It is important to hit your back musculature from various angles and grip widths. Change your horizontal pull of choice every 4-6 weeks. When programming, consider heavy squats and deadlifts as back exercises as well. These large compound movements engage much of the posterior chain (back muscles) in an isometric contraction. The majority of the things we use our backs for are isometric contractions (stability and support).
Horizontal Pulls 101
Horizontal Rows — Setup
1. Exercise selection
Choose a variation that you like and stick with it for a minimum of 4 weeks.
2. Range of motion
Ensure that you can fully express the entire range of motion comfortable for whichever variation your choose.
- Barbell Bent Over Row
- Underhand EZ Bar Row
- Row to Chest
- 1-Arm Dumbbell Row
- Chest Supported Row
- Row Machine
- 2-Arm Dumbbell Row
- Cable Row
Horizontal Rows — Execution
1. Shoulder blades
Allow the shoulder blades to move through their full range of motion.
- Rows are a back exercise with secondary effects on the biceps. If your shoulder blades (scaps) are locked into a position, you are by definition NOT going through the full range of motion for your back muscles.
Don’t pull your elbows past the torso
- Pulls are a back exercise. When you pull your elbow beyond the torso you are engaging rear delt which isn’t the purpose of the movement. In addition, you’re putting unnecessary stress on the anterior portion of the glenohumeral joint (front of your shoulder).
- Exhale as you pull the load towards you (concentric phase).
- Inhale as you allow the weight away from you (eccentric phase).
Horizontal Rows — Coaching Cues
- Full range of motion in your shoulder blades
- Breathe with the movement
- Think: Pull to the hip to prevent single arm variations from pulling past your torso
- Maintain control through both the concentric and eccentric phases
Horizontal Rows — Adjustments
Choose a variation that doesn’t cause pain. There are many variations that all do an adequate job.
Back pain is often caused by rocking the upper body during the movement. Lock your core down. Focus the exercise on the intended musculature. If your whole torso is rocking you are cheating your pulling muscles out of gains.
If a particular variation bothers your wrists, switch to a supine or neutral grip variation.
Caveat: This exercise guidance should never usurp the advice of your medical professional. If there is a question in your mind as to the suitability of this exercise for you confer with your doctor. WATM is not liable if you do something ill-advised after reading any of our fitness content.