Rows – What, Why & How?

A type of row should be in everyone’s weight training programme no matter the goal. Rowing variations will target and develop three primary back muscles, your trapezius, your rhomboids and your lats, which one your target can be determined by your grip positing or general body positioning which we will dive into later on.

They key to engaging your back during a row is knowing how to retract your scapula, in simple terms this is when you pull your shoulder blades in towards each other, if you can’t retract your scapula during a rowing movement you are more than likely just using your fore arms and biceps to move the weight back and forth.

Seated Cable Row:

A seated cable row should be the foundation of your rowing exercises as it’s the easiest one to set up and set up. Although you can change the handles for multiple different purposes I recommend starting with a neutral grip handle.

  • Most cable rows will come with a foot support to support your feet. Once your feet are up grab your handle and push your hips away from the machine so that your knees are not in the way of the rowing motion.
  • Once you have pushed yourself back, position your torso in a vertical position so your spine is neutral and your chest is high.
  • Once you are setup keep your torso still and your core tight, drive your elbows in a straight line towards the wall behind you, your chest should stay high throughout the movement. When the handle is as far into your chest as it can go retract your scapula as hard as you can.
  • Slowly release the handle away from your body until your arms are in a lengthened position before rowing again. Your torso should not swing back or forward throughout the entire movement.

Bent Over Row: 

Barbell rows are a great exercise for all round upper back development and strength. You can use two styles of grip for this exercise, either pronated (hands over the top of the bar) or a supinated grip (hands underneath the bar).

  • Ideally you can get the bar from hip height to get to your start position, however if the bar is on the floor then use the deadlift technique to bring the bar up safely.
  • Stand yourself up straight, feet should be around hip width apart with a slight bend in your knees. Your hand position on the bar should be around shoulder width.
  • While keeping your chest elevated and your core tight, push your hips away from you so that your torso comes over to around a 45-degree angle. Your back should stay completely neutral.
  • While keeping the torso completely still, drive the elbows towards as far back as you can, bringing the bar towards your lower chest / upper abdominals.
  • Once the elbows are as high as they can go, squeeze your scapula inwards for a second to engage your upper back.
  • Keeping the torso locked in and still, let the arms extend allowing the bar to go back to the starting position, during the entire exercise there should be minimal movement from the hips and knees, and the torso should stay locked in and neutral at all times.

Single Arm Dumbbell Row

The single arm row is a great back exercise as it allows you to really focus on one side at a time and also allows you to visualise any imbalances you may have in your upper back. Your lats, rhomboids and traps are the target area for this exercise. For this example, were going to have the dumbbell on our right side to make it easier to explain.

  • To start find yourself a flat bench and place the dumbbell on the right side of that bench.
  • Place your left knee towards to back of the bench and your left hand towards to back of the bench. Now your back should be parallel with the ground.
  • With your right-hand reach down and pick the dumbbell up and bring yourself back into the parallel position.
  • Keeping your core tight and your spine neutral drive the dumbbell towards your hip, your elbow should be pointed towards the ceiling. Your back should stay flat and should not twist upwards.
  • Keeping your torso still lower the arm back down to the starting position. Repeat for X amount of reps on one side, before then repeating on the other side.

We will be adding in some more variations of the row over the next coming weeks 🙂

Reece Halsey

Impact Personal Trainer