Monday, October 01, 2007

The Right Way To Do Rows

Next to a properly sloppy BJ with coordinated hand action, one of the hardest things to find in life, is someone who knows how to do rows properly. We all remember watching Arnold do seated cable rows back in '77 during that scene in Pumping Iron and thinking "Oh my God! He's gonna break his spine with form like that!" Actually, half of us probably had that reaction. Those that watched in horror as Arnold rounded his spine were the "smart and educated" lifters. I know this because I was one. We were taught by several gurus about how dangerous this type of thing was so we just laughed as the greatest bodybuilder of all time ignorantly did his rows. "Imagine if Arnold really knew how to train," we all thought.

Boy was the joke on us.

Believe it or not, Arnold actually knew what he was doing and was doing rows properly. To get a muscle to grow you have to first stretch it under tension and then forcefully contract it immediately following. The stretching is critically important. So let me ask you this...

Where does the stretching come in when you do rows the way most people teach them?

It doesn't.

You have to let your scapula spread as far as possible. This can only be done by letting your back round. If you want to make rows a lat exercise you actually need to lean forward and allow your arms to stretch upwards toward your head like Arnold did in Pumping Iron.

Of course there is some inherent danger in rounding your back with heavy weights and you need to be aware of this. While you do want to round your upper back and get a full stretch, you also want to be sure that you keep an arch in your lower back. Because the seated cable row allows you to lean all the way forward and spread the scapula and stretch the lats fully, while then finishing with a strong contraction, it is actually one of the best rowing exercises there is. Most people just do this exercise all wrong and that's why they don't get much out of it.

Typical form on a seated cable row begins with the lifter sitting straight up, or worse yet- leaning back. They let their arms straighten and then row the weight back in. It's basically a bicep exercise that may or may not also strengthen the scap retractors but essentially it sucks. To really get your back to grow, you must do like Arnold.

Doing this on a bent over barbell row is much harder and more dangerous to do. You can round your upper back but you can't stretch forward on a barbell row. That is the advantage of doing a one arm dumbbell row. Also, you have to be very conscious to keep your lower back arched on any type of bent over row.

The Hammer Strength Iso Lateral Row Machine is actually pretty good as far as machines go because it allows you to really stretch forward and spread the scapula under tension.

Start stretching and start growing.

Yet again, we see another example of what has always been the case over the last 20 years; we knew everything we needed to know back in the 70's... then just got "smart" and unlearned it all.



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