• Brian LeRiche

Learn How to Row!

A rowing movement can be beneficial to successfully develop a strong upper body posterior chain. Unlike other exercises that I have written about, people tend to actually perform rows and not neglect this movement. However, the rows that you may see in your commercial gym usually come with poor technique, improper muscle compensation, and an overall disconnect between the arm/thorax/scapula. In this article we will look at how to properly execute a rowing movement from proper initiation, correct muscle facilitation, and appropriate ending position.

1. Protract to Retract: When initially teaching this movement, it is imperative for the client to mechanically understand the movement of protraction. This motion must take the arm, scapula, and thorax into consideration for overall proper biomechanics. Start by placing one hand at the client’s wrist and the other on the scapula to allow you to passively move them into scapular protraction. At first glance, this will typically be demonstrated as an awkward/choppy movement with a general theme of weakness, restriction, and lack of neuromuscular control.

Once the desired motion is achieved, they can then work on their retraction. If they begin from a more protracted position, it will be easier to understand the motion required for retraction. Special attention should be placed on feeling the correct muscles, understanding what the arm is doing relative to the scapula, and where the motion stops. Additionally, you can check their form by applying resistance at their wrist as they protracted. The typical compensation presents as elbow flexion, when in reality the elbow needs to stay straight.

Why is this movement so important? Well, the brain needs to understand the difference between scapular protraction/retraction vs faulty shoulder movements to perform a row correctly.

Why does the scapula need to retract? Well, a row is aimed at improving the muscles that retract the scapula. For simplicity, we will refer to this area as the "mid-back." Beginning with the proper muscle activation, mid back retractors, will allow you to properly complete the movement to strengthen the mid back and decrease the chance of shoulder pain.

2. Retract, Flex, and Abduct!: Once you have learned the proper movement of scapular retraction, it's time to look at the remainder of the exercise. Once you initiate scapular retraction, you will then begin to bend the elbow and shoulder to further promote retraction. This confirmation of retraction will allow the humeral head to remain nicely in the socket to decrease the chance of impingement. In addition, the arm shouldn't be "sucked onto your side." The coach should be able to put their arm between the client’s ribs and arm without making contact.

THE TRICK! When the scapula stops, you're at end range....STOP!

When the scapula stops moving, but you keep moving your arm, the stress is now moving to your humeral head as it moves forward in the socket! Simply stated, this leads to unnecessary wear, tear, poor movement patterns, and pain in an extremely vulnerable shoulder position! Learn to keep the right moving parts in the correct order to promote a healthy & stronger upper back!

Still confused? Check out the video below!

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