From Tony Gentilcore
Mike Boyle was once quoted as saying:
“Most trainees can never really do enough (horizontal) rowing.”
I tend to agree.
It’s no secret most guys (and girls) are mirror-centric, often training the muscles most easily viewed when staring into a mirror – pectorals, shoulders, biceps, abdominals, and the tranzipidous1
It’s also no secret most guys (not so much girls) often skip leg day.
Whenever I audit a program it’s amazing to me the ratio of pushing exercises compared to pulling. I saw one program recently that, when broken down into it’s parts, looked like this:
- Push (benching variations): 45 total sets
- Pull: 7 total sets. And none of them were horizontal in nature. All were the obligatory handful of sets of lat pulldowns – more glenohumeral internal rotation – tossed in for good measure.
And this person was wondering why their shoulder was bothering them. Weird.
Horizontal rowing variations (think: inverted rows, seated rows, chest supported rows, 1-arm row variations) do a superb job at targeting the upper back – specifically scapular retraction – which often helps to offset or counteract the muscular imbalances and injuries seen with too much pressing.
Moreover, horizontal rowing offers many aesthetic advantages and I’m pretty sure it’s a well known scientific fact it also cures gonorrhea2. And a bad hair day.
For all the accolades and hoopla, horizontal rowing does have a dark side and is not immune from scrutiny or interrogation from the technique police.
As I covered in THIS article a few months ago, I do feel there’s a common flaw in how many people perform their row variations.
More people are rowing: Yay!
More people are rowing incorrectly…..
So today I wanted to share a variation I’ve been using with many of my own athletes/clients which helps to address the technique flaw discussed in the link above (<— seriously, you should read it).
The Hinge Row
Who Did I Steal It From: This exercise is nothing new (and it is one I’ve used sporadically in the past), but it wasn’t until I watched a video from Jordan Syatt where I had a better appreciation for it’s value.
What Does It Do: The fatal flaw many people make with their rows is that they keep their scapulae (shoulder blades) “glued” together the entire time. They’ll perform their first repetition by squeezing their shoulder blade(s) together (retraction/adduction) – which is correct – but then keep them there throughout the duration of the set.
You need to let those bad boys move.
By not letting them move – think: shoulder blade should move around the rib cage – the bulk of the motion comes form the glenohumeral joint alone (often leading to anterior humeral translation, and hence instability) in addition to leading to rhomboid dominance and the risk of scapular downward rotation syndrome.
A sort of “reverse posturing” if you will.
As a result the shoulder blades can’t effectively upwardly rotate, which exposes the shoulder to a whole host of other issues and makes performing activities overhead difficult.
And makes this kitten sad.
The hinge row allows for more scapular movement – particularly upward rotation.
Key Coaching Cues: You’ll set up as you would for a normal suspension trainer (TRX, Jungle Gym, rings) row with the body in a straight line. Maintaining a straight/rigid torso you’ll pull the shoulder blades together keeping chest up. On the way down, however, instead of maintaining the rigid torso you’ll allow a “hinge” at the hips when your arms are fully extended and lower them to the ground. Basically, you should feel a subtle stretch at in the bottom position.
This allows the scapulae to upwardly rotate, which is money.
Of Note: This can also be performed if you don’t have access to a suspension system, like so:
If you notice, I have a pad on the bar to serve as a target for my chest and to prevent myself from going too far into glenohumeral extension.
I like this variation, but I prefer the former because it doesn’t lock me into a pronated (overhand) grip which then locks me into internal rotation.
The suspension system allows for a little more wiggle room with regards to external rotation of the shoulder.
Of Note (again): you can easily make this exercise more challenging by 1) elevating the feet onto a platform (box, bench) or by 2) adding an external load with either a weight vest or by placing chains across the hips.
Don’t be too quick to jump to the progressions. This exercise is every bit about the QUALITY of movement as it is about anything else. And if I catch wind of anyone adding a “kip” to this, I’ll punch you in the face.
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