Annihilate Your Core and Back with This Renegade Row

Annihilate Your Core and Back with This Overcoming Isometric Renegade Row

Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.


If you’re looking for an exercise that devastates the entire core, back, biceps, forearms, rear delts, and grip, look no further than this brutal renegade row variation.  Essentially you’re combining several of my favorite variations into one exercise namely, barbell suitcase movements, renegade rows, single arm planks, and last but not least an insanely intense overcoming isometric contraction. 

In fact, you can think of this as a variation to increase post-activation potentiation not only in your upper back and lats but throughout your entire core.  Several months ago I showcased the eccentric isometric variation of this however the overcoming isometric protocol is a whole different animal with the potential to be significantly more taxing.  Here's the eccentric isometric variation in case you missed it.

On a side note big shoutout to Dean Somerset who discussed the standard renegade plank row several years ago with Tony Gentilcore.  If you don’t follow these two gents your missing out as they provide incredibly effective information on a consistent basis. 

Generally speaking, renegade plank rows are one of the most effective core exercises you can perform as the degree of core strength, rotary stability, anti-rotation, full body tension, and motor control in the lumbo-pelvic hip complex is off the charts.  Here's what that standard variation looks like in case you were wondering.

Throw in the overcoming isometric as shown with the first variation and this raises the bar several notches (literally and figuratively of course, no pun intended).  As you pull harder and harder against the immovable benches not only does this increase motor unit recruitment throughout the entire back but your core must activate more and more intensity to resist rotation and stay square to the floor.   Just be careful you don’t rupture a brain aneurysm.

With this specific combination you're actually using a relatively light/moderate load of around 40- 60% of your 1RM.   For most individuals the empty bar will provide more than enough tension not only in the top position but just enough tension in the bottom eccentric/stretched position to pre stretch the lats and activate the muscle spindles.  This helps the lifter fine-tune their mechanics through enhanced proprioceptive feedback.

Ultimately the goal with this movement or any other overcoming isometric is to pull against the immovable setting (in this case the two benches) with maximal effort to induce a post activation potentiation effect.  As you pull you should feel the muscles around the entire core and upper back activate to a greater and greater extent each passing second until it finally peaks at 3-5 seconds. At that point perform the eccentric portion of the row to activate muscles spindles/intrafusal muscle fibers and pre-stretch the working muscles, which has been demonstrated via research to decrease the onset of fatigue and improve kinesthetic awareness/proprioception.  As a result the lifter is able to maintain higher quality of movement and higher power output on subsequent reps without deterioration of form or excessive fatigue being the limiting factor. 

This unilateral overcoming isometric barbell suitcase technique can be employed on a number of different exercises to induce post activation potentiation throughout various muscle groups.  In fact, this technique can be employed on squats, deadlifts, chest press, javelin presses, lunges, incline presses, and more.  However, they should be incorporated sparingly due to the extreme strain these place on muscles, connective tissue, and the nervous system. 

Several sets of 3-5 reps (per side) should more than suffice to crush your back and lats.  In addition super-setting these with single arm chest presses including dumbbell, kettlebell, or bottoms up variations, is very effective as the potentiation from your back will transfer to greater power and motor control in your chest presses.

Oh and don’t be surprised if your heart rate spikes off the charts with this as the combination of full body tension and lack of oxygen throughout the set makes this an incredibly effective conditioning and cardio tool.

On a side note, if you're looking for a regression of this variation, try performing them with only your forearms on a bench.  


Just in case the previous versions were a tad too easy for you, here's a nice upgrade.  Performing the renegade plank row with a stability ball not only minimizes the risk you being kicked out of your gym for monopolizing two benches but this variation is actually exponentially more intense than any of the others previously mentioned.  

In fact this is one of the most difficult core stabilization exercises you'll ever perform (if you can actually perform it to begin with).  Don't be surprised if you feel every muscle from your feet to your head. And of course leave it to my amazing client and NPC figure competitor Leslie Petch to make it look silky smooth and effortless.