The row seems like an easy exercise to execute. However, that couldn't be further from the truth. When performed correctly, rowing variations can end up being a very technical movement.
Let's survey the bent over row. When thought about, it seems like an easy exercise. Bend over, and pull away with the arms. Pair this with the testosterone overloaded macho-man mindset of the typical jock and we'll have compensation with adding on more weight than one can handle which will then lead to further compensations.
The most common compensations seen in any rowing variation are an anterior glide in the humeral head, hyperextension of the lumbar spine, elevation of the shoulders, elbow flexion alone, and protrusion/jolting of the head/neck. With any rowing variation, it is very easy for the person to not use the proper musculature. In this case we are most concerned with retraction using the rhomboids, and the mid-lower traps.
COMPENSATIONS and Cueing
1) With an anterior glide during a row, we have the humeral head ride forward in the glenoid fossa of the scapulae creating a position of extension in the shoulder where the lats can become dominant because of the anterior tilt of the scapulae. This can occur from relying too much on the bicep to carry the load, by pulling past the mid-axillary line of the body, shrugging the shoulders, or in individuals with an exaggerated kyphosis. This position does not allow full retraction or training of the rhomboids and mid-lower traps and can create laxity in the anterior aspect of the shoulder as well as a heaping load of other shoulder injuries. Placing your thumb in between the shoulder blades while cueing your client to maintain a tall chest and to crack your thumb like a peanut with his/her shoulders can be a simple way to clean this up.
3) Elevation of the shoulders will result when the upper traps are dominant. This is not to be mistaken as retraction of the scapulae. The motion will look similar to the untrained eye but will be more of a shrug and a rotation of the shoulders back. This can place excess stress on the rotator cuff and aid in the already overused upper trapezius and come into play with shoulder extension discussed earlier. The thumb/peanut trick can be used here as well as placing your hand on top of the shoulder and telling them to visualize your hand as a weight. This helps them keep the shoulder down to gain full retraction without any pull from the upper trapezius.
4) Jolting or protrusion of the head forward is typically shown in individuals with upper crossed syndrome, weak deep neck flexors, or individuals with a specific imbalance between their upper and mid-lower back musculature. The individuals head will look similar to a bird pecking on wood. Proper strengthening of the deep neck flexors can help on its own but cueing the individual to keep their head and neck stacked on top of the shoulders like a deck of cards can help in an immediate sense.
1. Split Stance Single Arm Cable Row
2. Half Kneeling Single Arm Cable Row
3. Bent Over Single Arm DB Row
4. Low Cable Row
5. Chest Supported Row Variation
6. Bent Over Barbell Row