How Many Seated Rows Should I Do Based On My Fitness Goals? (2024)

There are a variety of different ways to perform seated rows in terms of the weights used (such as a seated row weight machine, cable machine seated rows, and resistance band seated rows).

While each seated row exercise has its pros and cons, all seated rows are great exercises to strengthen your rhomboids, traps, lats, and posterior deltoids.

As such, I frequently recommend performing seated rows in back workouts for athletes of all ability levels and training goals.That said, it’s important to choose the reps, sets, loads, and forms of seated rows that best serve the individual’s needs and goals.

So, when programming your workouts, you may wonder, how many seated rows should I do to build muscle? And, what is the best load for seated row workouts for strength vs hypertrophy?

In this strength training guide, we will discuss how to do seated rows, the benefits of seated rows vs bent-over rows, and ultimately answer your question, how many seated rows should I do based on my fitness level and training goals?

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Let’s dive in!

How Many Seated Rows Should I Do Based On My Fitness Goals? (1)

How Do You Do Seated Rows?

Before we discuss how many seated rows you should do per day or per workout depending on your fitness goals and fitness level, let’s review how to perform the seated rows exercise.

As mentioned, you can perform seated rows in several different ways.

I personally recommend using a cable machine or (resistance bands for home workouts) because you have to control the movement path yourself, making the cable machine seated row more of a functional training exercise than the weight machine row.

This is not to say that weight machine seated rows don’t have their benefits. You can generally lift more weight because the fixed path of the weight machine eliminates the need to provide as much internal scapular stability.

Here are the steps for how to do seated rows with a cable machine:

How To Perform Cable Machine Seated Rows

  1. Sit upright at the cable machine or seated cable row station with one handle in each hand. Make sure that your back is straight and your sternum is pressed up against the chest pad. Place your feet on the footrests to help brace your body.
  2. Keep your core tight and your shoulders back and down away from your ears.
  3. Pull back on the handles until your hands are shoulder-width apart. If you want to specifically target the rhomboids, you want to use a slightly angled path1Fennell, J., Phadke, C. P., Mochizuki, G., Ismail, F., & Boulias, C. (2016). Shoulder Retractor Strengthening Exercise to Minimize Rhomboid Muscle Activity and Subacromial Impingement.Physiotherapy Canada,68(1), 24–28. https://doi.org/10.3138/ptc.2014-83 of motion that mimics the direction of the muscle fibers in the rhomboids (which is roughly 45 degrees sweeping down from the upper vertebrae down and out towards the scapulae.)
  4. Retract your shoulder blades back, and row the cables to each side of your rib cage.
  5. At the end position, the handles should be roughly aligned with your torso or as far back as you can pull. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as much as possible as if trying to hold a pencil between them.
  6. Pause and squeeze this end position, flexing the muscles in your upper back and shoulders for 2 to 3 seconds.
  7. Slowly extend your arms and protract your shoulder blades to return the cables to the starting position. Use control so that you resist the pull of the weight stack and challenge your muscles through the eccentric portion of the exercise.

Seated rows on the seated row machine are even easier to perform.

Essentially, you will follow the same steps, but you do not have to worry about stabilizing the cables as much because the weight machine dictates the path of motion based on the mechanics of the machine and how the handles are pulled.

No matter how you perform seated row exercises, make sure to keep your back upright, your head neutral and facing forward, and your core muscles tight.

Do not slouch and do not allow your shoulders to creep up towards your ears.

It is also important to really think about maximizing the range of motion of your scapula as you perform seated rows.You should feel your scapulae (shoulder blades) protract and spread away from each other as your arms are fully extended out in front of you.

Then, as you pull back to perform the seated row exercise, retract your scapulae and squeeze them together as tightly as possible at the end range of motion.

Here, make sure that your sternum is still pressed up against the machine and that you are not leaning back and using momentum or other back muscles to help you complete the lift.

Remember to control the return of the handles as you extend your arms back out away from your body.

The slower you can go on this portion of the exercise, the better, as studies suggest that the eccentric portion (the lengthening contraction) of an exercise elicits the greatest stimulus for building muscle and increasing strength.

These seated row form tips will help you maximize the strengthening benefits for the muscles worked by seated rows and will ensure that your posture is supporting your spine properly.

Are Seated Rows Good for Back Workouts?

Compared to barbell rows and bent-over dumbbell rows, the seated row exercise provides greater scapular stability.

This means that you can focus more on strengthening your back muscles (especially the traps and rhomboids)2Harris, S., Ruffin, E., Brewer, W., & Ortiz, A. (2017). MUSCLE ACTIVATION PATTERNS DURING SUSPENSION TRAINING EXERCISES.International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy,12(1), 42–52. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28217415/ and overloading with heavier weights rather than needing to stabilize the shoulders as much.

This isn’t to say that the types of row exercises that require more scapular stability are not also important to include in your back workouts, but if you are looking to increase muscle size, you will also want to do heavy resistance training.

Rather than using a seated row weight machine, performing the exercise on a cable pulley machine or a functional trainer will allow you to use two separate handles so that you can fully contract each rhomboid muscle and not allow one side of your back to overpower the weaker side and take on the brunt of the workload.

How Many Seated Rows Should I Do Based On My Fitness Goals? (2)

How Many Seated Rows Should I Do Based On My Fitness Goals?

Generally, programming seated row workouts are similar to recommendations for other strength training exercises.

When structuring a strength training workout, the number of reps of an exercise that you do is only one part of the programming of the exercise into the workout.

The other components of training volume to consider are the number of sets and the weight that you are lifting, also known as the load.

Your primary training goal ultimately affects how many seated rows you should do as well as how much weight you should use for seated row workouts.3Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Van Every, D. W., & Plotkin, D. L. (2021). Loading Recommendations for Muscle Strength, Hypertrophy, and Local Endurance: A Re-Examination of the Repetition Continuum.Sports,9(2), 32. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9020032

‌The following table provides recommendations for how many reps to do and how much weight to lift for different strength training goals based on the average guidelines from the American Council on Exercise (ACE)4How Many Reps Should You Be Doing?(n.d.). Www.acefitness.org. https://www.acefitness.org/resources/everyone/blog/5867/how-many-reps-should-you-be-doing/ and the National Strength and Conditioning Association.5Wurth, J., & Hewit, J. (2012).The National Strength and Conditioning Association’s (NSCA) BASICS OF STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING MANUAL. https://www.nsca.com/contentassets/116c55d64e1343d2b264e05aaf158a91/basics_of_strength_and_conditioning_manual.pdf

Training GoalSetsRepsRest PeriodIntensity
General Fitness1-312-1530 to 90 secondsVaries on exercise and ability level
Muscular Endurance3-4>15Up to 30 seconds<67% of 1RM
Hypertrophy (building muscle mass)3-68-1230 to 90 seconds67% to 85% of 1RM
Muscle strength4-63-62 to 5 minutes>85% of 1RM
Power3-51-52 to 5 minutes85%–100% of 1RM
How Many Seated Rows Should I Do Based On My Fitness Goals? (3)

How Many Seated Rows Should I Do To See Good Results?

Using the recommendations above along with experience, here are some suggestions for how many seated rows to do:

How Many Seated Rows Should I Do As A Beginner?

A good starting place for beginners is two sets of 10 reps. Build up to three sets. Once you can do 10 to 12 reps, you can increase the weight.6Iversen, V. M., Norum, M., Schoenfeld, B. J., & Fimland, M. S. (2021). No Time to Lift? Designing Time-Efficient Training Programs for Strength and Hypertrophy: A Narrative Review.Sports Medicine,51(10). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-021-01490-1

How Many Seated Rows Should I Do To Increase Strength?

If your goal is to increase strength with seated rows, use a weight that corresponds to at least 85% of your 1RM, or a weight that you could manage for just 4 to 6 reps with proper form.

Aim for 4 to 6 sets with at least 90 seconds of rest in between sets.7de Salles, B. F., Simão, R., Miranda, F., Novaes, J. da S., Lemos, A., & Willardson, J. M. (2009). Rest interval between sets in strength training.Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.),39(9), 765–777.

How Many Seated Rows Should I Do Based On My Fitness Goals? (4)

How Many Seated Rows Should I Do To Build Muscle?

If you are doing seated rows to build muscle, the guidelines for hypertrophy are 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.8Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Krieger, J., Grgic, J., Delcastillo, K., Belliard, R., & Alto, A. (2018). Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy.Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,51(1), 1. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0000000000001764

Use enough weight that you can manage all of your reps but that you feel fatigued by the last 1-2 reps of every set.

How Many Seated Rows Should I Do For Muscular Endurance?

To increase muscular endurance with seated rows, perform at least three sets of at least 15 reps with no more than 60 seconds of rest in between each set.

If you are mostly interested in how many seated rows to do to build muscle, check out our muscle-building guide here.

How Many Seated Rows Should I Do Based On My Fitness Goals? (5)

References

How Many Seated Rows Should I Do Based On My Fitness Goals? (2024)

FAQs

How Many Seated Rows Should I Do Based On My Fitness Goals? ›

How Many Seated Rows Should I Do To Increase Strength? If your goal is to increase strength with seated rows, use a weight that corresponds to at least 85% of your 1RM, or a weight that you could manage for just 4 to 6 reps with proper form. Aim for 4 to 6 sets with at least 90 seconds of rest in between sets. 7.

How many seated rows should I do? ›

You'll feel tension in your back and arms. When you're doing the seated row, make sure you feel only a mild stretch in the starting position. For most people, one set of 12 to 15 repetitions is adequate. Remember, for best results, do not lean too far forward in the starting position.

What is a good weight for seated rows? ›

Weight
Strength LevelWeight
Novice133 lb
Intermediate189 lb
Advanced254 lb
Elite325 lb
1 more row

What is the best rep range for seated row? ›

Start by programming three to five sets of 10 to 15 repetitions with moderate to heavy loads OR two to four sets of 15 to 25 repetitions with moderate loads to near failure. Keep rest periods between 45 and 90 seconds. You can build muscle with both higher and moderate rep ranges.

Do rows build a big back? ›

The barbell row works your upper body, and it's one of the best movements for building a strong back. It works a few muscles called agonist, stabilizer, and synergist muscles.

Do seated rows build muscle? ›

If you're looking to build your upper body strength, look no further than the seated row. It's a type of strength training exercise that works back and upper arms. It's done by pulling a weighted handle on a seated row machine. You can also do it on a seated cable row machine or by pulling a resistance band.

Are seated rows worth doing? ›

Choose Seated Rows If:

You want to isolate and target specific back muscles. You have lower back issues and need extra support during your workouts. You prefer using gym machines or adjustable resistance for convenience. You're looking to add variety to your back training routine.

How heavy should I go on rows? ›

The average Dumbbell Row weight for a male lifter is 94 lb (1RM). This makes you Intermediate on Strength Level and is a very impressive lift. What is a good Dumbbell Row? Male beginners should aim to lift 35 lb (1RM) which is still impressive compared to the general population.

How much should a beginner row? ›

Adding just a few minutes to each session can lead to significant progress over weeks. A good goal for beginners is to work up to 20-30 minutes of rowing within the first few months. Listen to Your Body: It's essential to tune into your body's signals.

How many rows to lose weight? ›

When rowing for weight loss, workout consistency and duration are key. For maximum results, strive to complete 30–50 minutes of rowing five to six times per week. Aim for a comfortable intensity of moderate, steady work where you can still carry on a conversation. Add intervals for variety.

What do rowers' bodies look like? ›

The typical body type of an elite rower is tall with long limbs and a tall sitting height.

Do rows count as cardio? ›

Rowing is cardio and strength, all in one. Because it requires such intense effort, you could enjoy a shorter workout session than if you were going for a run. As a full-body workout, rowing will work well for those who want to drop weight and build muscle.

What bar is best for seated rows? ›

Wide Bar. If you have a bar used for lat pulldowns, you can use it for a seated row. Taking a pronated wide grip (hands out wide, gripping overhand) will work your lats more. If you want to target more biceps, use an underhand grip.

What is the best position for seated rows? ›

Sit on the bench with your knees bent and grasp the cable attachment (often a triangle handle or a bar). Then position yourself with your knees slightly bent, grabbing the handle with your arms. Without curling the lower back over, brace the abdominals and slowly begin to row.

What are the weight increments for seated row? ›

The Seated Row comes supplied with 200 pound weight stack in 10-pound plates. If that's not enough, you can upgrade to 250 or 300 pounds, also in 10-pound increments.

How many rows should I do per set? ›

How Many Seated Rows Should I Do Based On My Fitness Goals?
Training GoalSetsReps
General Fitness1-312-15
Muscular Endurance3-4>15
Hypertrophy (building muscle mass)3-68-12
Muscle strength4-63-6
1 more row
Nov 23, 2023

How many sets of rowing should I do? ›

For example, try rowing for two to five minutes at a stroke rate of 20 to 28 strokes per minute, followed by a one minute break. Repeat this set three to five times to complete a 10- to 20-minute workout. Other tips to help you level up your rowing workouts include: Ease up on your grip of the rowing machine handle.

How many sets of DB rows should I do? ›

The dumbbell row should be a back training staple. Include it in your back and upper body training days for 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps per arm. Once you're more accustomed to the movement, you can pick up heavier weights and cut the reps (think 6 to 8 reps) to really build muscle and strength.

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