When it comes to a strength training program, old-school methods aren’t necessarily your best sources of education. Consider one of the great asshole myths handed down to us over decades: no pain, no gain.
There’s no better exercise example of this antiquated approach than the vertical barbell row. Of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger incorporated amounts into his legendary mass-building routine – and for that purpose, this strength training staple Is it that help add size to the side head of your shoulders, as well as hit your traps hard. But in today’s fitness age of making gains without issuestraight rows of straight bars have become notorious for creating potentially damaging stress on your shoulder joints, which over time can lead to chronic pain and even serious injury.
men’s health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, CSCS says it best when he exposes the truth of barbell vertical row training: in the short term, you can get away with doing vertical rows without pain, but over time your shoulders will suffer.
“You can do the vertical row that way for two, three years of your life,” he says. “Keep doing it for 10 to 15 years, and I’ll see you somewhere in a physical therapist’s office. It’s not where you want to be.
But there is a safer alternative to traditional vertical bars. All it takes is a simple swap of a straight bar for a set of dumbbells. Like Samuel and men’s health fitness editor Brett Williams, NASMdemonstrate in the video above, incorporating dumbbells will actually allow you to destroy your deltoids (safely) and continue to make diseased shoulder gains.
Switch to dumbbells for vertical row
Even without any load for the movement, according to Samuel, simply raising the elbows higher than the shoulders while rotating the wrists down causes pain. But adding extra load to that pulling motion (in this case, throwing weight on a barbell) and then raising your elbows as high as you can will force your shoulders into internal rotation. At the same time, the force of the weight begins to pull you down, which becomes a formula for potential long-term shoulder damage.
With dumbbells, Samuel says you already start in a more natural position. Your wrists can be aligned according to your body mechanics as opposed to the restrictive fixed position of the straight bar. This means more comfortable and safer traction.
“When working out with dumbbells, many of us are not upper-body symmetrical beings,” Samuel explains. “It will allow both of his shoulders to move with a lot of freedom. So instantly we fixed a problem with the vertical row.
Don’t shoot so high
Samuel says another solution to your vertical row would be to reduce the pull as opposed to the traditional method. Using dumbbells, Samuel suggests putting your elbows parallel or slightly below. Even with this reduced movement, you still get the delt and trap effects of vertical without adding unnecessary internal rotation to your shoulders.
“It’s always going to hit the side head off your shoulder because you’re always rising in that position,” Samuel says. “And it’ll still hit your traps a bit.”
Pull vertically, then store horizontally
A final vertical row adjustment Samuel recommends is to eliminate the upward pull normally done with traditional uprights (“It’s not even a row,” he says). Instead, think of the movement as a horizontal pull, with your elbows slightly lower than your shoulders, while pulling back and squeezing your shoulder blades together. This move makes the lift safer, and at the same time, you’re also adding work to your rear deltoids, making the move an even more multidimensional version of the classic vertical row.
“It will create a bit of a challenge and it will take some getting used to,” says Samuel. “But once you get that, it’s the safest and most efficient way to do the vertical row, it’ll still give you the shoulder benefits you want…and it won’t hurt you. in 10 years.”
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