The cable standing row (V-bar) makes a great addition to any back workout. It’s not your conventional back exercise but that makes it no less effective for building the muscles of the upper posterior chain. You won’t be able to use maximum loads with this movement but that’s not the point. It’s all about focus and isolation to improve your muscular development.
We’ll show you how to do it, offer some tips, give you a few variations and show you how to incorporate it into your training routine.
Here’s a guide to the cable standing row (V-bar)
In This Exercise:
|The Cable Standing Row|
|Hypertrophy||Compound||Infraspinatus, Latissimus Dorsi, Teres Major, Teres Minor, Trapezius|
Fibers, Brachialis, Brachioradialis and Pectoralis Major Sternal Head
Several muscles are involved in this exercise. Here’s some basic information on each one.
The infraspinatus is one of the rotator cuff muscles along with the supraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. These muscles help to aid in the mobility and stability of the shoulder joint. The infraspinatus assists in external rotation of the shoulder joint, scaption, and lateral rotation of the humerus.
The latissimus dorsi or lats for short is a broad, flat muscle that spans the lower posterior thorax. It works with the teres major and pectoralis major to adduct and medially rotate the humerus, and it helps to extend the humerus with help from the teres major and the sternal head of pectoralis major. The lats are also involved in moving the trunk forward and upward when the arms are positioned overhead.
The teres major is a thick muscle of the shoulder joint that medially rotates and adducts the arm and stabilizes the shoulder joint. Unlike the teres minor, it’s not a rotator cuff muscle.
The teres minor is a rotator cuff muscle that, along with the other rotator cuff muscles functions to stabilize the glenohumeral joint. Its specific function is lateral, or external, rotation of the arm at the shoulder.
Trapezius Lower Fibers
The trapezius lower fibers are part of the trapezius muscle located on the upper back shaped liked a trapezoid. It depresses the scapula and aids the upper fibers in upward rotation of the scapula.
Trapezius Middle Fibers
The middle fibers of the trapezius muscle adduct (retract) the scapula.
The brachialis is located deep to the biceps muscle on the outer portion. It’s a pure elbow flexor that gives width to the upper arm when developed.
The brachioradialis is a muscle located in the lateral forearm. It’s an elbow flexor and forearm supinator and pronator.
The deltoid posterior or rear delts are one of the three heads that make up the shoulder muscles. With the other two heads, the deltoid posterior assists in abducting the arm past 15 degrees. It also helps the anterior head to stabilize the arm while the lateral head abducts the arms from 15-100 degrees, and works with the latissimus dorsi to extend the arm while walking.
Pectoralis Major Sternal Head
The sternal head of the pectoralis major or main chest muscle has various functions including transverse flexion and adduction, internal rotation, adduction, and extension of the shoulders. It also assists in downward rotation, depression, and abduction (movement away from the center) of the scapula.
How To Do The Cable Standing Row (V-bar)
There’s nothing complex about this movement, which is great because it’s effective and doesn’t require much setup. Here are step-by-step instructions for this exercise.
- Attach a V bar on the cable pulley about lower chest height.
- Grip the bar with both hands and take a few steps back away from the cable machine.
- With your feet about hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, chest up, and shoulder blades back, use your back muscles to pull the weight by driving your elbows behind your body. You should be pulling the handles just below your chest.
- Slowly extend your arms forward while maintaining the same body position and repeat.
Here’s a video example…
Cable standing row (V-bar) tips
- You may not be able to use maximum poundages with this exercise due to the setup, and it’s not necessary either. Choose a weight that won’t cause you to compromise your form and technique, and really focus on the contraction as this is not an exercise that you should be using cheat reps with.
- Feel free to use any bar attachment other than the V-shaped bar. You can even attach two single-grip handles to the pulley to replicate the V-bar row if you don’t have a V bar.
- Avoid leaning too far back or forward. A neutral torso is good for this exercise, although leaning slightly backward or forward isn’t a sin.
- We recommend pulling the bar to the chest or slightly below for this variation since it’s a good movement for emphasizing the muscles of the upper and mid back.
While the cable standing row (V-Bar) is a phenomenal option for helping to build that roadmap back, there are so many different variations that you can use, and that you might actually prefer. Here are four variations/alternatives for this exercise.
Standing bent-over cable row (V-bar)
So this is very similar to the cable standing row except for the fact that you’ll lower the cable pulley to a low point on the machine. This will allow you to perform the bent-over variation that’ll allow you to train with the heaviest weight possible. It’s a real strength builder that we think might even be a better all-around variation.
In fact, research has shown the barbell bent-over row to be a superior exercise for the overall back, and using cables will offer the same benefits.
Standing twisting cable high row
The standing twisting cable high row is an excellent variation for maximizing the contraction of the back muscles and the stretch or eccentric phase of a rep that is an essential component of muscle development. Training one side at a time and adding a rotational element allows for a larger range of motion and contraction. Not to mention, it helps to build unilateral development that increases core engagement and allows you to identify and correct left to right imbalances. You can also load this exercise heavy to maximize the strength and muscle-building potential possible with this movement.
Seated cable row
The seated cable row allows you to use heavier weight because your feet are pressed against the platform and being in an upright seated position also allows you to use heavier poundages.
While cable rows are a must-have, the same could be argued for machine rows that are a fantastic variation or alternative. A hammer Strength machine for instance has an adjustable seat, chest-support, and very ergonomic handles and design that allow you to really maximize the movement. Don’t shy away from machines but make sure to use free weight too!
How To Incorporate The Cable Standing Row (V-bar) Into Your Training Routine
This exercise is best performed after your heavier multi-joint compound back exercises such as pull-ups, barbell bent-over rows, deadlifts, etc. That’s because the aforementioned exercises require the most strength and energy at the beginning of your sessions.
The cable standing row w/ V-bar can be trained heavy but compared to the main compounds, it doesn’t compare. Therefore, it’s more of a hypertrophy exercise rather than a strength-focused movement.
As for sets and reps, we recommend 3-4 sets x 8-20 reps for most workouts, varying the rep ranges depending on the goal of each workout. You should also take each set to failure to maximize gains both in strength and hypertrophy.
The cable standing row (V-bar) is the perfect exercise for switching up your back routine and improving your muscular development. It’s simple, but you also want to train safely to ensure that you avoid injury and progress just as you would any other exercise. We hope that this exercise was helpful and we’re confident that you now have the knowledge to effectively include this exercise in your training regime.