Cable Exercises (Back & Biceps)

Exercises > Gym Exercises > Cable Exercises (Back and Biceps Workout)

The following cable exercises are designed to improve the strength of many of the major muscles of the upper body using cable machines. These cable exercises focus on the upper and mid back muscles (latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, teres major, trapezius) and biceps. You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should only be performed provided they do not cause or increase pain.

For those who are untrained, you should begin by performing one or two sets of only a few cable exercises, working a variety of muscle groups and gradually increase the number of exercises and sets over a number of sessions provided there are no signs of injury.

For beginners, it is generally advisable to begin with light weights that allow you to perform 20 – 30 repetitions of each exercise with good control, posture and technique. Allow approximately 1 minute of rest and recovery between exercise sets.

As your endurance and strength improves, aim to gradually increase the number of sets of each exercise over a number of sessions until you are eventually performing 3 – 4 sets of each exercise provided the exercises are pain free. These cable exercises can then be progressed by gradually increasing the weights used so that fatigue is achieved by 8 – 12 repetitions and by progressing to other unaccustomed exercises provided they are pain free. Specific requirements may vary between individuals depending on the functional goals they wish to achieve. Your physiotherapist can advise on the most appropriate resistance, sets and repetitions to meet your needs.

Ensure you always perform an appropriate warm up before beginning any strengthening exercises, an appropriate cool down after and ensure you balance recovery periods from training to prevent injury. Generally, it is advisable to perform a combination of some of the following cable exercises 1 – 2 times per week provided they do not cause or increase pain. Allow approximately 4 – 7 recovery days before repeating the same exercises, to allow muscle recovery.

Major Muscles of the Upper Body (Anterior)

Figure 1 – Major Muscles of the Upper Body (Anterior)

Major Muscles of the Upper Body (Posterior)

Figure 2 – Major Muscles of the Upper Body (Posterior)


Cable Exercises – Back and Biceps Workout

Seated Row

Major Muscles Used – Latissimus Dorsi, Teres Major, Rhomboids, Trapezius, Biceps.

Begin this mid-back strengthening exercise sitting in optimal posture with your back and neck straight, knees slightly bent and hands holding the cable handles with a light weight as demonstrated (figure 3). Slowly pull the handles towards your chest, squeezing your shoulders blades together, then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 4 sets of 8 – 30 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Cable Exercises - Seated Row

Figure 3 – Seated Row

Seated Row (Single Arm with Trunk Rotation)

Major Muscles Used – Latissimus Dorsi, Rhomboids, Trapezius, Biceps, Abdominals (Obliques).

Begin this cable exercise sitting in optimal posture with your back and neck straight, knees bent and hand holding the cable handle with a light weight as demonstrated (figure 4). Slowly pull the handle towards your chest, squeezing your shoulders blade backwards and slowly turning your body to the side, then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 4 sets of 8 – 30 repetitions on each side provided the exercise is pain free.

Cable Exercises - Seated Row (Single Arm with Trunk Rotation)

Figure 4 – Seated Row (Single Arm with Trunk Rotation)

Reverse Cable Flys

Major Muscles Used – Deltoid (Posterior), Rhomboids, Trapezius, Triceps.

Begin this mid-back strengthening exercise standing in optimal posture with your back and neck straight, feet apart and hands holding the cable handles with a light weight as demonstrated (figure 5). Slowly take your arms backwards, opening your chest and squeezing your shoulders blades together, then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 4 sets of 8 – 30 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Cable Exercises - Reverse Cable Flys

Figure 5 – Reverse Cable Flys


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