Rowing

Rowing


Muscle group:   The back muscles, the shoulder muscles

Trained muscle:   Latissimus, Trapezius, deltoid, middle back muscles

Fitness level:   Beginner, advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises, free weight exercises, machine exercises


 

Rowing represents an effective exercise for the latissimus muscle. It also works out the trapezius, the middle part of the erector spinae, and the back part of the deltoid. Also the biceps of the upper arm an the brachioradialis of the forearm will be activated when we row.

Rowing

Rowing can be performed in many different variations. There are many machines specifically for rows, but we also could work out at the cable machine. Furthermore we can work out with a barbell or dumbbells in standing, kneeling, or lying position. All these variations make the training quite diverse.

Rowing on the machine

Rows on specific rowing machines can already be performed by beginners. Such machines provide a good stabilization of the body and support an upright position due to the chest cushion we lean against. Please note, that the workout with high weights can cause uncomfortable pressures on the chest. Sit upright and lean against the chest cushion. Tense the musculature of the trunk and especially your back muscles actively. In controlled movements you start to pull the handles toward the body. In the reverse movement don’t extend your arms completely.

Rowing on different machines

Rowing on different machines

 

For all rowing variations the workout with both arms close on the sides of the body activates the latissimus significantly. The further we lift our elbows toward shoulder hight, the less the latissimus and the more the trapezius, the middle part of the erector spinae, and the back part of the deltoid will work. The variation with raised elbows is very similar to the exercise reverse flys. All versions could be intensified if worked out in small impulses in the area of highest muscle tension when the arms are pulled backward maximally (please see best form of exercise).

Rows on the cable machine shouldn’t be practised by beginners. Sit upright tensing your trunk muscles tightly. Because of the missing chest rest we have to do a lot of stabilization work. In the beginning we sit close to the cable with our feet on the platform in front of us. Grab the handle and slide backward in a controlled movement. Keep your knees at least slightly bent. Row backward smoothly against the resistance with both arms close on the sides of your body. Again, don’t extend the arms completely in the reverse movement. At the end of a set release the weight with straight body posture. Do never drop the weights in a sudden or uncontrolled movement.

Rowing on the cable machine

Rowing on the cable machine

 

Rowing with free weights

Rowing with dumbbell kneeling on the bench is very effective for the latissimus. Rest with the forearm and shank of the same side of the body on the bench. Set the standing leg diagonally to the side onto the floor to stabilize your body optimally. In that position we grab the dumbbell and row backward with the arm close to the body. The back of our hand either points backward or to the side. Do not extend your arm completely in the reverse movement.

Rowing, one-armed on the bench

Rowing, one-armed on the bench

 

With barbell we could either work out rows lying or standing. Lying in prone position on the bench is the more stable version. Your head remains free above the upper end of the bench. Your legs pull upward to prevent a hollow back. You can fixate them on the foot of the bench. Working out with wide grip (back of our hand points to the front) focuses on the trapezius, the middle part of the erector spinae, and the back part of the deltoid. A narrow grip (back of our hand points backward) especially activates the latissimus. Lift the barbell maximally in a controlled movement. Bring it back down to complete one repetition but don’t extend your arms completely.

Rowing, on the bench with barbell

Rowing, on the bench with barbell

 

Rowing standing with barbell additionally activates the lower part of the back (muscles of the lumbar region) significantly. The execution is quite challenging so solely experienced athletes should practise standing rows with barbell. We stand slightly wider than shoulder width bending our knees a little bit. The trunk leans forward. Tense your abdominals tightly and keep your back straight. Also tense the back muscles and pull the barbell toward the body in a controlled movement. Bring it back down smoothly to complete one repetition. Don’t extend your arms completely.

Rowing, standing

Rowing, standing

 

With wide grip (back of your hand points to the front) you pull the weight toward the chest. With narrow grip and the back of your hands pointing backward you pull it toward the stomach.

Rowing without equipment

There also exists an isometric rowing variation that is exercised without any equipment. We sit upright on a chair, bench, or the floor. Our hands grab the knees right below the joints in a surrounding grip. Our body leans forward and our arms start to pull backward building up strong muscle tensions in the back. Increase the tension until you have reached a decent training intensity. Avoid press breathing (exhalation against closed airways). This version can also be practised on a machine. Here, you pull a weight you can’t overcome.

Rowing isometric

Rowing isometric


Antagonist: Chest muscles

Stretching: Lat stretches, Upper back stretches

 

 


Lat pulldown

Lat pulldown


Muscle group:   The back muscles, the arm muscles

Trained muscle:   Latissimus, biceps, forearm

Focused muscle:   Latissimus

Fitness level:   Beginner; advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Machine exercises


 

Lat pulldown represents a very popular exercise for the latissimus muscle. It also works out the brachioradialis of the forearm and the biceps of the upper arm. The exercise is familiar with the pull-ups.

Lat pulldown

Lat pulldown is typically performed on the cable machine. But there also are lat pulldown machines without cable that can be used. The motion sequence and execution don’t change among the different machines. But there is quite a large variety of different handles we can use and positions we can take to work out.

The classic lat pulldown is executed to the neck. We take an upright position and fixate our legs with the provided cushion from above. If you can adjust the seat it is quite comfortable to have the knees slightly below or in one line with the hips. Sit close to the machine so that the cable is running down straightly. Grab the bar widely with the back of your hands pointing backward. In a controlled movement you pull down the bar to your neck (head bends forward). The bar can smoothly touch your neck but not hit it hardly. Bring it back up but don’t extend your arms completely. The passive structure of the arms would be strained considerably in complete extension. Also, it would deactivate the latissimus what is not desirable during the lat workout.

Lat pulldown variations

Lat pulldown variations

 

Lat pulldown machine

Lat pulldown machine

 

Lat pulldown to the chest

Lat pulldown can also be practised to the chest. The execution stays the same. We now have to lean a little backward pressing the chest outward. Be careful with your back. Keep your abdominal muscles tensed and avoid a hollow back.

Another variation of the lat pulldown is when we lean even further back. Here, we can chosse a narrower grip with the front of our hands pointing toward the body. Press your chest outward. Pull the bar down toward your chest with your arms close on the sides of your body. In this version you have to stabilize your body a lot. Don’t work with momentum at all. Keep the muscles of your trunk tensed.

Latzug mit verschiedenen Griffen

Latzug mit verschiedenen Griffen

 

Lat pulldown variations

Performing lat pulldown we can also choose between different handles. The range extends from narrow to wide grips with different hand alignments. But we could also work out with imaginary resistance. We sit on a chair, bench or the ground and imagine a bar or handle in our hands with high resistance. Move your hands up and down according to the execution described above. Tense all muscles of the trunk and focus on your latissimus. You could also choose other hand positions as explained above.

Lat pulldown with imaginary resistance

Lat pulldown with imaginary resistance

 

All variations of the lat pulldown become extremely intense when we work out in small impulses in the area of highest muscle tension (handle bar pulled down) as described here: Best form of exercise


Antagonist: Chest muscles, triceps

Stretching: Lat stretches

 

 


Pull-ups

Pull-ups


Muscle group:   The back muscles, the arm muscles

Trained muscle:   Latissimus, biceps, forearm

Focused muscle:   Latissimus

Fitness level:   Advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises


 

Pull-ups represent one of the basic exercises within the weight training area, together with squats, deadlifts, and bench press. It also is one of the most effective exercises for the wide back muscle latissimus and the brachioradialis of the forearm. It also activates the biceps muscle of the arm significantly. The pull-up is familiar with the exercise lat pulldown.

Pull-ups

Pull-ups exist in many different variations and are very intense. Beginners should not train this exercise.

In its basic version we work out on the pull-up bar. We grab the bar slightly wider than our shoulder width. Tense the muscles of your trunk and pull yourself up toward the chest until your chin is slightly above the bar. Do not work with momentum but in smooth and controlled movements. Go down again to complete one repetition.

Pull-ups toward the chest

Pull-ups toward the chest

 

Make sure to always have your arms slightly bent when you go down. Hanging with extended arms would strain the passive structure of the arms considerably. Also the activity of the latissimus drops to almost zero.

Pull-ups variations

Athletes that yet do not have the strength to perform an entire set of pull-ups can practise the exercise with support. This could be at the pull-up machine where we kneel on a supportive platform that reduces our weight. Or we could support ourselves with our legs on a bench or similar.

Pull-ups with support

Pull-ups with support

 

If you are quite strong and able to perform many pull-ups in one set you could work with wide grip pulling toward the neck. Extra weights intensify the exercise a lot. Use a belt or backpack.

Pull-ups toward the neck

Pull-ups toward the neck

 

Incline pull-ups

Besides a large variety of different grips and weight intensities we can choose from, there also is a different pull-up type. Incline pull-ups are performed with our heels on the ground. We could work out on the bar at the multi press machine or on the edge of a table. Some athletes also use a broom stick fixated on two chairs. Make sure to have your abdominal muscles tensed and your pelvis erected to prevent a hollow back.

Incline pull-ups

Incline pull-ups

 


Antagonist: Chest muscles, triceps

Stretching: Lat stretches, bicep stretch, forearm stretches

 

 


Lat presses

Lat presses


Muscle group:   The back muscles, the shoulder muscles, complex exercises

Trained muscle:   Latissimus, trapezius, deltoid, middle back muscles, lower back muscles

Focused muscle:   Latissimus

Fitness level:   Beginners, advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises


 

Lat presses represent an extremely effective and intense exercise for the latissimus dorsi. The trapezius and rhomboideus, the deltoid, and the erector spinae are activated as well practising lat presses.

Lat presses

Lat presses with the feet and butt remaining on the ground represent the easiest version of this exercise and can already be practised by beginners. Start in supine position. Heels press into the floor. Your knees are bent at an angle of approximately 90°. Bend your elbows the same way and keep your arms as close to your body as possible. Tilting the pelvis deactivates the abdominal muscles what causes more tension for the lat. From this position press your elbows strongly into the floor what raises your upper body. Remain in that position with your lat tensed actively. To add more intensity you could perform small up and down movements. The exercise becomes easier by erecting the pelvis and tensing the abdominal muscles supportingly.

Lat presses variations

Lat presses can be performed more intensely (for advanced athletes) by lifting your feet from the ground as well. In this version (butt still on the floor) you could keep the pelvis tilted. Highest intensity can be achieved by lifting the butt (just for experienced athletes). In this version your body would solely rest on your heels and elbows. The body pulls towards the head. Please erect the pelvis and tense the abdominal muscles performing this variation.


Lat presses are extremely intense. The arm flexors remain deactivated what puts more tension on the latissimus dorsi. In other popular back exercises, like pull-ups or lat pulldown the arm flexors are activated significantly making the workout less intense for the lat.

Antagonist: Chest muscles

Stretching: Lat stretches

 

Lat presses variations

Lat presses variations

 

Lat presses

Lat presses