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Wide-Grip Seated Row vs. Close-Grip Seated Row

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Both row versions target the lats, but which is better for developing the upper lats to help you accentuate your V-taper?

By Jimmy Peña MS, CSCS

Wide-Grip Seated Row:

The less common of our two rows, the wide-grip version has you “borrowing” the lat pulldown bar for a few sets. Some gyms have long bars that you can use, but the lat bar works just fine. Simply attach it and take a wide overhand grip on the bar — just a bit outside shoulder width. You may find it more comfortable on your wrists to grasp the bar where it bends. As you pull it toward you, keep your elbows high. Don’t try and pull the bar into your lower abdomen as you do during the neutral-grip row. Pull the bar into your upper abs or sternum, trying to touch the bar to your torso. The further behind your body you can pull your elbows, the better the peak contraction will be.

Close-Grip Seated Row:

Many bodybuilders see this popular version of the seated cable row as a “middle back” exercise, but it’s most certainly a lat move. After your first rep, you’ll feel exactly where the target is. You’ll also notice that your forearms and biceps are hard at work compared to the wide-grip version, which is why — combined with the familiarity of the close grip — you may be stronger with the close-grip attachment. Make sure you keep a slight bend in your knees throughout, and on the descent, maintain a big chest with your abs tight and back flat. This posture from head to toe will ensure your safest and strongest possible set.

ADVANTAGE: Wide-Grip Seated Row

In the peak position of the wide-grip version, when the bar is approaching your torso, take note of your elbows. Your upper arms are perpendicular to your torso and parallel to the floor, and you can draw a line from your elbow across your upper lats, rhomboids and middle traps, and that’s your line of pull (note the various back muscles in play). In contrast, when you take a close grip, your elbows drop to your sides and you can’t draw that line across those muscles. In fact your lower lats are the primary mover. So the winner of the upper lat contest, not to mention responsible for recruiting the majority of the back musculature, is the less popular wide-grip version. Ditch the close-grip handle!

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