Simple Trick To Master Your Rows And Shoulder Function

Simple Trick To Master Your Rows, Shoulder Function, And Posture

Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.

I’ve recently been highlighting various rows with horizontal band resistance to enhance back activation as well as improve rowing mechanics.  All of those involved band resistance applied to the front of the body attempting to elevate the shoulders and flex them forward (read more here).  This helps promote scapular depression and lat activation.

However two other common rowing problems I periodically encounter with individuals is lack of rear delt activation and lack of external rotation in the contracted position.  As a result they don’t achieve optimal retraction and the shoulders tend to move into internal rotation even though the lats are firing somewhat (although not optimally).  For instance many individuals tend to row with a crowded shoulder joint and may tuck the elbows but forget to retract and externally rotate as they move into shoulder extension (the contracted position of the row).  In essence the movement looks overly-linear and involves little or not “wrap-around” effect simply because the rear delts, rhomboids, and shoulder retractors aren’t firing correctly. 

However, using horizontal band resistance by angling your body 90 degrees from the anchor point of the band attachment helps eliminate these issues.  That’s because the band is now providing adduction forces attempting to pull your arm into internal rotation (i.e. feeding dysfunction) and trying to move your arm across your body. As a result the lifter must resist these forces by producing the “wrap-around “effect, externally rotating their shoulders, and retracting in the contracted position.  Ironically, it also promotes optimal elbow tuck since the band resistance makes it nearly impossible to excessively flare the elbows and destabilize the shoulder joint.   Another way to think of this variation is that it’s an anti-adduction row that targets the back in a similar fashion as the anti-abduction press targets the chest (read more about the Anti-Abduction or Anti-Fly Press Here). 

This technique (similar to the other horizontal band resisted rowing variations) also does wonders for correcting over-rowing or using excessive range of motion when performing horizontal pulling movements.   In fact these variations promote optimal range of motion as it feels very unnatural if not impossible to move the humerus (elbow and tricep) past the plane of the torso.

Training recommendations and protocols

Although dumbbells can be employed on these, kettlebells tend to feel much more natural.  I recommend performing several sets of 6-10 reps with light to moderate loads while simultaneously focusing on creating a strong muscle mind connection throughout your entire upper back.  In addition this movement is very conducive for super-setting with anti-abduction band-resisted floor presses as both movements tends to help each other through antagonist and reciprocal muscle pairing.