ATTENTION: Please proceed with caution with this exercise and ensure the set up is 100% safe before beginning.
When it comes to isolated back exercises, you pretty much always know your “go to” staple movements when heading to the gym. Predominantly, we have the:
- seated cable row
- bent over row
- lat pulldowns etc.
Today, I’m going to talk to you about a back exercise I’m really falling for, that, I don’t think many of you will see at your local gym as it can take a little bit of setting up, space and can look potentially a little odd (if done properly). Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, The Seal Row. A superb back isolation exercise that got its name from the way your legs react (going up and down like a seal’s tail) when completing the pull.
Like I said, you will very rarely see this done in the gym, but, it’s something that has become a staple for me as it has some great benefits:
- Complete isolation of your back and no lower back impact or support required
- It’s very difficult to get the form wrong, swing or cheat during this exercise
- Injury prevention, if you’re set up correctly, and your neck alignment is good, you have a movement safe on the spine
- You can use either dumbbells or bar, using a variety of grips and tempo, a great upper body pump and “thickness” builder
- It’s ideal for those with issues aggravated by putting pressure through the feet/core such as groin, abdominal and knee injuries.
Right, so, as I said, the first steps to this exercise are ensuring you’ve got the right and safe equipment to complete. For this, as you can see below, I’m using a Reebok Step and two very sturdy weight benches. I’m not going to lie, a busy gym and completing this can be a bit of a challenge as you’re monopolising a bit of equipment here, so do make sure the equipment is safe, & the gym staff and patrons don’t mind! But, if it’s quiet enough and you have the space, it is a quick set up. You can always also take a decline bench and elevate accordingly. The set up shown below for me though, is just easier and takes less time. The aim of the game is to effectively have a raised platform that you can get a bar under at a safe length to pick up and complete full ROM fully extending your arms.
The grip that I am using below is to hit more of the upper back and rear delts. For me, that’s a development area I want to work on but you can change the grip to narrow to shift emphasis or use dumbbells to mix up angles as well.
The movement itself looks really easy and at first thought, I assumed I could lift much more weight than I could. However, once you give it a go yourself, using correct form and tempo, the weight is almost irrelevant. In the example here, I’m using 50kg total through an 8-12 rep range to failure. As goes with most movements, ensure you’re squeezing at the top of the contraction correctly and using the right focused muscles to support the eccentric movement. Don’t yank the weight or retract your shoulder blades either.
I personally really love this exercise now I have incorporated it into my current LDNM Cutting Guide routine – give it a try and let me know what you think!
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