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Rows: 3 Ways They Can Go Wrong


In almost any program you look at, you will see some variation of rows (I hope). Examples of this movement are cable rows, barbell rows, TRX rows, and plenty of others. It’s especially popular in this era of terrible posture. The movement can certainly help strengthen postural muscles and get people out of that forward slumped posture. BUT many times, rowing can go wrong for people. I am going to talk about 4 ways the movement can do more harm than good and a few solutions!


1. Shoulder Dumping Forward


This is by far the most prevalent fault in rowing. Most people have no idea what this means and why it is hurting more than helping them. Rather than initiate the movement with a retraction of the scapula, the person will push their shoulder forward. So, instead of using their rhomboids and lats, they use the front of their shoulder to pull the weight. Try to perform a row without a weight and allowing your shoulder to push forward, I guarantee you won’t feel your upper back working.

To ensure you don’t let the shoulder dump forward, I break the movement into two parts…

  • Retract the shoulder

  • Begin the pull

  • Continue to retract the scapula as you finish the pull


2. Elbow Hugging The Body


We now understand that the shoulder needs to be retracted, but how about the elbow? A lot of times, people keep their elbow against their body and end up pulling the weight into their chest. The issue is you won’t be able to get sufficient retraction of the scapula. As we said before, that is the goal of this exercise!


Two cues to fix this are…

  • Keep the width of a water bottle between your armpit as you go perform the movement.

  • Rather than pulling straight up, think about pulling around your body.


3. Over Pulling


We are almost pulling perfectly. This is an issue that piggybacks off of the first one. People always think “full range of motion” which is great because we always want to train the entire range, but this can also do more harm than good. People go wrong when the elbow starts to travel past the body and next thing you know,  your shoulder translates forward. This can cause anterior shoulder pain and lead to laxity in the front of the shoulder. A population you want to avoid this in especially, is baseball.


The easy fix…

  • Do not let your elbow pass your body, it’s that simple.

These are just 3 of many ways rowing can go wrong. Use these fixes to help clean up your row and coach others more effectively. Remember every athlete is different and may need a variation of these fixes.


Let me know if you find another way to fix one of these common flaws in the comments below!

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