Rows are touted as the best exercise for EVERYONE’s posture. In fact, for years in the fitness industry, recommendations from the experts stated you should pull 2x as much as you push (think 2 reps of rows for every 1 rep of bench pressing).
Recently, at the PPSC course I attended, their research took it up a notch, they have research stating from a performance and resistance to injury standpoint, you need to do 3x as many pulling movements as pushing.
So rows are a big deal. Or are they?
I don’t disagree with any of the recommendations provided by the best in our industry over the last 5 years. I have used their recommendations and seen the results with clients firsthand. But, more important than anything, I have SEEN them firsthand because I coached them through it.
Rowing variations, like any exercise that doubles as a skill, are all too often done improperly. It is a “feel” movement because the shoulder blades moving forward (protraction) and backward (retraction) is foreign to many people. Additionally, unlike doing bicep curls in front of the mirror, you can’t easily see if you are doing them right. Therefore, practicing these without proper coaching or understanding of what needs to be felt WILL not provide the stated benefits.
What we need is an exercise that will provide the “feel” of the correct muscles working, pre-fatigue them and set an athlete up for success when they get to their rowing exercises for the day, whether they are being coached or not.
Put simply we need to get your sexy back back 🙂
Insert the Dumbbell Bent Reverse Fly
The key here is simple: we need to feel the muscle right behind the armpit, teres major and minor.
Their fibers run in the same direction as the big latissimus dorsi muscle fibers and help to retract the shoulder blade with slight depression (towards the spine and away from the neck) versus creating a shrugging action (elevation) towards the neck.
Recruiting these smaller muscles will help the athlete engage the lats during the big rowing movements of the day, as well as fire more effectively during isometric holding exercises like the deadlift and RDLs.
To make sure we have proper recruitment of the right area, the programming is simple:
- Use this exercise in your movement preparation phase of the warm up.
- Try different grip positions (thumbs up, thumbs down, palms down) until you feel the teres turning on for you.
- Do that variation until you feel the movement change (start shrugging, lifting the torso or aggressively straining the neck), rest 15 sec and repeat that sequence 1-2 more times.
- When the teres are almost in perma-cramp, you have done your job.
- Continue with your warm up
- Feel your back work like never before when you get to your rows!
I expect some amazing looking backs in 3 months!