We’re BACK with another episode of The Friday Fix! Take 60 seconds out of your day to learn a new tip you can use to improve your fitness results and get the most out of your training! Check back every week for the newest episode. Get the archives here.

The Problem?

Over-Rowing or achieving an excessive range of motion on your row variations is one of those subtle mistakes that will build up over time to become a not-so-subtle injury. In today’s world, we all have a more is better attitude. In exercise, more is not necessarily always better, or a good thing at all. This is on of those instances.

As you can see in the video above, an excessive ROM row will cause your elbow to travel way past the mid-line of your body and result in an anterior tilt the humerus. This is just a fancy way of saying, “your elbow went so far back that your shoulder had to compensate by tilting forward.” And that is just a semi-fancy way of saying, “more is not better on rows.”

What’s the Big Deal?

The shoulder is arguably the most mobile and versatile joint area in the body. It’s a ball-and-socket joint, like your hips, which gives it tons of multi-directional uses. It’s a blessing and a curse because things like this happen, and often times its pain-free. Temporarily pain-free.

Obviously, avoiding pain during training is extremely important. I’m not saying a few bad row reps is going to completely blow out your shoulders. Consistently allowing the front side of your shoulder to tilt forward on your rows definitely can create some havoc in the upper arm region. It’s one of those things that you definitely want to avoid. It’s not a big deal, until it is so you want to break the habit early.

After correctly performing rows for a long time, when you slip up and go into this mistake on a rep you will feel it right away. Once you feel a good row, bad rows become easy to identify. Here are some things you should not feel during rows.

  • Front Deltoid Discomfort
  • Stress in the Biceps
  • Shrugging the shoulders toward the ears

If any of those things happen as you row, you’re probably headed in the wrong direction.

A second issue, and probably a more important one, is the fact that when you do not perform a row properly you can’t successfully target the desired muscles. No brainer, right?

If your elbows flies back behind your body and you slam the front of your shoulder forward it is physically impossible to get a complete contraction of your lat. Surely, the other muscles of your back and your core are missing out on this as well. If you aren’t working the muscle you intend to, it’s an absolute waste of time.

The Solution?

So, how do we fix this? The first way is easy. If you row incorrectly simply because you did not know any other way… problem solved. Just make the change shown in the video above and you’re good.

If you row with excessive ROM due to the inability to retract your shoulder blades we may need to:

  1. Teach you how bring your shoulder blades down and back
  2. Teach you how to extend your T-Spine (mid-upper back) without extending your Lumbar Spine (low back)

Here’s a quick tool to use for improving those scapular movement in #1. Have someone put their finger on your back, directly in the middle of your shoulder blades. Once it’s there, try to pinch their finger with your shoulder blades without elevating your shoulders. If you can do it, you just pretty much did a nice row. Now go try with weight.

If you can’t, we may need to open up that middle and upper back. It takes a slight degree of extension in your mid-upper back to complete a row. It’s pretty much a natural curvature. If you hunch over a computer all day, sit at a desk or just bench press every day like a typical bro, you may have trouble achieving this.

Here are three easy ways to open up that area without completely boring yourself with delicate little mobility drills.

A) Kettlebell Arm Bar

B) World’s Greatest “World’s Greatest Stretch”

C) Med Ball Squat w/ Reach & Slam

Try these out, find one (or more) that work well for you. Do them in your warm-ups every day, or at least on days when you row. If you can find that sweet spot of good Thoracic mobility, retraction and depression (back and down) of your shoulder blades, you’ll notice that your natural ending point of the row is pretty much inline with the side of your body.

You will get the most optimal results rowing to that point and reduce risk of injury greatly. Give it a try and let me know what you think!