You can’t build a good workout (or a true beach body) without doing plenty of rows, because rows pack serious muscle onto your back, and they safeguard your shoulders from injury. But you have to do those rows right too, and that’s where the incline bench row comes in.
This simple variation on the standard dumbbell row will fire up your back in new ways, and it’ll make you stronger when you do old-school rows, too. It’s a key way to mix up your back training and attack your lower lats, and Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. and associate fitness editor Brett Williams are here to show you exactly how to execute it so you can reach your full gym potential.
The incline bench row seems like a simple move, but to get the most out of it, you need to understand its subtleties. That means understanding your body position on the bench (no you don’t get to lie there), and owning every rep. Read on for the rundown:
Torso Never Rests
Eb says: The bench is helping you find a different angle than the standard dumbbell row angle, an angle that’ll help you focus in on your lower lats more, and pull with more control. That doesn’t mean relaxing on the bench. Instead, create a sturdy, rigid frame before you’ve even done a rep. Your glutes should be squeezed, you should be breathing your abs into the bench, and you should be flexing your upper and mid-back muscles so your shoulders can’t slump forward.
Never Lose Chest Contact
Eb says: The bench is also there to keep you accountable. Your chest shouldn’t be relaxing on the bench, but it should always be in contact with the bench for the duration of the set. By forcing your chest to always remain touching the bench, you insure two things. First off, it means you’re not going to over-arch through your lower back. Secondly, it’s going to force your mid-back muscles to initiate the rowing motion. If you rock your chest up and down, momentum takes that away from your mid-back muscles, and you miss the full virtue of the exercise.
Stay Out Of Your Traps
Eb says: Focus on rowing down and back, and on rowing with your elbows. Don’t try to come too high up on this row, because it’s not necessary. Think of rowing until your upper arms are parallel (or just slightly higher) than your torso. Row too high, and you won’t actually be “rowing” to get up there; instead, you’ll be using velocity generated at the beginning of the motion to continue driving the arms upwards. Your rule of thumb on the incline row is to row as high as you can squeeze and hold. If you row up, and your upper arms shift back downwards because you can’t squeeze and hold, then you rowed too high.
By Brett Williams And Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.