Proper Rowing Performance

Everyone knows if you want to get bigger, stronger and/or stay healthy, you need a strong upper back.

But are you getting the most out of your upper back exercises?

Are you rowing with proper technique?

If you’re not sure, this video should help – check it out!

When coaching my clients and athletes, these are the biggest issues that I see:

  • Initiating with the biceps or upper arm, versus leading with the elbow.
  • Not squeezing the shoulder blade BACK. Remember, a row is essentially a forward and backward motion.
  • Hyper-extending the humerus/upper arm, versus stopping the motion when the shoulder blade stops. This is typically seen in people who think they aren’t getting enough range of motion.
  • Not getting a stretch through the rhomboids and upper back at the bottom of the motion.
  • Over-rotating through the t-spine. If you know you’re doing it (and doing it with a purpose), that’s fine – but many simply over-rotate because they don’t have enough strength to actually retract properly.
  • Using too much weight, which exacerbates all of the issues above!

Remember, on every rowing exercise, you should think about getting a stretch through the upper back at the start/finish, and squeezing the shoulder blade back at the midpoint.

And just in case you missed it before, here’s a video on how to properly execute your vertical pulls as well. Needless to say, it’s a lot different than how we probably learned in our middle-school PE class!

So there you have it – how to properly execute both horizontal and vertical pulls. Any questions, comments or concerns?

Stay strong



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  1. Great stuff on rowing Mike! It is very important to build proper back strength and of course when you do it right you are less likely to get injured.

  2. I have just finished a rehab trainer course with mr Chris mallac and these points were spot on. I actually went through the same issues back then when I thought by further pulling the dumbbell I’ll get a better movement, however this made my shoulders lurch forward which on the long term gave me a very nice rounded shoulder and winged scapula, oh and thanks to my office job for that too.

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