Lee Boyce is a Toronto-based strength trainer who helps clients and athletes achieve strength and fitness, athletic performance, and hypertrophy goals. In his new column “Basics Made Better” he helps you to optimize classic exercises in order to achieve even more muscle building. Follow him on Instagram.
When the time comes to build a bigger, stronger back, many lifters turn to the one-armed barbell row. And yes, it is a proven and real developer of back thicknesses. It’s also easy to sacrifice your form when you start getting heavy with the dumbbell row. And you don̵
Here’s what happens when you get too heavy: You do random partial repetitions with a 150-pound dumbbell. Except that you no longer move with your back muscles as the main driver. Instead, use your abs and obliques to “twist” the weight up. In some ways, you are still developing back muscles and strength.
However, they also put strain on your lumbar spine in ways that can cause long-term problems. There is a better, smarter way to challenge yourself with lines. And it comes from looking at your anatomy.
Rows of dumbbells are lat developers, and the fibers of your lats move in a mostly oblique, mostly horizontal pattern. It makes sense to follow this fibrous path if you really want to take full advantage of the lats while doing dumbbell rows. Try grabbing a resistance band instead of trying to lift larger and larger weights straight up. Anchor it in front of you and grab a lighter dumbbell. You don’t have to get heavy.
What makes it better Plain and simple – adding the horizontal force angle you created by anchoring the ligament to the dumbbell and an object in front of you. Now you have a force pulling the weight forward and gravity pulling it down. If you use the same pattern that you would use on a typical row of dumbbells (adjust your shoulder, pull through your elbow, and “sweep” the dumbbell towards your waist), you’ll get a lot more for each rep and one pump Your money will last forever. Here’s how to make it happen.
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- Set up your bench in front of a sturdy object around which you can tie one end of your loop tape. Don’t use thick tape – one of your thinnest should work fine to start with.
- Wrap the tape around the base of the object and the other end around your dumbbell. Remember – the barbell should be much lighter than your typical rowing weight. A smart starting guideline is to cut the weight you are lifting in half.
- Adjust as you normally would for your individual row of arms. One hand on the bench with a flat back and an even upper body. Row the banded weight up to your waist and squeeze for maximum lat contraction.
- Let the weight slide forward slightly when it comes to the starting position. That way, you can pull the next rep down to your waist perfectly. Think of a gentle arc or “sweeping” motion with the arm.
- Repeat for high reps. Focus on sets of 12-15 per arm and keep them slow and controlled. Do 3 to 4 sets.
Sometimes it is better to think about the quality and technique of the repetitions before considering other ways to increase the effort. And this training hack is the definition of smart gaming. At the end of the day, your joints will be glad you did, and your back development will thank you – when you look at your annoying size plateau through your rearview mirror.
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