How many of you out there have a strict pull-up without the use of assistance bands? I would imagine that the majority of you don’t, and that’s ok. Strict pull-ups take time to develop, but during that process, it’s likely that your coach told you that “we are going to scale the pull-up to a ring row or inverted barbell row”, right? This is common practice and a good modification, but it plants the seed that these row variations are scaled modifications and not on the same level as the pull-up.
THIS IS WRONG.
Rows, when done well, are just as valuable (maybe more, actually.) as pull-ups or chin-ups and should be done often regardless of whether you have a beautiful strict pull-up or not.
There are tons of variations of rows. In fact, I am now going to share my best impression of Bubba from Forrest Gump if he were to discuss the plethora of row varients:
KB Bent-Over Row
DB Bent-Over Row
BB Bent-Over Row
BB Seal Row
DB Seal Row
DB/KB Single-Arm Bent-Over w/Support
Inverted Barbell Row
Seated Band Row
Seated Cable Row
Landmine Bent-Over Row
Chinese DB Bent-Over Row
I hope you get the idea because now I am exhausted and need to take a nap before continuing…
Ok, I’m back and reinvigorated.
Now, the entire row family is extremely valuable, but it’s important to mix it up with different variations, and often. Why? If we stick with one version, two things are most likely going to occur:
You’ll become strong in one and only that one movement pattern - to a certain extent before #2 occurs…
Overuse issues will begin to arise due to the monotonous reps on that specific joint and involved muscle(s) and connective tissue.
In fact, it is my opinion that the reason that there are so many variations is due to the fact that old-school iron movers HAD to continue performing row reps to build big, strong backs, but had to find a way to limit the injuries and downtime away from the weights. So, if we go back up to our list of row options, you’ll notice that a lot of these make a ton of sense. Especially the versions that incorporate a de-loaded spine/supported torso position.
Think about it. You have literally thousands of different variations of strength movements, but we KNOW that the big ones are the deadlift, squat and bench press. Of those 3, 2 are extremely demanding on the low back - even when done well. Now, if we are doing those lifts AND a ton of heavy bent-over barbell rows, how long do you think you’ll see returns before something happens to that low back?
This is simple stuff, but is often overlooked by coaches and athletes because we all like to do the big weight and the cool shit, but that’s an immature, unwise choice. Mix it up and watch the strength AND durability of your athletes spike.
And, Coaches, one more thing. We’ve GOT to stop framing the Ring Row or Inverted BB Row in the context of a scaled pull-up. It is soooo much more valuable than a movement we throw at folks that are not strong enough for strict pull-ups. That’s some bullshit.
We provide these versions of row because they have a massive ROI. They take little, to no time, to teach and provide a profound strength stimulus. Start framing these rows as the foundational movements to building a strong back and pull. That’s what it is! Not a scale.
Now go do some rows and enjoy that shit.