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Dwayne Johnson on the One Workout Move That "Makes a Huge Difference"

How Dwayne Johnson keeps his upper body and back chiseled. 
FACT CHECKED BY Jeremy Horowitz

Before Dwayne Johnson launched to A-list status and became one of the highest-paid actors, the action star was a pro wrestler known for his charm, trash-talking skills, and ripped muscles. Today, the 51-year-old maintains his rock-solid physique by demanding workouts, which he gave fans a sneak peek at in his latest Instagram post. In the video, Johnson shared that working out is "My kinda therapy that's cheaper than a shrink," and showed a move that keeps his chiseled back and chest toned–the cable row. "I try to really stretch and get full range of motion at the bottom with a squeeze pause at the top," he wrote. "I'm tall and my muscular structure is elongated so I do my best to really engage that legit full range of motion." He added, "Makes a huge difference + you don't have to kill yourself using heavy weight to get positive results." Here's everything to know about seated cable rows and why it's a great workout, according to USAW National Coach Jarrod Nobbe. Read on.

Seated Cable Rows Are a Great Workout

Dwayne Johnson, The Rock

The seated cable row is an effective workout that can tone your upper body. "The seated cable row is an excellent upper-body pulling exercise that helps develop the lats," Nobbe says. "This compound movement strengthens the mid and upper back while challenging our forearms and grip strength."

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You Can Target Different Areas of Your Back

close-up of seated cable row

With the seated cable, you can work out different areas of your back, Nobbe explains. "Most seated cable rows will be machine based, as viewed in Dwayne Johnson's video. Traditionally, your feet will be placed on a foot plate, allowing you to drive the legs through the footplates while bracing the core with each repetition." He adds, "Dwayne uses a neutral grip bar which drives a focus on the lats and upper back. Switching up the cable attachment can help you target other areas of the back, depending on your focus and goals."

Johnson's Technique is On Point


Johnson is a pro when it comes to his workouts and Nobbe says, "For technique, Dwayne does an excellent job talking about working through a full range of motion. Allowing the arms to reach far forward and finishing each rep with a long pulling motion and squeeze at the top, we ensure we are lengthening and targeting the correct muscle fibers. Moving each repetition with that reach and pull focus also increases our time under tension, allowing maximal hypertrophy of the targeted muscle group."

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How to Properly Do a Seated Cable Row


To ensure you're getting the most out of a seated cable row in a safe manner, Nobbe shares the proper form to strive for. "Always return the weight to the start position with awesome control. This controlled return will let you get the most out of the lift's eccentric (when the muscle is lengthening)  portion. If you're looking to add the seated cable row to your workout routine, here are a few cues to follow:

  1. Start with the knees bent and the core braced.
  2. Pull the handle attachment and weight back towards your lower abdomen, allowing the back to provide the work. Only use the arms toward the end of the rep.
  3. Feel the elbows sweep low while squeezing the lats and upper back together toward the spine
  4. Use complete control as you return the weight to emphasize the work of the eccentric portion of the lift."

Ways to Modify the Cable Row


To gain strength quicker, Nobbe says there are ways to modify the seated cable row. "I like to add tempos and timed eccentrics with my seated cable rows in the earlier phases of a training program. These modalities allow for faster strength and muscle size gains, allowing us to get ahead by training smart." 

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Expert Recommended Reps


Depending on your fitness goals, Nobbe recommends the following. "If you want to increase muscle size, I recommend using rep ranges from 12-15. For strength, 6-8 works well. Ensure effort is always present and allow your training to vary. Mix up the early phase tempos and eccentrics, move to straight sets, with one to two drop sets to failure, or even add in ascending or descending pyramid schemes!" He concludes, "Keep the total sets between three and five, complimented with repetition ranging from 6-15, depending on your goals." 

Here's Johnson Doing the Workout

As we've said, Johnson emphasizes the importance of a full range of motion and proper technique to target the correct muscle fibers and maximize hypertrophy. To perform the seated cable row safely and effectively, start with bent knees and a braced core, pull the handle attachment towards the lower abdomen, and use controlled movements for the eccentric portion. Different modifications and rep ranges can be used based on fitness goals.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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