Crush Your Back and Glutes with This Unique Row

Crush Your Back, Glutes, and Hamstrings with This Unique Row

Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.


Here’s one of my awesome clients Leslie Petch performing a brutally intense single leg row on the glute ham raise station.

Performing rows on a back extension or glute ham raise station are extremely effective for crushing the entire posterior chain from head to toe.  Besides promoting incredible growth and strength gains particularly in the mid and upper back musculature, it does wonders for improving form, posture, and spinal alignment.  Because the lifter is forced to resist significant spinal flexion forces throughout, this helps to promote optimal extension throughout the t-spine which helps retract and depress the shoulders.

In addition it’s nearly impossible to use excessive range of motion on the pulling mechanics as the steep and rigid angle keeps the elbows from drifting too high at the top thereby avoiding faulty shoulder mechanics.  Over-rowing is something I’ve discussed in several articles, but it’s worth re-capping. 

Using excessive range of motion by allowing the humerus, triceps, and elbows to drift significantly past the plane of the torso, not only takes tension off the lats and upper back, but it drives the shoulder into internal rotation.  Besides minimizing the strength and hypertrophy stimulus it can lead to shoulder issues and other dysfunctional patterns which happen to be the very things rows are designed to address.  Even if you have the ability to avoid internal rotation while using excessive range of motion, going significantly farther than the range of motion previously described can disrupt natural scapulohumeral rhythm and ideal packing of the shoulder joint, thereby leading to destabilization of the shoulders as well as aberrant postural alignment.

Like any other movement, to reap the benefits of rows, they have to be done with very precise and correct execution (such as those previously described). Anything may produce some benefits yet there will also be a host of detrimental and accompanying sides effects.  Proper mechanics eliminates the side effects while fully capitalizing on the benefits.  An approximate 90-degree bend at the elbow joint with the triceps in line with the torso as shown in the video is ideal.  Fortunately performing rows on the glute ham raise station with a pause in the fully contracted position helps to ingrain these proper mechanics as it’s nearly impossible to do anything but proper form. 

If you want to make the movement even more taxing, you can perform these with a single leg as my client demonstrates.  This pulverizes the glutes and hamstrings while simultaneously providing a level of rotatory instability to the movement.   As a result the lifter is forced to stabilize their body aggressively by firing just about every muscle in the body from head to toe including their core.  The use of excessive momentum, shifting, cheating, or loss of spinal rigidity will make it feel almost impossible to maintain your position.

Because of the level of intensity and full body tension I recommend 3 sets of 6-10 total reps or 3-5 repetitions per leg.  Super-setting these with horizontal pressing movements such as dumbbell presses, barbell presses, or weighted pushups can also do wonders for reinforcing proper pressing mechanics and technique on the chest movements.