Row, row, row your heart out!

Out of sight, out of mind is NOT an acceptable excuse for failing to train your back regularly.

Maybe you’re dragging furniture across the room to set up for a party, while your family watches on encouragingly.

Or you’re working on increasing your overall upper body strength.

Perhaps you’re pulling down a stubborn garage door.

You might even be dragging a car out of snow with a chain wrapped around your waist although that’s just showing off really.

Either way you’re using your back muscles – amongst the biggest in your body and well worth training properly.

Back muscles play a crucial role in your daily life whether you’re playing sport, doing chores or simply sitting at a desk staring into space and / or working.

Pull ups are an excellent exercise but can be difficult, as is access to a pull up bar but more of this at another time. All gyms have back exercise machines such as the lat pulldown, but you have to get to the gym or wait your turn.

Let’s row our way to a strong back instead. Rows can be done anywhere and with a variety of equipment.

Resistance Band Row

The simplest and easiest to perform row can be done anywhere. Ideal for beginners, those recovering from injury and anyone with restricted mobility.

Start by sitting on the floor with your legs together, straight out in front.

Wrap the band around your feet and hold the handles at your knees.

Take a breath, straighten your back, keep your chest up and look straight ahead.

Breathe out and pull the band to your ribs, keeping elbows close to your body. Your arms should be the only body part moving.

Bent Dumbbell Row

Now you’re adding some real resistance and are using your whole body. Your core muscles stay tight to control the exercise, your hamstrings and glutes are set to support and your back muscles are raring to go!

Stand with feet shoulder – width apart, dumbbells at your sides, palms facing your body.

Breathe in.

Keeping your back straight and eyes straight ahead, bend from your hips and lower the dumbbells until they’re at knee level or slightly below.

Breathing out, bring the dumbbells back up to your sides.

Keep your elbows close to your body, maintaining a straight back, looking straight ahead.

Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together as you raise the weight. Your arms should be the only part moving.

One rep – nice. Now repeat.

You can also do these with your palms facing the front – the main difference being your biceps will come more into play with this grip.

Bent Medicine Ball / Weight Plate Row

No dumbbells, no problem. Just like the dumbbell row you can get great results using a medicine ball or weight plate.

Using the same technique as the dumbbell row, start with feet shoulder – width apart, holding the medicine ball or plate in front.

Bend at the hips until the weight is at knee height, breathing in.

Back straight, eyes straight ahead, pull the weight up and into your stomach.

Squeeze the shoulder blades together, keeping your elbows nice and close to the body.

You could also use something similar such as a sandbag, carton of drinks, a child – preferably yours, you name it.

Barbell Row

Barbell rows allow you to use more weight than with a dumbbell which is great for building muscle and strength.

Make sure you get the technique right before you try them, using just a bar.

Stand with your feet shoulder – width apart, holding the barbell in front of you.

Breathe in and bend at the hips, lowering the bar until knee level.

Focus on keeping a nice straight back, eyes straight ahead.

Breathing out, pull the bar up to your stomach, keeping the elbows close to your body.

As with all rows, try to squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull it up.

These are commonly done with your palms facing behind you (pronated grip) however they can easily done with an opposite grip – palms facing in front (supinated grip).

The main difference is that a supinated grip will bring your biceps more into play and allows for a slightly longer range of motion when pulling the bar to your stomach.

Try both and see which works for you. The agony of choice!

One – Arm Dumbbell Row

Photo by Cathy Pham on Unsplash

Another widely popular row. The one–arm row really works your large lat muscles but also your whole back, plus shoulders and arms.

It allows you to focus on one side at a time which prevents any imbalances forming.

They can be done using a bench or any solid surface and you can even rest one hand on your thigh for support.

Start by putting your left knee and hand on the bench, hand in front for support.

Reach down with your right hand and grab the dumbbell with palms facing in to your body.

Bring the dumbbell up to your chest, concentrating on your back and shoulder muscles lifting the weight.

Your back should be straight, in line with your head, looking straight ahead.

Focus on keeping your elbow close to your body and pointing up to the ceiling as your raise the weight.

The aim is to bring the dumbbell up as far as you can, getting the full range of motion.

Lower the weight and repeat. Aim for 8-10 reps for more muscularity and strength or 12-15 reps for more muscular endurance.

Rows of any kind are an excellent strength builder and help to balance your upper body. There’s also the added bonus of your hamstrings and glutes being worked at the same time.

A stronger back not only improves posture and helps prevent injury but is also a great asset in exercise and daily life.

Choose a row that suits you and give the largest muscle in your upper body a treat.

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