The Dumbbell Row is one of the best exercises for building your back. Like most popular exercises, people love to jack them up real hard. In this week’s Just the Tip, I am going to talk about some of the ins and outs of getting your dumbbell row game tight.
First, I suppose that we should talk about what are the pre-requisite abilities required before you can perform the DB Row.
1- Whether you do the DB Row supported on a bench or bent over with no support, you must have the ability to hinge at the hip and maintain a neutral spine.
2- You must have the ability to retract the scapula without excessively arching the back.
If you are lacking in the hip hinge area, then you should be learning your breathing and crawling drills.
If you have a hard time retracting your scapula (which is more common than you would think) then you want to get down into the quadruped and start working on pushing the floor away, and then retracting the scap without arching your back and letting your ribs flare.
Assuming that you have the basics down, you are ready for the Stage 1 DB Row.
The Stage 1 DB Row is great for the beginner client. Especially for the beginner client I prefer the supported version. I always cue from the foot first. The foot and the down leg are an often overlooked part of the row, but that sucks. So, don’t overlook it. the toes can be slightly out and the knee bent, but I want the athlete to maintain their three points of contact with that foot throughout the movement. The knee, in many people, can have the tendency to cave in as the athlete pulls. This is another area to watch. I want to see the hips parallel with the bench and a neutral spine. Depending on how new the client is, I may have them take a couple of breaths when they get into position and work on some exhales to get the hips in the correct position.
For the row itself, in the beginner I want to see them have the ability to control the scapula and move in a slow and controlled manner. I want them to let the scapula protract slightly, pause at the bottom to show control then pull the DB back up. I don’t want to see internal rotation at the bottom of the row, or at the top. If you see the should tip forward at the athlete lifts the DB that is a mistake. Lastly, I will cue the back of the neck long and to keep the gaze on the floor.
Like anything else, only move in the range of motion that you can perform properly.
The Stage 2 DB row is for the athlete that has the basics down and is just trying to get jacked. This is the stage that I see most people in, but it looks as if they have skipped stage one. Especially since I got a membership at the Louisville Athletic Club (the first commercial gym I have been inside since before the Marine Corps like 10 years ago).
The stage 2 DB Row could be categorized as a DB Row with Thoracic Rotation. When done properly, there is a ton of great stuff going on with this movement. When done incorrectly, it looks like you are training for the lawn mower starting championships.
The rules for the down leg and foot are the same, however with the added velocity of this movement, special attention must be paid to ensure that you aren’t allowing that knee to dive in. If you are getting real nasty and just really getting after it, the heel coming up is not a big problem. As we work our way up, we look at the hip. I assume that if we have progress to this variation of row that maintaining a neutral spine isn’t a huge issue. However, the major point that we want to watch for is that we are allowing rotation in the thoracic spine and not the lumbar spine. When you are doing these rows correctly, you should feel a good oblique workout as well. Lower the weight, allow the scapula to protract, rotate through the thoracic spine toward the floor. Then aggressively pull the weight upward. I still don’t want the should to tilt forward as I come up. As I finish this movement I want to try to pull the DB all the way to my chest and rotate through my thoracic spine toward the ceiling.
and that’s JUST THE TIP
Questions from the Darkside Facebook
Q –Pat Roode How important is core stability in the row? Is it static or is there no issue with torso rotation on the pull phase as long as the scap is stable? Pretty much, should we quit being pussies and throw around some heavy db’s? Or check the ego and hit some solid pulls?
A- I think that I covered this in the video, but I think that it is important to demonstrate the ability to control and resist rotation. Once you have demonstrated the ability to control it, then I think that there is value in allowing some… in the right place. I love to throw around heavy ass DB’s. Especially when I am at the globo and there are big ass dudes doing weak ass rows.
Q- TC Brenden Ben Pakulski teaches to keep the vast majority of your weight balanced between your support hand and your foot on the ground, keeping the bent “support” knee behind the hip, and not really bearing load.
He says this puts more tension on the back musculature, making it a more optimal way to perform them. Any thoughts/modifications?
A- Honestly, I had not considered it until you wrote this. But once I started to feel it out, I agree that is what I tend to do. I don’t think it is something that I am consciously trying to do.
Q- Marco Sterpa some people say keep the elbow near your torso, but i never really liked that tip, i usually prefer the elbows to go where they “feel” to go, listening to my body, the same goes for skull crushers and barbell curls. But i’d like to know a more indepth reasoning for wether my idea is correct or not, thanks!
A- I want the elbow to come back at about 45 degrees, which is about where I would want it while I am benching. I also aim to have the center of the DB at the bottom of my sternum (if there was a line across, obviously the DB is at my side). I think that if you start trying to tuck your elbow in too tight it will be harder to keep from tilting your shoulder forward at the top.