While your back and arm muscles can handle lots of weight to failure, your shoulder joints can be a more delicate matter. You have to be smart when training your upper body around your shoulders because pain and injuries can and do occur—so every workout should start with a good prep session.
Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., uses effective movements like the half-kneeling archer row to bulletproof his joints before he adds a load. “This is a great warmup exercise for most upper body days, and back days in particular,” he says of the exercise. “You’re opening up your chest a ton here, promoting shoulder external rotation in both arms (always a good thing), and piling up excellent rhomboid squeezes.”
Plus, you’ll look like a badass aiming a bow and arrow up at your gym’s ceiling.
To perform the half-kneeling archer row, all you need is a light resistance band. You want to be able to get the full range of motion through the entire move, so if it’s too hard to pull the band you have, opt for a smaller option.
- Start a half-kneeling position your left knee on the ground, holding the ends of the resistance band in each hand.
- Breathe through your abs and really flex them; think about using them to keep your ribcage down.
- Raise your right arm up slightly above shoulder level in the same plane as your torso. Keep your thumb pointing toward the ceiling. Maintain your grip on the band with your left hand, too, holding at roughly even with your right elbow.
- Fire your rhomboids (back) and rotator cuff muscles to pull the resistance band straight back across your chest, like shooting a bow and arrow. Keep the elbow of your pulling arm close to the body the whole way; make sure your stable arm stays completely straight.
The half-kneeling archer row is all about the details. Each part of the position is for a reason: the upward facing thumb insures that your shoulder sits in external rotation (which is one of the strengths of this move), while your pulling arm’s rotation as you keep it close to the body is going to fire up the same muscles you’re training on the straight-arm side (rhomboids and rotator cuff muscles) in a more dynamic fashion.
Another of the underrated aspects of the move is the effect it can have on your midsection, too. “We’re using [the half kneeling position] to challenge and stimulate core positioning,” says Samuel.
Add the half-kneeling archer row to start your upper body workouts with 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps. Remember, keep the resistance level manageable.
By Brett Williams and Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.