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Why THIS Back Exercise Is Done All Wrong

Ultimate Sandbag exercises

It isn’t the coolest exercise you can perform, it is one I’ve written about before though, but it is one that STILL gets largely misunderstood and under appreciated. If I tell you that I am going to write about doing bent rows you will probably jump off here, but DO NOT do that! Why?

Not only is this post not really just about bent rows as a back exercise, but it is more about understanding how to train the body smarter and get more out of your training. I see all over social media that the bent row is really dying. People will lay their chest on a bench, they will support themselves in all sorts of ways in order to stabilize their bodies and get more “load on the upper back.”

back exercise

I won’t lie to you, doing so may give you slightly more muscle training of the upper back, however, there is a BIG but! That but is that muscle won’t carry over to you being as strong as you look and having the reputation of being “all show and no go” isn’t the goal of most people. At the same time, you don’t have to choose being strong or gaining muscle, you can have both!

If that sounds like an infomercial it isn’t. If we look at the bodies of wrestlers, gymnasts, martial artists, they usually have bodies that most people would love to have themselves, but they have incredible strength and movement skills to go along with it. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to become a wrestler or a gymnast, but there are ideas we can borrow for our own training.

back exercise

What these athletes realize is the body is connected. It may seem like our upper and lower body are two separate pieces that have no relationship, but that isn’t the case. Heck, just look how the lats are attached to our body and they are the ONLY muscle that connects our upper body directly to our lower body. Even though that lats do make that connection, this isn’t the only way.

For example, our core is essential for our upper body to be strong. In fact, a 2006 paper in Sports Medicine describes, “The core musculature includes the muscles of the trunk and pelvis that are responsible for the maintenance of stability of the spine and pelvis and help in the generation and transfer of energy from large to small body parts during many sports activities. The muscles and joints of the hip, pelvis and spine are centrally located to be able to perform many of the stabilising functions that the body will require in order for the distal segments (e.g. the limbs) to do their specific function, providing the proximal stability for the distal mobility and function of the limbs. In addition, to its local functions of stability and force genera- tion, core activity is involved with almost all extremity activities such as running, kicking and throwing. Therefore, the position, motion and contributions of the core must be evaluated and treated as part of the evaluation and treatment of extremity injuries.”

core training

The point? By taking the core OUT of our upper back training we are actually teaching the opposite action that is required for us to be strong. That is learning to stabilize our core so that our extremities have a “platform” in which to produce strength. This means in the real world and sport, our upper body can ONLY produce as much strength as our core can stabilize, if they don’t learn to work together then this is greatly impaired.

Fascial lines are ways to describe how connective tissue helps muscles “talk” to one another to produce complex movements easily. One great example of the lower body to upper body connection is through the spiral line. What’s that?

“The Spiral Line (SPL) loops around the body in two opposing helices, right and left, joining each side of the skull across the upper back to the opposite shoulder, and then around the ribs to the front to cross again at the level of the navel to the hip. From the hip, the Spiral Line passes like a ‘jump rope’ along the anterolateral thigh and across the shin to the medial longitudinal arch, passing under the foot and running up the posterolateral side of the leg to the ischium and into the erector spinae myofascia (of either side, depending on posture or position) to end very close to where it started on the skull.”

core stability

In other words, training the upper body without the core and lower body is almost as unnatural as it comes. Why do people do it then? For one, by gaining artificial stability of a bench or so forth, you can lift more weight. However, as we already discussed, this doesn’t really mean you become stronger in life. Plus, people misinterpret lifting more weight as always better and yet forget that you need to know the context in which more weight is being lifted. So, it becomes an ego thing too as well as a lack of understanding of the body.

Also, bodybuilding is strong even in the world of functional training. People think that you gotta work “the back” but don’t realize how the back really works. So, we fall into the trap of muscles all the time and forget what the body really needs to be lean, muscular, and strong.

Below, I break down why we look at the bent row so differently and by using these DVRT progressions we will get SOOOO much more out of an exercise that we tend to overlook and train in less than ideal ways to maximize our training.

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