Common Exercise Flaws and the Fixes: The Row


By: Kyle Arsenault CSCS


Upper body rowing variations have become a staple in many strength and conditioning programs, and for good reason.

As human beings, many of us spend much of our time in an anteriorly dominated world (most of the activity we do happens in front of us). Whether we are sitting down for a meal, working at the computer, getting our learn on in the classroom or checking the latest Facebook post on our mobile device, our posture becomes one that is defined by protracted and anteriorly tilted scapulae (our shoulder blades are rounded and tipped forward) and a flexed thoracic spine (upper back is rounded).

While there are some of us that do not fall into these patterns (athletes stuck in extension or those of us sporting the “superhero look”), for most of us, this Quasimodoesque posture defines us.

And unless you are incredibly conscious of your daily posture and are willing to stop stalking people on Facebook and filling your free time playing Angry Birds, it is going to be hard to combat these postural flaws. But as always, there are certain movements we can prioritize in our strength and conditioning programs that can help.

This is where PROPER upper body rowing exercises can help. While proper rowing mechanics can benefit our performance and aesthetic outcomes, improper upper body rowing can further exacerbate issues.

In order to make sure you are maximizing upper body rowing, and keeping yourself from working your way into banged up shoulders and a cranky lower back, check out this video. I have also provided a list summarizes the main points.



1)      Try starting the exercise in the “finished position” with the scapula(e) tipped up and back and the elbow in line with the body or slightly extended.

2)      Keep the core engaged (spine neutral) and do not allow the ribs to flare up as you go through the exercise.

3)      Lower your body / the weight under control and do not allow your scapula(e) to “fly” of the side of your ribcage, although you should feel the scapula(e) moving away from the spine.

4)      Think about pulling / leading the motion with the scapula(e) and not by pulling with the elbow or arms. Think as if your arms were cut off at the shoulder and the system / handle was attached to your scapula(e), and lead the motion with the scapula(e).

5)      The row is finished when your scapula(e) can no longer move towards the spine. Your elbow(s) should be in line with the body or slightly behind, but not excessively behind the body as this promotes an anterior (forward) tilt of the scapula(e) and anterior translation of the humeral head (head of the upper arm bone)…both are no good when it comes to healthy shoulders and maximal strength and power output.

6)      Hold the end position to really feel the scapula(e) being tipped up and back. The muscles on the inside of your shoulder blades should be doing most of the work.

PROPERLY row your way to a stronger, leaner and healthier upper body and share these tips! Any other cues or comments?…Share them below.

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