolation of shoulder extension and scapular retraction to one side also increases activation of the latissimus dorsi.

    Performing rows with a cable provides constant resistance throughout the entire range of motion.

    In addition to serving as an exercise that enhances the aesthetics of the upper and middle back, one-arm seated rows also complement weightlifting and sport performance.

    Anatomy Of A Cable One-Arm Seated Row

    The latissimus dorsi is a broad, flat, and triangular-shaped muscle of the lower back. When defined, the “lats” form a “v” shape of the torso as they angle toward the waist. The latissimus dorsi is a primary shoulder adductor and shoulder extensor. In this exercise, the latissimus dorsi is responsible for extending the shoulder as the D-handle approaches your torso. Its origin is located along the spines of the lower six thoracic vertebrae, lower 3 to 4 ribs, and iliac crest of the pelvis. Its insertion spirals around the teres major as it inserts into the intertubercular groove of the humerus.

    A flat and triangular muscle, the trapezius is the most superficial muscle of the posterior thorax. The middle fibers run horizontally to the scapula. Its origin is located at the occipital bone, ligamentum nuchae, and spines of C7 and all thoracic vertebrae. Its insertion is located along the acromion and spine of the scapula and lateral region of the clavicle. The middle trapezius retracts the scapula. As a superficial muscle, developing the middle trapezius contributes to the overall aesthetics of the upper back.

    The rhomboids are two rectangular muscles that lie underneath the trapezius just below the levator scapulae. The rhomboids consist of the rhomboid minor and rhomboid major. The rhomboid minor is located above the rhomboid major and is more superficial. The origin of the rhomboid minor is located at the spinous processes of C7 and T1. The origin of the rhomboid major is located at the spinous processes of T2-T5. The insertion of both rhomboids major and minor is located at the medial border of the scapula. The rhomboids are synergists with the middle trapezius when retracting the scapula.

    The teres major is a thick muscle located underneath the teres minor. It helps to form the posterior wall of the axilla. A synergist of the latissimus dorsi, the teres major extends the shoulder in this exercise. Its origin is located at the posterior surface of the scapula at the inferior angle. Its insertion is located at the crest of the lesser tubercle on the anterior humerus (its tendon fused with that of the latissimus dorsi).

    The deltoid is a thick, multipennate muscle that forms a curtain around the shoulder. It is the primary muscle involved with arm abduction. When developed, the deltoids give the shoulder their round shape. The extension of the shoulder joint as the D-handle is pulled toward your torso activates the posterior fibers of the deltoid. The origin of the deltoid is located at the insertion of the trapezius, lateral third of the clavicle and the acromion spine of the scapula. Its insertion is located at the deltoid tuberosity of the humerus.

    The biceps brachii consists of two heads, the long head and the short head. The long head tendon helps stabilize the shoulder joint and its origin is located at the tubercle and lip of the glenoid cavity of the scapula (shoulder blade). The short head origin is located at the coracoid process of the scapula (shoulder blade). The long and short head unite as the muscle bellies run down the front of the arm. Both heads merge, sharing insertion into the radial tuberosity of the elbow joint. The biceps brachii flexes the elbow joint as the D-handle is pulled toward you.

    The brachialis lies underneath the biceps brachii, originating at the front of the lower end of the humerus bone. Its insertion is located at the coronoid process of the ulna at the elbow joint. The brachialis is a primary elbow flexor.

    The rotator cuff muscles help stabilize the shoulder joint as the scapular retract and the shoulder extends. The wrist flexors maintain the wrists rigid and stabilized throughout the exercise.

    Variations Of A Cable One-Arm Seated Row

    (Two-arm) Seated row, wide grip seated row, barbell bent-over row, dumbbell bent-over rows, one-arm dumbbell bent-over rows, two-arm long bar row, T-bar rows, standing one-arm low-pulley rows, machine rows.

    How To Improve Your Cable One-Arm Seated Rows

    Focus more on the shoulder extension and scapular retraction to pull the D-handle as opposed to focusing on the hand dominating the effort of the lift. This will not only optimize muscle activation, but also prevent strain on the biceps brachii that could increase the risk of injury.

    Keeping your torso upright throughout the entire movement will not only prevent injury, but also isolates scapular retraction more effectively to develop and strengthen the upper and middle back muscles successfully.

    Switching cable attachments to bilateral variations (e.g. V-bar, lat bar, rope) allows the lifter to execute scapular retraction from different angles. In the long run, and with strategic implementation into your back training regimen, this optimizes muscle fiber activation of the involved muscles.

    Focus on the concentric portion of the contraction, concentrating on “squeezing” as the upper arm reaches the level of your torso.

    Emphasis on eccentric contractions, prolonging the eccentric portion of the contraction, may also be incorporated in a training program focused on increasing strength. This should be implemented accordingly and with adequate muscle recovery as eccentric contractions cause substantial damage to muscle tissue.

    It’s important to note that your repetition and set volume will depend on your goals (e.g. strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance). It is also important to allow adequate recovery days in between back, shoulder, and biceps training days to allow muscles to repair.

    Common Mistakes When Doing Cable One-Arm Seated Rows

    Using momentum to lift the weight (e.g. bending and flexing the torso for assistance) minimizes the potential of force production of the involved muscles and can increase the risk for back injury. It is important that both the eccentric and concentric phases of the exercise are controlled.

    Solely using the arm to pull the weight minimizes the activation of the scapular retractors. Simultaneously retract scapula and extend the shoulder to pull the D-handle toward you.

    Injuries Or Ailments & Their Effects Regarding Cable One-Arm Seated Rows

    If the lifter has a compromised range of motion with the back or shoulder joint and/or performs this exercise incorrectly, this exercise can increase the risk of injury and/or exacerbate a previous injury.

    If proper technique and recovery are not adhered to, biceps injury, rotator cuff injuries, and/or lower back injuries may occur.