How to Do the Seated Rope Pull, the Ultimate Upper-body Exercise

Man doing seated rope pull
Photograph by Justin Steele

A rowing machine is great for cardio, and adding a seated cable row to your workout is good for your chest and shoulders. With some rigging and a long stretch of floor, you can have the best of both. The seated heavy rope pull is an ideal component in a high-intensity interval routine. “The best thing about this move is how it dynamically works muscle groups that are notoriously hard to train,” says Richard Wilcock, a strength and conditioning specialist in Bolton U.K. “It hits most of the muscles in the upper body, but the big focus is on the lats, delts, traps, and biceps.”


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To set it up, knot one end of a 30-foot battle rope to the front of a sled or to a kettlebell, or thread it through weight plates and knot the end. Stretch the rope across the floor and sit at the unweighted end. Straddle the rope, knees soft, glutes and abs engaged, back hinged slightly, chest up, heels anchored into the floor. Pull rope hand over hand until the weight reaches your feet. Reset at the far end of the room. Perform two to three sets. (A pull in each direction is one set.) Start with 25 pounds of weight and go up in 10-pound increments until you need to rest after one set.

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