10 Best Lower Back Exercises With Cables

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Lower Back Exercises With Cables

Need an alternative to free weights for building muscle mass?

Check out these 10 lower back exercises with cables.

The nice thing about cable machines is you can adjust the pulling angles and handle attachments.

This lets you isolate specific muscles while suiting your grip preferences and height.

10 Best Cable Exercises for Your Low Back Muscles

1. Seated Cable Row

The seated cable row is a highly customizable exercise that can be used to target the lower or upper back muscles.

It’s done from a seated position where your lower body is used as a base for pulling.

This takes an unnecessary load off the lumbar spine.

So, you’ll be able to strengthen the spinal erectors, which protect the lumbar region, without putting yourself in a dangerous position.

It’ll also require you to keep your core engaged to promote posture and lower lat engagement.

Steps To Perform

  1. Setup a low pulley cable
  2. Sit with your feet against the footplates and knees slightly bent
  3. Bend forward to grab the handle of choosing with your arms straight
  4. Row backward until the handle touches your stomach
  5. Release to the starting position and repeat

Tips and Variations

  • Lean forward during the eccentric phase to stretch your back muscles
  • Ensure your spine is neutral and your sternum is lifted up during the entire range of motion
  • Row the weight using your elbows while keeping your upper arms relaxed to prevent the biceps from becoming overly involved
  • Your shoulder blades should be retracted during the concentric phase and protracted during the eccentric
  • A v-bar is preferred for a natural shoulder position
  • You can use a straight bar and row the resistance at an upward angle to hit the upper back more effectively
  • If you have back or shoulder imbalances attach a d-handle to work one side at a time

2. Standing Cable Row

Now we’ll take the cable row a step further by doing it from a standing position.

This is going to require your lower back and core to be extra engaged to retain upright stability.

You may notice the hamstrings and glutes being involved too since they’re responsible for supporting your knees during the slight bend they’ll have.

This exercise is strictly isolation.

If you can’t maintain a straight back, use a lighter weight and focus on proper form.

I know a wide back is your goal, so add this one to your arsenal!

Steps To Perform

  1. Set the pulley to waist level
  2. Attach two d-handles on a single side
  3. Grab the handles and step back a few feet
  4. Row toward your belly button while retracting your shoulder blades
  5. Stop once your arms are bent at 90 degrees
  6. Return to the starting position and repeat

Tips and Variations

  • Leaning your body weight onto your heels will give you more leverage for pulling without momentum
  • Pull the weight back, not up, or it’ll become a cable upright row
  • Stand far enough away from the machine so that the resistance is consistent
  • Using a rope attachment will work too

3. Cable Deadlift

If I could only do one cable exercise ever again, it would be the cable deadlift.

Mainly because I feel like a boss whenever I do this move in any of its many forms.

Secondly, I’d be able to build my entire posterior chain while getting decently strong.

This includes a semi-large number of stabilizer muscles around the spine.

IE: transverse abdominis, lats, and erector spinae to name a few.

Compared to free weights, cables will provide a safer range of motion with less joint impact.

The downside is that you typically can’t load nearly as much weight onto a pulley system as with a barbell.

Maybe you won’t be as strong, but you’ll still look jacked.

Implementing it close to the end of your back workout will provide great isolation without needing to use too much weight since your muscles are already pre-exhausted.

Steps To Perform

  1. Hook a straight or curved bar onto a low pulley
  2. Hold the handle in front of your waist with a mixed or overhand grip
  3. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
  4. Perform a hip hinge as you lean forward while bending your knees
  5. Go down until your upper body is nearly parallel to the floor
  6. Push your hips forward as you stand up straight and repeat

Tips and Variations

  • Always maintain a neutral back and suck air into your stomach to keep yourself properly braced
  • Use a stiff leg stance when bending forward to put emphasis on your pelvic muscles
  • Widening your feet into a sumo stance will take pressure off your l-spine as it increases involvement from your legs and traps

4. Cable Pull Through

This exercise is ideal for building glorious glutes while simultaneously stretching and strengthening the lower back and hamstrings.

This is another movement that translates nicely to compound lifts.

Plus, there’s less spinal strain since you don’t need to use heavy weights to feel some nice contractions.

Although it’s normally programmed into lower body training sessions, there’s no reason not to use it within your pull-day routine.

Steps To Perform

  1. Set the pulley to the bottom using a cable rope attachment
  2. Stand a few feet in front of the machine, facing away
  3. Take a wide stance with your knees bent
  4. Grab the rope with a neutral grip (palms facing each other)
  5. Start with your hips hinged and torso bent forward
  6. Push your hips forward while squeezing your glutes until you’re standing upright
  7. Hinge back down and repeat

Tips and Variations

  • Make sure to keep a slight bend in your knees
  • Keep your core engaged to prevent your lower back from rounding over in the extension phase
  • Let your arms relax and don’t squeeze the handles too tight
  • You’ll get more glute and back activation at the top by thrusting further through your hips
  • Move slowly and under control through the full range of motion

5. Standing Single Arm Cable Row

Sometimes focusing on one side at a time can be highly beneficial.

Especially if you notice your body becoming misaligned.

ALWAYS perform each set with the weaker part of your body first.

For example, if the left side of your back is lacking, then you’ll do 10-15 reps before switching to the right and doing the same amount of reps and weight.

You should also use a similar rowing tempo with each arm.

The single-arm cable row is a great exercise for the start of a back workout to warm up with moderate 10-15 reps.

Or at the end as a burnout for high ranges of 15-20.

Steps To Perform

  1. Connect a d-handle with your cable machine on the bottom setting
  2. Grab the handle with your arm straight and palm facing inward
  3. Step backward with your feet close together
  4. Bend your torso forward to form a 45-degree angle with the floor
  5. Pull your elbow passed your hip
  6. Return to the starting position and repeat
  7. Switch arms

You can also stand with your legs staggered (opposite foot in front) with your free hand rested on your knee.

This adds a solid base of support and increases leverage.

However, it may not require your lower back stabilizers to work as hard, which is the whole point of this article.

Tips and Variations

  • Retract your shoulder blade as you row, protract as you release
  • Keep your entire upper body square during all phases of the range of motion (Avoid trunk rotation)
  • Stick your chest up and look straight ahead
  • Kneel down on the opposite leg of your working arm to improve your stability to row more weight
  • You can turn this into a unilateral seated cable row by placing a weight bench in front of your cable machine

6. Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown

Out of all the straight bar exercises, I’m sure you’ve heard of the lat pulldown.

It’s a great way to work the lats, rhomboids, and rotator cuff muscles.

But did you know that with a small grip adjustment, the lower lats will become even more involved?

Allowing you to build a thicker, fuller posterior.

Steps To Perform

  1. Attach a standard curved lat bar to a high pulley or pulldown machine
  2. Adjust the knee pads to a secure fit
  3. Assume a narrow grip with palms facing you
  4. Sit down with your upper back arched and spine neutral
  5. Pull the bar down to your chest while you retract your shoulder blades
  6. Re-extend upward and repeat

Tips and Variations

  • Don’t hold the bar overly tight to avoid forearm fatigue
  • Try using a false (thumbless) grip if you have trouble feeling it in your lats
  • The overhand close grip lat pulldown is a good alternative to work your entire back
  • The wide grip lat pulldown isn’t as effective but can be done with over or underhand grips to get a deeper stretch at the top

7. Incline Straight Arm Pushdown

Many people like incorporating chest and back exercises on the same day.

Well, here’s a double whammy exercise to save time by hitting both of these beauty muscles at once.

The straight-arm pushdown is performed with either a rope attachment or a straight bar.

I like to use it at the end of my workouts due to the large volume of blood pushed into the muscles.

It also provides a stretch to alleviate tightness and strengthen the scapula so I’m not walking around like a hunchback.

This is a good move for taking the lats through a complete range of motion.

Additionally having an incline bench helps keep your torso upright to minimize back pain and excessive momentum.

Steps To Perform

  1. Set up a 45-degree incline bench in front of a high cable machine
  2. Sit facing away from the pulley
  3. Grasp the handle with your arms extended overhead
  4. Arch the bar down to your thighs without bending your elbows
  5. Return your arms to the overhead position and repeat

Tips and Variations

  • Keep your feet pressed flat on the ground
  • Turn this into a unilateral movement with a rope attachment
  • Scrap the bench and do it standing up to better target your core

8. Cable Bent Over Row

You came here looking to strengthen the lower back.

Well, if rowing is your favorite movement pattern, then bent over rows are the best option.

They’ll engage your abdominals, spinal erectors, rotator cuff, and lats.

Sure, the rotator cuff isn’t necessarily part of the lower back, but it’s still important for bodily alignment.

The hamstrings and butt are gonna be heating up too to hold your body in the hip hinge without you falling on your face.

This is considered a compound movement due to the carryover benefits it has on other exercises such as the deadlift and squat.

Furthermore, heavy progressive overload is a popular reason to take advantage of bent over rows in your workout routine.

In the video below, you’ll notice him using a reverse grip.

Which places greater emphasis on the lower lats.

Steps To Perform

  1. Attach an EZ bar to a low cable machine
  2. Assume an underhand grip with your hands and feet shoulder-width apart
  3. Stand up with the bar and retract your scapula
  4. Take a few steps back and lean forward by hinging your hips
  5. With your arms straight, begin flexing your elbows to row toward your belly button
  6. Once the bar makes contact with you, release it to the starting position

Tips and Variations

  • Avoid rounding over by maintaining a small arch in your trunk
  • Align your shoulders over your toes when bending forward
  • Position your body at roughly 45 degrees in relation to the floor
  • Achieve greater time under tension by pausing for 1-2 seconds at the top of every rep
  • You can try an overhand grip if that feels comfortable
  • Wrist straps help to overload the weight without having to worry about losing grip strength

9. Seated Cable Back Extension

Among the best cable machine exercise for lumbar flexion and extension is the seated cable back extension:

It combines two motions that are critical for flexibility in the flexors and spinal erectors.

You’ll notice that it looks like the seated cable row.

But without any elbow movement whatsoever so the contractions are relatively isometric.

Your legs act as leverage points allowing you to move your torso forward and backward in a controlled manner.

This makes it easier to stimulate the lower back muscles without the biceps getting too involved.

However, the lats won’t be stimulated as well.

Steps To Perform

  1. Securely place your feet on the footplates
  2. Attach a straight bar and hold it using an overhand grip wider than shoulder width
  3. Flex yourself backward until the bar is above your mid-thighs
  4. Then, extend forward until your chest is over your knees
  5. Repeat for reps

Tips and Variations

  • It is crucial to have your core engaged so your back doesn’t round over
  • Switching to a v-bar or cable rope puts your shoulders in a safer position

10. Cable Side Bend

Cable side bends work your back muscles through lateral flexion while also giving the obliques a brutal workout.

Lateral back flexion is important for promoting relaxation and lumbo-pelvic stability.

There’s another, unheard-of muscle worked with side bends located deep in the rear abdominal wall, called the quadratus lumborum.

Steps To Perform

  1. Attach a d-handle to a cable, set at about ankle height
  2. Hold it with your right hand
  3. Face sideways with the cable positioned on your right side
  4. Leave enough distance between you and the machine for tension
  5. Stand tall with your feet at about shoulder width
  6. Bend your torso to the right as far as you can
  7. Return upright and then slightly lean to the left
  8. Repeat this sequence for reps

Tips and Variations

  • As always, be sure your core stays engaged for the entire motion
  • You can set the cable machine to head level and tilt your torso in the opposite direction for focusing the obliques even further

Primary and Secondary Muscles of the Lower Back

Here’s an overview of the muscle groups located around the LOWER spine that these cable exercises will target.

Bear in mind, that many of them hit the biceps and upper back muscles too.


  • Erector Spinae

The erector spinae is primarily engaged during movements that require flexion and extension.

They are important for holding the lower back in a static, neutral position to prevent impingements.

  • Latissimus Dorsi

The latissimus dorsi (lats) span from the low to mid back and protect the lumbar and thoracic spine.


  • Core Muscles

This is a vast muscle group that wraps around the truck region.

The core is activated during nearly all forms of exercise to support the l-spine.

  • Quadratus Lumborum

This deep stabilizer muscle is inside the posterior abdominal wall.

Its responsibilities include lateral flexion, extension, and stabilization of the pelvis and lumbar vertebrae.

  • Gluteal, Hamstrings, and Hips

You may be thinking, “wait, aren’t these leg muscles?”

Yes, kind of.

But they are critical forces for supporting pelvic alignment and hip joint mobility.

These three areas need to remain functional to perform most back exercises properly.

Why Are Lower Back Muscles Important?

The lower back muscles are important for:

  • Spine Stabilization

When the spine is properly stabilized, the ability to work out, stand upright, and perform daily activities is increased.

  • Reduced Risk of Injury or Pain

In conjunction with the point above, when your back muscles are strong, you will be less likely to develop lumbago.

Mainly because you’ll have a protective layer around vital nerves and vertebrae, along with improvements in body mechanic functionality.

Benefits of Low Back Cable Machine Exercises

The cable machine is a versatile piece of gym equipment.

Especially when it comes to isolating a specific back muscle group.

Sought-after benefits include:

  • Constant Tension

Having constant tension in the areas you’re targeting will enhance muscular hypertrophy.

This’ll also make it easier to focus on a specific muscle group without other muscles taking control of the movement.

  • Increased Range of Motion

With an increased range of motion, comes an increase in your ability to work your muscle fibers to the max.

Sometimes free weights restrict mobility during the eccentric and concentric phases.

Unlike cable machines which allow you to keep your balance while extending or pulling even further to achieve that maximal stretch or contraction.

FAQ About Cable Back Exercises

How Do You Work Your Lower Back With Cables?

To work your lower back with cables you can do seated cable back extensions.

Begin by:

– Attaching a straight bar to a low pulley
– Sit in front of the cable machine and extend your legs into a secure position
– Overhand grip the handle roughly shoulder width apart
– With your back and arms straight, extend your body weight backward as far as you can go
– Then, flex forward until your shoulders are above your thighs
– Repeat this motion for 8-10 reps

Are Cable Rows Good for Lower Back?

Yes, cable rows are good for the lower back.

They require your spinal erectors to hold a static contraction to ensure your spine stays secure.

What Are the 5 Exercises for Strengthening the Lower Back?

The 5 exercises for strengthening the lower back are:

1. Hyperextensions
2. Glute Bridges
3. Bird Dogs
4. Side Bends
5. Deadlifts

Summarizing Points on Lower Back Cable Exercises

If an attention-grabbing upper body is your goal, then be sure to add 1-2 of these cable machine back exercises to your arsenal.

They’re specifically meant to strengthen the major muscles around your spine for thickness and posture.

I appreciate you taking the time to read.

Now go get juicy!




Eric De Cremer
Eric De Cremer

Eric is an NCCA-accredited Certified Personal Trainer and competitively trained powerlifter. Feel free to contact him anytime at edecremer@wildnswole.com!