When considering the best way to mitigate the effects of chronic posture misalignment, using strength exercises like the bent over row is one of the most effective strategies for counteracting the realities of our lifestyle.
Take a look around you and observe the people in your community. How many of those people are hunched over a computer or coiled into their phone?
If you are reading this, chances are you are also plugged in to the cyber complex as well. And while this boom of technology creates a wealth of information sharing and other benefits, one thing it does not help is our posture.
Despite this reality, you won’t see too many people rushing to ditch their smart phones any time soon, and luckily, we don’t have to. The solution is as simple as practicing good posture daily as well as strengthening the muscles that support proper spinal alignment as these muscles often become very weak and strained.
The muscles of the posterior chain are a complex muscle group with no limit to the variety of exercises to tone and strengthen.
The strength exercise for your posture that will give you the best bang for your buck is the bent over row.
This lift is actually quite a compound exercise as it engages not just the back, but recruits stability from the glutes, hamstrings, hips, and core. Often this exercise may be overlooked for beginners, as first appearances may seem intimidating, but once you learn the mechanics of good form, this is an essential for everyone.
It is worth performing this exercise with the help of a personal trainer or in front of a mirror to reference good movement patterns, as this move has a higher risk for technique errors if the proper muscles are not being used.
The set up for the bent over row is fairly simple.
- Begin with your feet slightly wider than hip distance to encourage better stability, knees are softly bent to flex legs.
- Gripping a bar overhand (pronated) with hands slightly wider than shoulder width, try to “break the bar” in half like snapping a stick.
- Move into a bend close to, or just above, 90 degrees with the chest slightly up and a natural spinal arch. Your head should be inline with your spine.
Note: A common mistake people make with the bent row is to bend over too shallow. Shallow bends can use more weight, but reduce a lot of range of motion, therefore, gives less results.
- Keep your core tight (this is imperative!), with your ribs tight down to your hips. You can also imagine that you are going to “bear down like a bowel movement” to protect the lower back.
- Your chin should be tucked back and looking neutral instead of strained up. Your glutes and hamstrings are tight, and feet gripping the floor.
- Next, squeeze your shoulder blades together, contracting the lats hard at the top by pulling elbows to point directly up with no elbow flare.
Note: A good cue is to try to smash your ribs with the inside of your elbows, generating as much tension as possible through the lats, rhomboids, and middle traps while relaxing your hands and arms.
- Stay in control while slowly returning to the start position. Resist gravity and maintain a rigid body. Do not jerk or swing the weights and use smooth, controlled breathing while inhaling through the down/eccentric phase and exhaling in the up/concentric phase to increase intra-abdominal pressure through the core.