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How to do dumbbell rows correctly

Posted by: PFB

Q: What's your take on the dumbbell row. Do you retract first then pull or do you retract at top as Paul Chek recommends? Doesn't Poliquin say full ROM for example - letting the dumbbell touch the floor?

A: The answer to your question is ... it depends! For the most part, always encourage full ROM and allow the scapula to retract naturally. This, as Paul Chek states, will reduce trigger points in the posterior deltoid and decrease the likelihood of injury. There are specific reasons for this but I don't have all day to type (purchase Chek's video Controversy and Current Concepts of Pulling Exercises for a detailed explanation.) However, there are exceptions to this so-called rule, and that is if you want to encourage postural changes in the scapular retractors (rhomboids, middle/lower traps.) For instance, if a client is unable to effectively "set" the scapula during a number of upper body movements then they may be in store for some serious shoulder problems if they haven't already occurred. In this case, you can use King's recommendation of lowering the weight under constant retraction - the second your scapula protracts, pull the weight back up (see his article Row to Grow for more information.) Or, you can use the method which many personal training manuals and videos (such as Biomechanics For Personal Trainers by Greg Niederlander & Mark Cibrario) suggest of retracting first and then going through the motion. Keep in mind, when you use these latter methods, the emphasis is on form not load so use a light weight. Incidentally, two of the best videos on strength training instruction are offered by the Coaching Association of Canada - Charles Poliquin was the technical director for these tapes.

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