Home Posts tagged "Inverted Row"

Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – Installment 10

It's time for the first trio of coaching cue suggestions of 2015!

1. Make a straight line from your heels to your head.

I'm a huge fan of inverted rows not only because of the great upper back training they provide, but also because they challenge core control at the same time. Unfortunately, a lot of folks will let the ribs flare up, head to slide into a forward head posture, or knees to hyperextend. All of these are extension-bias compensation strategies that can easily be cleaned up by just focusing on making a straight line from the heels to the head.

Typically, after providing this cue, I'll snap a photo of the posture as a good visual reminder for the athlete, too.

--> Related: 10 Ways to Progress Inverted Rows <--

2. Roll with your forearms, not your hands.

Foam rolling is great, but not if you spend the bulk of your time in bad positions. In my opinion, foremost among these bad positions is doing prone (face-down) rolling while being supported by the hands. The problem is that when you're supported by your hands, you're automatically in a position of heavy lumbar extension (low back arching) - comparable to the upward-facing dog yoga pose. With that said, simply dropping down to support yourself with your forearms is a much better bet for getting your quad and groin rolling in without throwing your back under the bus.

rolling

Keep in mind, of course, that you'll still be in some extension, but it's much closer to the natural lordotic (slight arch) posture we have in normal standing alignment.

3. Keep the head behind the belly button as long as possible.

When we train rotational medicine ball drills, it's important to create a powerful separation of the hip and shoulders. In other words, the pelvis rotates in one direction as the torso rotates in the opposite direction; this stretch helps to create and transfer elastic energy for rotational power. If the torso "leaks" forward early, though, the separation is minimized and force production and transfer is reduced.

One way to prevent this energy leak is to cue an athlete to "stay back" longer. Unfortunately, many athletes don't grasp this vague cue. As such, I like to encourage athletes to keep the head behind the belly button as long as possible. In other words, delay the torso rotation forward a bit longer.

That does it for installment 10. Have a great weekend!

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10 Ways to Progress Inverted Rows

I'm a big fan of inverted row variations, as they not only build a strong, functional upper back, but also challenge core stability at the same time.  Unfortunately, for more advanced lifters, they can become too easy very quickly.  With that in mind, I thought I'd use today's post to introduce ten ways that you can progress these variations to increase the difficulty.

1. Do them correctly!

The first progression for most people is to simply perform the exercise with correct technique.  The most common errors I see in most folks' technique are:

  • forward head posture
  • elbows drifting behind the body (scapula doesn't retract, so the lifter substitutes extra movement of the humerus)
  • hip sagging (the body doesn't stay in a straight line)

If you'd like some quick refreshers on how to make these look good, check out these three posts from Greg Robins:

2. Change the grip.

Just as we see with pull-up variations, going to a pronated (overhand) grip will increase the difficulty of inverted rows, as compared to neutral (palms facing one another) and supinated (underhand) grips.

3. Try some mechanical advantage drop sets.

While we're on the topic of which grip set-ups are harder than others, we can use this to our advantage to do some drop-off sets.  If you're someone who can bang out inverted reps pretty easily and want a crazy challenge, try doing the first half of your set pronated, and then switching to supinated for the second half when you fatigue.  I like suspension trainer variations for this approach, as it's easiest to go pronated, to neutral, to supinated without having to let go of the handle.

4. Add isometric holds at the top.

The top position is without a doubt the most challenging, so you can increase the time under tension - and therefore the difficulty - by adding 1-3 second pauses at the top of each rep.

5. Elevate the feet.

This progression is somewhat "assumed," but most people overlook the fact that you can elevate the feet a lot further than you might think.  I like to use the 24" box.

You can also utilize various elevations for mechanical advantage drop sets.  Go from a more extreme elevation, to a subtle elevation, to no elevation, and then even to a more upright position to finish things off.  A set of 20-25 inverted rows can be a fantastic finisher.

6. Load with chains.

Chains might be the single greatist luxury one almost never gets in commercial gyms.  We're fortunate to have them at Cressey Sports Performance, and they're a complete "game changer" if you can get your hands on them.  They're also a great way to add extra loading to inverted rows:

7. Wear a weight vest.

This one seems logical, but there's a problem: there still isn't what I'd consider to be a great weight vest on the market.  The heaviest ones are too bulky and always seem to fall apart.  The lighter one are simply too light, and the velcro straps always seem to stop working in a matter of months of use.  If you've got one, by all means, use it - but I actually prefer #7...

8. Load with a backpack.

About 5-6 years ago, I bought a Dell computer that came with a padded backpack.  The computer was mediocre at best, but the backpack proved to be really useful in the gym!  You see, the extra padding made it conducive to adding extra loading, as you can slide plates up to 25 pounds (the diameter on anything heavier is too much to fit).  Just strap it on your chest and wear it in reverse for your inverted rows. I've got two 25-pound plates in for this demonstration:

9. Use Fat Gripz.

Adding load and range of motion aren't the only way to increase the difficulty of inverted rows; you can also challenge the grip more aggressively.  I really like Fat Gripz for this purpose, as they're super affordable and wrap over any barbell, dumbbell, or suspension trainer to make for a thicker handle.

fatgripz-300x222

10. Go to one-arm variations.

You can do inverted row variations one arm at a time, too.  In doing so, you add a little more of a challenge to rotary stability of the core.  Here's the basic version, although you can expand upon it by adding a reach at the bottom (toward the floor) and top (toward the rack) with the non-working arm.

Inverted rows are a staple exercise, but that doesn't mean that they need to be boring!  Try these progressions - and even combine some of them - and you'll find that you're able to include an inverted row variation in just about every strength training program you complete.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 51 (Set-Up Edition)

Today's guest post comes from CP Coach, Greg Robins.

Since this website first launched, Eric has gone to great lengths to focus on coaching cues you can use to fine-tune your technique on a number of strength exercises.  If you check out his YouTube page, you’ll be greeted with hundreds of videos, many with thorough instructions on now only the “how,” but also the why.

With that said, when I’m working with lifters in person, I always find myself stressing the “little” things to them. In reality, these “little” tips are a really BIG deal. They’re not something taught in the typical exercise science curriculum, nor are they something that crosses the mind of someone who hasn’t taught hundreds of people how to do an exercise. In fact, even people who have spent decades in the gym tend to pass over these sorts of things because they have just become second nature to them.

Taking the time to teach someone these things will set them up for continued success, as well as keep them from having to learn many small lessons the “hard way.”

The number one thing I stress to lifters is to not overlook the set-up. It’s imperative that lifters know how to get in place for an exercise before actually demonstrating the movement. I will usually reference the following phrase:

“Hard start, easy finish”

I’m not sure where I heard this phrase originally, but it has stuck with me for many years. It is obviously applicable to more than lifting weights, and a solid reminder that the harder we work at the start, the smoother the sailing thereafter.

In terms of exercise technique, the more stock you put into your set-up, the better your form and performance will be thereafter.

If you are a coach, MAKE IT A POINT to teach people where to set the pins on the squat rack, how to position the body, their feet, the bar, the weights, etc.  These small tips will make an enormous difference in shortening the learning curve and making exercises more effective as well as safer.

Below, I’ll discuss and demonstrate five set-up points for different lifts. These tips should help out with your own efforts in the gym, as well as with those you may be instructing.

1. Watch your foot position on Bulgarian split squats.

2. Make sure the pins are set correctly to allow you to “get tight” on back squats.

3. Teach the hip thrust from the finish position.

4. Don’t butcher the feet-elevated inverted row set-up.

5. Avoid these common rotary stability set-up mistakes.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 11/11/11

First off, on Veterans Day, a big thank you goes out to all our readers who either have served or are serving in the military.  We appreciate all that you do and have done! With that said, here are a few recommended reads for the week: 7 Fat Loss Essentials - This is a free webinar from Dr. Mike Roussell that I thought was extremely well done.  I've always enjoyed Mike's nutrition stuff, and it's awesome to see him kicking out great content on a regular basis now that he's done with his PhD. Inverted Row Ignorance - I saw an ugly inverted row video online this week, and it reminded me of this post I wrote back in 2009.  Everything I said still holds true, though! Don't Forget the S-C Joint - Patrick Ward posted this great blog on the impact of the sternoclavicular joint on upper extremity function.  It's a bit more "geeky" and largely aimed toward manual therapists, but there are still some valuable lessons to learn for all of us.  I can tell you that nine out of ten times, right-handed pitchers are going to be very fibrotic in the subclavius area - just lateral to the S-C joint.  Attending to this one region can yield big payoffs in terms of upper extremity movement. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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Workout Routines: Exercising on Vacation – Part 2

In my last blog post, Workout Routines: Exercising on Vacation - Part 1, I outlined why I think it's a good idea for most people to have at least a little structured exercise over the course of a vacation that spans a week or more.  Today, I wanted to use my own vacation workout schedule as an example of how you can stay active without filling up your schedule too much. First, though, I think it's important to make two points: 1. There's a difference between "physical activity" and "exercise" - and it's fine for a vacation to include a lot more of the former than the latter.  You'll see below that I didn't "exercise" every day, but I was very physically active the entire time.  We walked on the beach almost every morning, and during our trip, we did ziplined, swam, rode horses, snorkeled, and hiked.

2. What you do before you leave for vacation is likely as important as what you do during vacation.  I prefer to intentionally "overreach" right before I leave for any extended period of time, as it allows me to essentially "write off" the first few days of travel as recovery (everybody likes to sleep on airplanes and crush awful airport food, right?). To that end, we flew out on a Saturday morning very early in the morning, so I chalked Saturday up as a travel day.  That meant that Mo-Fr in the week before were training days (MoTh - upper body, TuFr - lower body, We - energy systems work).  Since I knew I wouldn't really have access to any heavy weights to use for lower body training, I made sure that it was the last thing I did before I left.  Here's how the rest of the vacation looked (keep in mind that my wife joined me for all these sessions; it wasn't like I was ditching her on our honeymoon): Sa: Travel Day (just a walk on the beach that night) Su: Upper body TRX work consisting of inverted rows, pushups, Ys, Fallouts, External Rotations/Ws, and some curls for the girls (hey, I was pretty much on the beach; don't judge!)

Mo: Sprinting on the beach (eight sprints of about 80yds).  When the view is this good, you really can't complain about being out of breath.

Tu: Lower Body TRX work consisting of pistol squats, stir the pot (video below, thanks to Dewey Nielsen), Bulgarian split squats, calf raises, and side bridges

We: Upper body TRX work consisting of (more) inverted rows, flutters, 1-arm row w/reach, and fallout extensions

Th: 2 hours of snorkeling was plenty of physical activity for me Fr: Another light TRX session, which was just kind of a filler of inverted rows (figured I'd use this week to be proactive with my bum shoulder) and additional core work.  To be very honest, I was pretty sunburned by this point, which is why I kept it short.  Did do some prone reaches (props to Dewey below once again), which is a good exercise to try, if you haven't seen them before:

Sa: 3 hours hiking in Manuel Antonio National Park.  Not a bad view from the top, huh?

Su: More sprinting on the beach, this time for 12 sprints of about 60yds. Mo: Travel Day, so not much moving around besides the 2-3 mile walk on the beach that morning We arrived home at midnight, and I was back to my normal lifting schedule on Tuesday. As you can see, this wasn't a ton of training time.  In fact,  I don't think a single one of these sessions lasted more than 20 minutes, and all of them were done outside in the fresh air and sunshine.  I'm not saying that you have to include this much exercise in your vacations, but I am trying to show that if you are interested in maintaining an active lifestyle even when you travel, that it can be done quite easily and without a ton of time invested. Plus, most of these were body weight training exercises, so you don't need a lot of equipment to get them done. Have some vacation exercise strategies of your own?  Please share them in the comment section below. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Stuff You Should Read: 7/20/10

Here's this week's list of recommended reading: Total Football Training - I just got an advanced copy of San Francisco 49ers strength coach Duane Carlisle's new product, and read it over this past weekend.  There's some really good stuff in there - definitely a good fit for the football players reading this blog. It includes an eight-week off-season training program where all the drills are demonstrated on the accompanying DVDs. Inverted Row Ignorance - Here's one from the archived that reminds us once again just how often this exercise is absolutely butchered. The Right Way to Stretch the Pecs - Here's a T-Muscle article that gives you some practical suggestions on loosening up these chronically tight muscles without throwing your shoulders under the bus. Please enter your email below to sign up for our FREE newsletter.
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Inverted Row Ignorance

In this week's "The Biggest Loser made me want to stab my eye out with a hot poker" moment, I watched what appeared to be a 1,742-pound woman attempt to do an inverted row.  It was an admirable attempt, for sure, but I'm sorry to say that in all my years of coaching and writing strength and conditioning programs, I've can think of fewer than 20 females who have ever been able to perform a single good inverted row. This isn't a knock on women; it's just that they, on average, have markedly less strength than men in the upper body.  And, more importantly, the inverted row is a more advanced strength exercise than people realize - so that strength discrepancy will be more readily apparent. As a frame of reference, here is what a good inverted row looks like:

As you can see, the chin stays tucked to keep the cervical spine (neck) in line with the rest of the body.  Without that forward head posture, you're getting just the kind of scapular retraction you want.  Speaking of scapular retraction, you'll also notice that the chest is going ALL THE WAY up to the bar. There are three compensation patterns that you'll come across.  To protect the innocent, I won't post videos, but rest assured that if you did a quick YouTube search for "inverted row," you'd quickly come across example of the following: 1. The Ceiling Humper: This individual will give a little tug of elbow flexion and scapular retraction to get about halfway up, and then he/she will violently thrust the crotch to the heavens.  In some circles, this individual is known as "The Fish."  Regardless, it isn't pretty. 2. The Scared Cat: This individual basically does a curl - including curling the wrists in - so that there is essentially everything occurring except scapular retraction.  In the process, they get to the top - but in that top position, they are rounded up in a ball like - you guessed it - a scared cat.  There is, however, a delightful chin protrusion/forward head posture that makes that individual believe that the movement actually took place.  Unfortunately, it didn't - and this effort, too, isn't pretty. 3. The Half-Asser: This individual is the lazy cousin of the Ceiling Humper and Scared Cat.  He can be found around dudes who do half pull-ups, pop their collars, and live in their parents' basements.  Very simply, he (or she, for that mattter) only goes halfway up - but usually still insists on using the feet-on-the-box set-up (the most advanced progression). Sadly, the acronym IRA was already taken, so Inverted Rows Anonymous could never get off the ground - and these issues persist.  I suspect that we're looking at a $47 million government stimulus package to remedy the issue.  And, as our new commander-in-chief has stated, "things are going to get worse before they get better," be prepared to observe this inverted row ignorance for quite some time before it's addressed. For a host of better scapular stabilization exercises, check out Optimal Shoulder Performance.

shoulder-performance-dvdcover

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