In the past weeks, we’ve taken a look at two types of lower body exercises, hinges and squats. Let’s change things up and take a look at some upper body exercises. Upper body exercises can be categorized by pushing and pulling. In pulling exercises, we can do horizontal pulls, such as rows, and vertical pulls, such as pull-ups and lat pulldowns. They can be done with two arms, one arm, dumbbells, cables, bands, your body weight, TRX, etc. So for our purposes today, we’re talking about rows!
Rows help strengthen the muscles of the upper and mid back, the back side of the shoulder, and the muscles that flex the elbow. They are really important to help improve posture and provide balance in strength on both sides of the shoulder. Having strong, balanced shoulders will help keep them happy and healthy (and help your shoulder stay in its socket when your Lab/Rottweiler mix darts after a squirrel on a hike 😂).
So first, let’s take a look at how shoulders move during a row. The shoulder blades move from front to back (protraction to retraction) along the ribcage. As you pull your arm back, you shoulder blade moves back. As your arm moves forward, your shoulder blade move with it. Having healthy shoulders starts with how your shoulder blade (scapula) is positioned.
Now let’s take a look at the most common mistakes I see.
Shrugging your shoulder as you pull. I see this more often with people that have a rounded posture and their upper traps tend to takeover on a lot of shoulder movements.
Packing the shoulder blade back before even moving the arm. The shoulder blade should move freely with the movement, don’t pin it back and then pull. It’s a simultaneous movement of the shoulder blade and arm together.
Pulling the elbow too far back. If you pull your elbow so far back, eventually your shoulder blade has to tilt forward and elevate. Do this enough times and you may develop some discomfort on the top/front of your shoulder. When you do a row with correct form, the elbow should just be past the plane of your back.
Lurching your neck forward. This tends to happen with people that might have weaker neck muscles and/or a forward head posture. Often this can be corrected with just telling my clients.
So there you have it, those are some of the most common things I see when teaching someone how to do rows. I hope these visuals help with perfecting your form! In closing, here is a row done with correct form: