I am a firm believer that there is usually no single ‘right’ way to do things in the world of fitness. As I showed in a recent post, there are definitely some things that just aren’t worth the risk, however, usually there is some grey area.
I want to tackle the one arm back row.
It is a staple exercise in gyms everywhere and I really feel like it is not done right!
Here is a clip going over everything! If you prefer text then keep reading!
Typically, the one arm back row is held to very strict form. You will hear trainers and fitness pros everywhere tell people to stop twisting their back and to keep their body still while they row.
This is crazy talk. I think this exercise is totally butchered.
Why the hell would you keep your body still and not moving? Do people even understand how physiology works? This is basic muscle science 101.
Muscles work by lengthening and shortening. When they do this they move bones via attachments of tendons and ligaments. Basic as it gets. The key point here is that muscles work by lengthening and shortening. They have to MOVE to do what they are supposed to do.
When we hold a muscle under tension without moving it is called isolation training. Essentially this is simply flexing the muscle. And there can be a time and place for this. The one arm back row is not a time or place.
The goal of the exercise is to strengthen and work the back muscles. Lats, rhomboids, and a little trapezius all work in conjunction with serratus and other secondary movers to accomplish this task. In order to work a muscle it has to move.
When we do a one arm back row and do not allow the body to twist and move we take away the ability of the back muscles to work. They instead hold an isometric contraction. This can be ok in certain times and places, however, it isn’t right for the vast majority of people.
If the body stays still and just the arm moves this is a bicep exercise with very limited back work. If you want to work your biceps go for it, if the goal is to train your back, then you need to add some rotation and let those big back muscles do what they are built for!
I am also a huge advocate for full body exercises. The human body was built to work as a functional unit and not in little bits and pieces. Isolating the arm during a row seems crazy to me. In real life when you pick up groceries, your kids, or a case of beer you twist, rotate, stretch, and use multiple groups of muscles. That is how real life works. That is how you should train your body.
Most people also use far too little weight with this exercise. This is often mediated by the fact that they aren’t really using their back. We START most people with 25 to 30lbs for this exercise. It is not uncommon for our female members to be rowing 50 to 90lbs after a fairly short period of time. Why? Because that is what your body is capable of!
So take a little time to review the video and do an analysis of how you currently train this exercise.
Questions or comments? Drop a line!