Seal Rows for Isolating Your Upper Back

This is just a quick note to share my love for seal rows. Not sure what I’m talking about? Seal rows are just a chest-supported row that you do on an elevated flat bench, and they’re great for isolating your upper back.

You can do seal rows (aka bench rows) with dumbbells or a barbell and, while there are specialized benches out there for this sort of thing, you can also diy it with standard gym equipment. Here’s my seal row setup…

Seal Row Setup

Flat bench on plyboxes for seal rows… (click to enlarge)

As you can see, I set my bench (it’s a Rogue Flat Utility Bench) on a couple of plyoboxes with the barbell underneath. From there, it’s just a matter of flopping down on your chest, grabbing the bar, and pulling it up until you touch the bottom of the bench. Pretty much the reverse of a bench press.

Related: What’s the best (cheap) barbell?

You might have to play around with the height to get it just right. If the bar is too close, you can put a plate between the box and bench to raise it up a bit, or use smaller diameter plates on the barbell to drop it down. If you can’t quite reach, you can put some plates under the ends of the bar to raise it up.

I’m currently doing 4×10 seal rows on the “Upper Hypertrophy” day of my modified PHUL workout, and I’m fortunate that a barbell with standard bumper plates is just the right distance from the bench the way I set it up. I replaced seated cable rows with seal rows since I don’t have a cable setup.

As noted above, seal rows are a great way to isolate your upper back, including your lats, rhomboids, and rear delts. And unlike standard barbell rows, which also involve the lower back, it’s much harder to cheat the movement because you can’t generate momentum with your legs, hips, etc.

If you’re looking to add some variety to you back training, I highly recommend throwing some seal rows into the mix.

Workouts & Training
2 comments… add one
  • Steven Feb 27, 2017

    Just a quick question, what are the dimensions of those plyo boxes? Which height is perfect for you for seal rows? Thanks!

    • Michael Mar 9, 2017

      18 inches, but… it’s a little more complicated than that. The near box in that pic is 12x16x18, and it’s turned to the tallest side. The far box is 20x24x30, and it’s turned to the 20″ side and sitting next to my lifting platform, which makes it match the 18″ box on the platform.

      Also: I’m tall, 6’5″ with pretty long arms, so this is probably toward the high end of what most people will need.

Leave a Comment