Monday, May 23, 2011

Two Tips to A More Effective DB Row

I am sure many of you are familiar with a basic dumbbell row.  The exercise is performed with a hand and knee on a bench and a dumbbell in the other hand.  The person then performs a rowing motion with the hand that the dumbbell is in.

I am also sure that many of you know that this exercise is great to train the scapular retractors (the muscles that pull your shoulder blades together). 
Today, however, I want to discuss two ways to make the exercise more effective and to train qualities other than just scapular retraction.  
Many of your clients, and most likely yourself, do not always have a lot of time to spend in the gym.  This is why it is important to find those “bang for your buck” exercises that train multiple qualities and save time.  The DB Row is one of those exercises if coached correctly.
As I stated above, the DB Row is great to train scapular retraction, but it can also be used to coach a neutral spine as well as shoulder stability of the support hand. 
So when you are coaching yourself, or one of your clients, on how to perform a DB Row take the opportunity to train those other qualities.  Here is what to look for:
1)  Pay attention to what the support hand is doing. You want to make sure that you are pushing your body away with the support hand and keeping it “long”.  You will often see someone “winging” or bending their elbow to get away from using their shoulder stabilizers.

Below is a video demonstrating Lance "winging" with the support hand and then pushing away/making his arm "long".  You can see his shoulder blade poking off his ribs initially and then when he pushes away it becomes smooth with his back.

2)  Always coach a neutral spine when doing a DB Row or any row variation for that matter.  Teaching this position should be a priority with a new client and you should always work to reinforce it with clients who have been with you for a while. 
Also, by putting a person into this spinal alignment you will automatically make the row easier.  If your upper back is in a faulty alignment, then the scapula will have a more difficult time retracting properly. 
Think about it like this:  If you hunch over and really try to round your upper back then where do your shoulders go?  They roll forward too, right?  Well, this will tend to pull your scapula out of optimal alignment and your rows will be less effective. 

QUICK TIP: If you have a client who has a hard time getting their upper back flat then try elevating his or her support hand with a box or pad.  This should help improve their upper spinal posture.  If this still does not work, then make sure you are working on their thoracic extension. 
Thoracic extension mobility is extremely important for shoulder health and function.  The two most common mobility exercises for this area that we use at IFAST are quadruped extension-rotation and sidelying extension-rotation.  The videos of these are below.

So, there you have it - two subtle ways to make a DB Row a more effective exercise.

Have a great week everyone!!

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