The Row

This week’s training topic is about a pulling motion called the row. This movement can take many different forms such as a seated row, bent-over row, or even an inverted row, but the idea is still the same. The row can encompass movements of pulling objects toward you from a level height, picking up objects from the floor, as well as pulling yourself off the floor or to an elevated height. During the beginning of our lives we used the muscles involved in the row exercise quite often just to get around by crawling. As we have aged, manipulating objects by picking them up and pulling them closer to us with our evolved human hands (thumbs included) has become even more important in our every day lives.

Since there are many different forms of the row and ways we pull objects in our daily lives we will focus on the seated row for simplicity’s sake. The muscles involved in the seated row include the trapezius, latissimus dorsi, biceps, and deltoids. The triceps help stabilize the arms, and the erector spinae and abdominal muscles stabilize the core to keep a nice straight back throughout the entire pulling motion. The muscles of the row are used all the time whenever you pick up/grab an object and bring it closer to you like eating a sandwich, drinking from a cup, or opening a door. Using proper form during your daily pulling motions becomes even more important when the load being picked up increases, such as picking up a heavy box from a desk. Always practice good form to save your back from injury when picking up objects.

The seated row can be performed using many different modalities, but for the purposes of this post we will use the cable machine seated row as our base pulling movement. Keep in mind that for most pulling motions you will need some form of equipment to complete the exercise, and this is the first exercise I have talked about that involves equipment. I normally prefer base movements that do not require equipment, but in this case the body weight pulling movements (inverted row and chin-ups) are the more difficult exercises.

Proper form of the row (seated cable machine):

  • To perform this movement you will start off using a v-bar attached to the cable machine. This bar is preferred, although you can use any other similar bar that allows you to have a neutral grip. To eventually make this exercise more difficult you can progress by changing up your grip on a different bar.
  • When seated, place your feet on the platform in front of you and grasp the v-bar firmly with both hands.
  • Sit up nice and tall with your back nice and straight, and your head and neck in neutral alignment looking forward. Keep your core tight by squeezing your abdominal muscles.
  • Start with your arms out in front of you and with a slight bend in your elbows.
  • Now you are ready to begin the pulling motion by keeping your core tight and bringing the v-bar to your bellybutton. Keep your back nice and upright (do not lean back), and think about squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  • Hold the end position for a second, and imagine squeezing those shoulder blades tight together like you are holding a pencil between them.
  • On the return motion make sure that you are going nice and slow and finish with a slight bend in your elbows before starting your next repetition. Going slow on the return motion will make sure you are not letting the weight stack crash down, and this will help you build more strength in the long run.
Modification: Resistance band or exercise tubing (of varying resistance) seated rows.
Progressions: Bent-over dumbbell rows, bent-over barbell rows, suspension trainer standing rows, suspension trainer inverted rows, bar inverted rows, and assisted chin-ups.
*Note the above exercises will be explained in later posts. Progressions should only be performed once the standard seated row has been mastered with proper form.
All of the equipment listed in the above exercises can be found on our Fitness Equipment list on Amazon if you want to make your home gym awesome! For other fitness related products go to our Product Recommendations page.
Ways to incorporate the row into your daily life:
  • When sitting in a wheeled desk chair away from your desk try lifting your feet, grabbing the edge of the desk with your hands, and pulling yourself towards the desk just using your arms. Try doing multiple repetitions during the work day while you are listening in on a “very important” conference call.
  • Mimic a single arm row by playing tug-of-war with your puppy. If your little fur ball is also a ball of energy then this could actually give you quite the workout so switch arms when one becomes tired.
  • While sitting up straight in a chair grab a couple books or filled binders in each hand (or anything with some weight to it), lift them, and pull towards the height of you lower rib cage.
  • Pull open the car door for your significant other and you will get extra relationship points while also working your back muscles!
  • Pick-up your baby (son, daughter, niece, nephew, puppy, etc.), bend-over at the waist and pull them towards your belly then slowly lower. Keep going until your arms get tired, but stop if they look like they are going to get sick!
  • Pull in friends and family for a hug and squeeze them tight because we all need more hugs in our lives!
Get to pulling every day and you’ll notice strength gains in your back and arms, along with the added benefit of better posture. With better posture usually comes greater self-confidence, which can lead to your increased happiness. We at Happily Ever Healthy believe that confidence is beautiful, and happiness is irresistible!
Now that we have hit the 3 major movements of squatting, pushing, and pulling we can get into some of the more technical movements on this journey to a fitter you.
Keep checking in for more training topics to become Happily Ever Healthy!
– Jeff


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