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Back Workouts With Cables

by Jeremy Ethier - June 2, 2022

Looking for a solid back workout involving just cables? You're in luck. Here's a list of the most effective cable-only back exercises you could ever include in your workouts.

Cables are not as versatile as barbells or dumbbells, but they can be used to train your back muscles in unique ways that you cannot replicate with barbells or dumbbells.

Unlike performing back workouts with barbells or back workouts with dumbbells, back workouts with cables aren’t limited by the orientation of gravity. This allows them to be used creatively to train difficult-to-isolate muscles like the lower traps.

I’ve listed a handful of the most effective cable exercises below divided by the back muscles they are best used for training.

Think of this like a cheat sheet that you can use to determine effective exercise replacements for any back workouts you happen to come across and want to use — even if you don’t have the equipment necessary to use the base program as-is.

This way, you’ll still adapt in the way the program intends, even if your equipment is limited — or, if you just have a preference to perform back workouts with cables over other types.

If you want to perform a solid back workout with cables, just perform the following cable-only exercises in order for the number of sets and reps I prescribe alongside each.

Each exercise also comes along with a brief recommendation for where to put it in your back workouts, in case you decide you want to take one of these exercises and plug it into your own custom back workout.

Before that: if you're looking for a training program that'll help you set up every single one of your workouts for optimal muscle growth, I've got just the thing for you. Every BWS program is designed to be an all-in-one, science-based process that’ll get you building muscle FAST. For more information:

Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:

#1: Single Arm Lat Cable Pulldown, 4 sets of 6-8 reps

  • Kneel on the ground while gripping a pulley attachment positioned above head level with one arm extended in front of you.
  • Using a neutral grip, exhale and drive your elbow back while keeping it tucked towards your side.
  • Continue until your hand reaches your abdomen.
  • As it does, begin to slightly rotate your torso to increase lat activation further.
  • Inhale and return to the starting position by extending your arm.
  • Repeat for as many reps as necessary.
  • Switch sides to train the other arm as appropriate.
Single Arm Lat Cable Pulldown

Back Workout Placement: This should be positioned towards the early-middle of your back workouts given the muscles of your abdomen are required to stabilize your torso while you are pulling.

#2: Wide Grip Lat Pulldown, 4 sets of 8-10 reps

  • Grab a pull-down bar with your hands far wider than shoulder-width and your palms facing away from you.
  • Maintain a mostly vertical torso, with your eyes facing forward — slightly lean your upper back backward.
  • Exhale and begin lowering the bar by driving your elbows down and into the side of your torso.
  • Continue pulling until your elbows are within several centimeters (1 inch) of touching the sides of your torso.
  • Then, inhale and raise the bar up in a slow and controlled fashion until your arms are fully extended and you return to just before the starting position.
  • Do not allow the weight to return to the stack or tension to be released from your back.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

Back Workout Placement: Place this towards the early-middle of your back workouts. It does involve multiple joints so it should not be performed at the end, but there are other more important back exercises you should perform first.

#3: Seated Cable Row (Lat Focused), 4 sets of 8-10 reps

  • Position yourself on a Seated Cable Row Machine, grabbing the cable attachment firmly using a neutral grip.
  • While maintaining a vertical torso with your arms extended in front of you, exhale and begin pulling the weight towards your abdomen while keeping your elbows tucked firmly to your sides.
  • While pulling back, focus on actively driving your elbows back rather than pulling with your hands.
  • Continue until the attachment is pulled towards your torso.
  • Inhale and then return to the starting position by allowing your arms to extend forward.
  • Repeat for as many reps as necessary.
Seated Cable Row (Lat Focused)

Back Workout Placement: This exercise should be performed around the middle of your back workouts.

The order in which you place an exercise in your workout can truly make all the difference in your results. Place the seated cable row (lat-focused) too early in your workout, for instance, and you may impact your performance on earlier lat-focused exercises, like the single-arm lat cable pulldown, But with so many exercises, how do you decide each exercise's placement in your workouts? That's where BWS programs come in. For more information:

Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:

#4: Wide-Grip Seated Cable Row, 3 sets of 10-12 reps

  • Position yourself on a Seated Cable Row Machine with either a wide grip attachment firmly gripped in your hands or two individual pulleys with one gripped in either hand.
  • While maintaining a vertical torso with your arms extended in front of you, exhale and begin pulling the weight towards your sternum by flaring your elbows outwards to around 45 to 60 degrees and driving your elbows backward.
  • While pulling back, focus on actively pulling your shoulder blades together.
  • Continue until the attachment is pulled towards your torso.
  • Inhale and then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for as many reps as necessary.
Wide Grip Seated Cable Row

Back Workout Placement: This exercise should be performed around the middle of your back workouts.

#5: Face Pulls, 3 sets of 10-12 reps

  • Grab the rope with the palm of each hand facing away from each other.
  • Leaning back slightly, exhale and pull the rope down and back towards the level of your mid chest.
  • As you pull, focus on bringing your shoulder blades inward and together.
  • Continue to pull until your hands each pass the outside of your chest at the level of your mid chest and your shoulder blades are fully squeezed.
  • Inhale and allow the rope to return to its starting position.
  • Repeat for as many reps as you’d like to complete.
Face Pulls

Back Workout Placement: This should be performed towards the end of your back workouts. However, it should still be performed before any exercises that isolate one muscle or a small group of muscles- such as those that isolate the upper traps.

Example Back Workout With Cables

Single Arm Lat Cable Pulldown: 4 sets of 6-8 reps

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown: 4 sets of 8-10 reps

Seated Cable Row (Lat Focused): 4 sets of 8-10 reps

Wide Grip Cable Seated Row: 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Face Pulls: 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Takeaway

Who said it was impossible to get a good, effective back workout in when all you have access to are cables? Not me, that's for sure. That said, on days you have access to more equipment, you might also want to check out one of the best back workouts you could ever do in a gym here.

Once you have your training plan down pat, though, you should still remember to pair all of this with a solid nutrition plan to fuel and support your recovery and growth.

And for a step-by-step program that does all of this for you, by showing you how to train and how to eat week after week to maximize growth, then:

Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:

Back Workouts With Cables