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Seal Rows

How much do you Seal Bro?

The Bench Press may be the most popular exercise performed in Fitness.

So popular that, “How much do you bench?” Has become a new way to saying hello to other gym bros.

However the overuse of the Bench press has cause many to have muscular imbalances which lead not just to awkward physiques but also to injuries.

It’s interesting that the inverted Bench press more commonly know as the Seal Row is not nearly as popular.

Nor only is it a great exercise it would be a great complimentary exercise to the Bench Press.

Training these antagonistic exercises will result in a strong chest with an equally strong back to prevent any imbalances ion the body!

Seal Row Benefits

1. No stress of lower back

Rowing variations that don’t offer chest support such as seated cable rows and standing barbell rows require immense effort on your lower back.

This can be the limiting factor of the exercise meaning it ends up working your lower back and not your upper and mid back.

This is especially true if you trained  squats or deadlift a day or two prior and your body still hasn’t recovered.

Lastly the lack of chest support make it easier to change your position without noticing since the.

You will see many people leaning back far too much on a seated cable or standing too upright on a barbell row. This makes it easier on your lower back but also turn the exercise into a shrug rather than a row.

2. Difficult to Cheat

Unlike a cable row or standing barbell row, it is impossible to cheat on a seal row, sice your legs and lower back can't be used for momentum.

This will ensure only the target muscles are being worked and an easy way to ensure you form stays clean.

3. Low CNS Catigue

Any exercise that require heavy load on the spine causes a lot of CNS fatigue. This is not ideal because it can lead to overtraining and plateaus.

The seal row on the other hand doesn’t load the spine and has a great stimulus to fatigue ratio.

It allows you to perform high volume that your back needs to grow without hindering your CNS.

How To Set Up The Seal Rows

Perhaps one of the reasons seal rows haven’t exploded in particular is that it can be hard and tedious to set up.

However a bench press would equally be annoying if the equipment manufacturers didn’t make proper bench stations.

However seal row stations are starting to gain popularity and in ten years it wouldn’t be surprising to see most gym have them.

Seal Row Stations are one of the world's greatest luxuries!

Easy Set-up : Dumbells

For those that want to get these done with the minimal set up we recommend using Dumbbells and with a slightly incline bench (30 degrees maximum).

The incline will guarantee your arms can get the full ROM for this exercise. Dumbbells will also help any imbalances between your leg and right muscles.

Lastly dumbbells allows for greater range of motion, that you won’t get with the barbell.

Traditional Set-up : Barbells

Find a barbell with 28mm thinkness for optimal pulling grip.

Another option is a Swiss bar which allows you to hold in a neutral position and not worry about the barbell rolling of your fingers.

And even better option is the trap bar barbell or cambered barbell.


As this not only gives you a neutral grip but also gives you extra range of motion side the handles protrude out.

The last option we recommend is to use the Swissies, this will give you the benefits of increase range of motiuon and the neutral grip.

In addition, using the SWVL will remove any issues with radial deviation of the wrist you may get with a trap bar.

How to set up:

Get two plyoboxes and place a bench on top of them. Place the barbell underneath the bench.

Then lay face down on the bench, grab the barbell and start repping!

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Seal rows are an amazing back builder that is highly underrated and underutilized.

This is mostly due to the tediousness of setting the exercise up. However it is worth the setup time and soon this won’t be an issue with better seal row equipment becoming widespread.

Give seal rows a try and you will be surprised how much nicer they are than the traditional barbell row.

About the Author

Remy started calisthenics in 2014 and has mastered advanced movements such as the one arm pull-up, front-lever, one arm muscle-up and more.