Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Row for Press

Arnold & Franco know a
thing or two about presses.

One exercise cue given for horizontal pressing exercises, namely the push-up and bench press, is to pull during the eccentric portion. The purpose is to have the individual retract the scapulae [shoulder blades] and contract the back muscles. Muscles work through the processes of contraction and relaxation. In the bench press, the pecs will relax and stretch out as the bar is lowered while the traps and lats contract.

The problem is the cue becomes useless if a person doesn't understand how to use their muscles and isn't aware of what the action itself feels like. Essentially, the cue is the basis of another exercise within the horizontal press itself.

It's the basis of the barbell row. An exercise that I believe is underrated. Most individuals opt for pull-up variations or inverted rows. Both are great and have their uses, but this leads to the BB row being neglected. Not only that, but the former two are easier to perform with less chance of being incorrectly performed.

However, the BB row performed correctly recruits the entire back. Take a look at the exercise:

Keep the chin tucked in.

45 lb. plates should be on each side, however if that's too heavy and there are no bumper plates then the exercise can be performed in a squat rack with the safeties on the lowest level.

The grip used can be under- or overhand with the bar pulled either to the lower abdomen (think lower ribs) or to the clavicle (above the windpipe). The execution is as follows,
  • Shoulder blades spread apart at the start [bottom], the torso kept tight and rigid from the mid-back to the base of the skull, and the bar is held near the fingers - NOT high up on the palms by the wrists.
  • Keeping the wrists straight and arms close to your sides, initiate the pull by bring your scapulae together then pulling through the forearms until the bar touches your body. Another way to imagine it is "scrunching" up your entire back together.
  • Reverse the movement by lowering the bar ending with it on the ground and your scapulae spread again. The descent doesn't have to be slow, but should be controlled and not dropped.
It's a simple movement, but gets butchered for two reasons.
(1) Maintaining a strict bent-over pose isn't easy. The arched back and tightened hamstrings is difficult and taxing on the body. Notice in the video how the torso hardly moves.

(2) It's common to see people compensate with momentum to use more weight or because of the inability to keep the necessary posture. (But some just don't know better.)
Initially it takes practice since the bent-over position is new and uncomfortable. To become familiar with the exercise practice using light weight. When you're confident you can do more, work in a 1-4 rep range of moderate to heavy weight. After heavy training, you'll notice a stronger scapular retraction.

Incorporation of barbell rows will lead to better pulling in pressing exercises and create a strong scapular retraction perfect for moving heavy weights.

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