Vertical Low Row on Lat Tower Back Training

A strong, muscular back is important if you intend to carry a backpack, walk with trekking poles, ice climb, rock climb, or even ascending fixed lines with an ascender. With our longterm goal of the Seven Summits quest in mind, these are all important for each, if not every, one of the seven (or nine as the case may be). The image below shows me in a lockoff position rock climbing – wherein the handhold is gripped at about waist to chest level with a small amount of tension.

Lead Solo Climbing at Rock Canyon - The Wild
Lockoff position Lead Rope Solo Climbing

One of my favorite exercises is a modification of a low row done vertically on a lat tower on my power rack. For the video below I set the bench under the lat pulldown of my power rack, clipped on a set of Double Handle Cable Attachment (Double-D handles), put 115 lb on the weight platform, grabbed onto the handles, and sat down with my knees under the highest setting on the knee pads. I pulled down and sat all the way back till I was parallel to the ground, laying flat on the bench.

I get full range of motion by pulling all the way down till my hands touch my chest, retracting the middle of my upper back, and on the way up let my upper back curve so that my shoulders lift off the bench. I think if you have shoulder problems it might be best to lock your shoulders into place and only swivel your elbow up and down with the handles.


One thing to watch out for: some people have a tendency to flex their wrists inward at the back (retracted) position, presumably to get more range of motion (ROM) but that’s pointless and can lead to injury if you have any kind of repetitive stress at your job (typing/mousing). Pointless because the muscle you’re training is behind and below your shoulder, not in your forearm, so the extra “oomph” in your wrist won’t help much.

Note that by laying back and keeping flat on the bench you’ll also be working your obliques a bit. Not a lot, but well worth the effort to stay flat and resist the effect of the weight pulling you up off the bench. You can modify this to work with bands, or on another type of machine, but this is my favorite. Don’t get hurt, train smart, and let me know how this works for you.