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DIY Seal Row Bench

Since I enjoy reading, listening and learning more than I enjoy flapping my gums, this is my first new Topic.
My family just bought a house in September and I have almost finished the garage gym that I have been slowly building up while living in a rental house for the past few years.

Since I have some low back/hip issues, standard barbell rows are uncomfortable for me; seal rows serve me very well, however. The problem was that the bench I was using was really limiting my range of motion and I had to raise it up with all of my bumper plates… super annoying.

I had some spare wood so I decided to build a bench dedicated to seal rows, since I do them twice a week supersetted with bench. Here are some pics of it and of yours truly giving it a whirl with a whopping 145 lbs while listening to Remnants of Expansion by The Krypts (extraneous info I know, but that band deserves more exposure).

I made the bench as well (my first attempt at upholstery so it is rather hideous, but functional) out of a piece of plywood (11" x 45" x 0.75") and some high density foam (https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B01H2QS4N4/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o03__o00_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1) cut in half, glued to the plywood, and then upholstered with vinyl (https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B003CTO0A2/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o03__o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1). I used just a piece of plywood as the base (i.e., no supportive crossbeam) to avoid limiting the range of motion, and it is very sturdy. The high handles on the hex bar also add to the ROM.

Overall, it is 30" wide, 31" high, and 45" long. I custom-made it to my build (I am 225 lbs, 5’9" with a very wide frame) and ensured that it was high enough to allow full ROM. I had to build it wide enough to avoid hitting the hex bar on the bench, and this also added to its stability. I was amazed at how heavy 135 felt with the increased ROM, and I have only been able to go up to 225 comfortably (I was able to do 305 with my other bench using a standard barbell).

One thing that I would have done differently (and I will eventually upgrade to this) is to use foam that is more dense. I assumed that the foam I bought would be firm enough but I sink in more than I would like. When I do upgrade, the new foam will also be a little thinner to further increase ROM.

Thanks for reading, and I welcome any suggestions, criticism, and questions.


Looks good, man, although I think for most folks rowing face down on a bench set to an incline probably does a good enough job.

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I like seal rows. I don’t do them very often, but I personally feel like I get a better contraction than with an incline bench. I can use heavier weights (barbell) and don’t hit the floor or bench on the way down. I also like being flat. May have to think about building my own!

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Rowing on an incline bench is good, I especially like it with dumbbells. I like seal rows more because the motion is in the same plane as bench, but in the opposing direction. It is not exactly the direct opposite of bench, because there is no leg drive, but nothing’s perfect. Also, as @jshaving mentioned, the contraction I get is much better.

This is also a very specialized piece of equipment that takes up precious room in the limited amount of space that a garage lifter has. It definitely is not for everyone.

I have to set the bench at a 45 degree incline to get full range of motion on incline DB rows (i.e. not hit the floor with the DBs). I like the idea of building something up but I’d probably just build some boxes and put my bench on that. Maybe I’ll get motivated and build some boxes for pulls and stuff like this someday.


Boxes are a great idea; they’re multifunctional. They could also be stacked up when you’re done to decrease the overall footprint. If/when this bench breaks down, I will probably do that.