“When in Doubt, Row it Out”

It has been 23 years since I first stepped foot into a gym. From what I can remember, it was pretty small, not very well equipped, and without a single dumbbell, barbell, or leg machine in sight!

If I’m honest, I was one of those guys that never really trained my legs (and trust me, I should have been), and like the majority of guys that train in the mainstream gyms, the focus was on what’s known as the “MIRROR MUSCLES” (chest & arms, mainly).

I still see it today, so many men focus on pushing, bench press after bench press, shoulder press after shoulder press, pec flys……..you get the picture.

So what happens to the neglected muscles at the back? They get stretched, they get weak, they get injured (particularly when you do start to train them). Not only that, you end up walking around with a posture that looks like you have a coat hanger stuck up your shirt, ready for you to be hung away in the wardrobe.

The back needs just as much attention as the front, more importantly, a strong back will really help you when you are trying to push a heavy barbell from your chest.

Like most exercises, correct form, and technique are essential! However, most people get it all wrong from the setup. Watch the video first, and then we can get into the crux of it all.

Depending on your body position will determine how you correctly setup before you actually move the weight. For this particular variation of a row, here’s my suggestion:

  • glutes tight (stops over extension in the lower back)
  • core braced at all times
  • straight line from your feet up to your head
  • keep the chin tucked and still

Now the set up is done, we can think about moving the weight, all the while keeping these things in mind:

  • start with shoulders protracted, lats stretched, but with tension in them
  • initiate the movement with the working muscle/s
  • retract the shoulders first before bending at the elbow
  • think about driving your elbows behind you
  • finish with elbows at around a 90 degree angle
  • don’t row too far back as this can dump the shoulders forward into internal rotation

As many of the top body builders, and strength coaches teach (Ben Pakulski is the man), it’s not about just moving the weight back and forth, it’s about your ability to contract a muscle.

Guess what? If you can’t feel the muscle working, or contracting, what do you think is happening? Probably not very much. So many trainees try lifting way too much weight! This is not only setting you up for very little in the “GAINZ” department, it’s teaching you poor motor control, and is leading you down the road to injury.

Longevity is the key to your training success. Don’t be that guy (or gal) that’s trying to throw around more weight than their body can handle.

Trial and error has taught me many things over the last 23 years, and the one thing I know about training a muscle to grow, is the ability to contract that muscle, and when you see someone training correctly in the gym, it will look like they have full control of the weight whilst everything else stays still.

Spend plenty of TUT (time under tension) with your hypertrophy training, make sure you have control at all times, and don’t be a fanny! You need to get out of your comfort zone if you want to make changes. Have a plan, and stick to it!

keep training hard, keep moving well, and let’s stay fit & healthy for a very long time to come!!


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