Better Back Workouts for Mass Using These 3 Row Movements
The phrase seeing is believing can play both a positive and negative role within one’s training. Seeing progress in the gym and seeing your body change on a daily to weekly basis can help fuel your motivation in building a better version of yourself.
But, on the other hand, the things that we cannot see are sometimes forgotten. Unfortunately, whether we want to admit it or not, this mentality can steep its way into our training.
Don’t believe me? Take a moment and think about the last time you trained your hamstrings with as much intensity as your chest or shoulders? Or, have you ever heard the phrase every day is back day?
The answer to both of these questions is most likely a resounding NO.
Many of us tend to become hyper-focused on training the muscles we can see in the mirror and forget about those muscle groups we can’t see as easily. You’re more likely to hear the phrase, “I want a flat stomach and a big chest,” before you hear someone screaming, “I want a massive back and shredded hamstrings.” But, if you want to build a strong, complete body you need to focus on training those muscles you can’t see with the same amount of frequency and intensity as the ones you can see.
Focusing on our back, this is a large muscle group that is impossible to see without some creative positioning in front of a mirror or some photograph assistance from your gym partner. One of the most effective movement types for building up this ‘unseen’ muscle group is the row.
But, let’s go beyond the traditional rowing movements that typically come to mind. Let’s take a look at 3 back-blasting row exercises that you may have never done or even heard of before.
Once you’ve tried these row exercises you won’t need a friend to tell you if your back is growing because you’ll KNOW it’s growing with each rep.
Brently Rousset helps you to build a thick, defined back using dumbbell rows.
3 Mass Building Row Movements
#1 – Pendlay Rows
The Pendlay row is often forgotten about when it comes to training your back, but it needs to become a staple exercise within your lifting repertoire. The Pendlay row is one of the most effective, mass building exercises you can perform for building a bigger back.
The main difference between the Pendlay row and the standard bent-over barbell row is that the weight starts from the ground with each rep. With your feet shoulder width apart and your body bent at the hips you should be staring at the barbell on the ground below you. Grab the bar at a width just wider than shoulder width, keeping your head down and neck neutral with your spine.
Pull the weight up towards the bottom of your chest, keeping your arms tight and close to your body, and lead with your elbows so your upper and middle back is receiving the most tension through each rep. Lower the weight all the way back down until the plates touch the ground to complete the rep.
By being bent at the hip further down at almost a 90 degree angle and returning the weight to the ground with each rep you are able to use more weight and reduce the amount of stress being placed on your lower back.
#2 – Bent-Over Dumbbell Rows
When we typically picture dumbbells rows we normally think of the single-arm, isolation movement performed in a kneeled position on a bench. While single-arm dumbbell rows are one of the best isolation movements you can do when it comes to back training, I want to step outside of the box and discuss a not-as popular back movement that’s just as effective: Bent-over dumbbell rows.
This movement is all about the pump, squeeze, and the feel of each muscle in your back getting torched with each rep. With this exercise I’d recommend using a weight 50% off the dumbbell weight you use with single-arm dumbbell rows. So, if you normally use a 90lbs dumbbell for your single-arm movement, use a set of 45 pound dumbbells for bent-over dumbbell rows.
With the dumbbells in each hand, bend at the hips so that your upper body is at a 45 degree angle. Keep your head up and spine neutral, so that your head is in line with your back. With the dumbbells hanging below and thumbs facing each other, pull the weight back and up, twisting your arms and wrists slightly so your hands are in a hammer position at the top of the movement. With this movement imagine there’s a tennis ball in the middle of your back and you are trying to squeeze your back around the tennis ball with each repetition.
This exercise is a great finishing exercise on your back day as you want to keep the weight light to moderate and focus on creating a hard, effective squeeze with each rep.
#3 – Seal Rows
This movement takes some time to setup, but the extra time is worth it. The seal row will require you to find a designated space somewhere in your gym when you can set a bench atop two squat boxes. The bench needs to be raised high enough to where your fingertips can just touch the floor when your arms are fully extended. You need to be able to fully extend the weights below you with each repetition.
The seal row can be performed with either a barbell or dumbbells with the main focus being on the squeeze and contraction of the back with each rep.
With this movement your entire body will be pinned against the bench, so you won’t be able to “heave” the weight up like you can with other free weight rowing movements. This allows you to increase the tension on the targeted back muscles, shifting the tension away from your lower back and reducing the chances of injury.
With your stomach on the bench, your head neutral with your spine, and your feet dangling off the end of the bench slightly curled up (hence the name seal row), pull the weight up straight up towards your chest and lower back down all the way to the ground for one repetition.
Keep the weight light to moderate with this movement. No ego lifting here as this movement is all about form and squeezing your back with each rep.
Get to Rowin’
If you’ve become bored with your back training then it’s time to revamp your routine with these mass building row movements. With these exercises in your arsenal you’ll be singing, ‘Row, row, row for gains, gently through the gym’, as you fall asleep at night dreaming of your next back day.
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