Sep 6, 2017
Row Toward Success

When planning an athlete’s workout, most coaches try to find exercises that engage multiple muscle groups and more efficiently use weight room time. If you’re looking for a compound exercise that will fill many needs, the Renegade Row might be the perfect option as it works the core as well as the upper body.

In an article for, Andy Haley, CSCS, explains that as an anti-extension core exercise, the Renegade Row is safer for your athletes than other similar movements. It reduces the chance of injury by training the athletes’ abs and other core muscles to prevent the lower back from extending.

“As soon as you lift a dumbbell off the ground, the exercise gets much more intense,” writes Haley. “It pulls down your shoulder, and your opposite hip wants to shoot up into the air to make it easier on your core.

“To perform the exercise properly in the plank position with your hips level and square to the ground, your core muscles work to keep you in the exact same position as when both dumbbells are on the ground — but now you only have one arm for support,” he continues. “In addition to the anti-extension component discussed above, it also works anti-rotation, meaning your core muscles prevent your torso from rotating.”

While the core is working, so are the shoulders, back, chest, hips, and quads. Each of these muscle groups are utilized and strengthened while helping your athlete stay in the right position throughout the exercise. The unilateral nature of this exercise in strengthening each of these components makes it a useful workout for athletes in any sport.

“This exercise is particularly beneficial for athletes, or anyone, for that matter, because we rarely ever work with both arms and legs at the same time in sports or everyday life,” writes Haley. “There’s usually some sort of asymmetrical force or movement, such as what occurs when you throw a ball, push off against someone with one hand or even open a heavy door.”

While the Renegade Row can be very beneficial to athletes, it can also be harmful if done incorrectly. In an article for the National Federation of Professional Trainers, Ian Nimblett, CFCS, CSCS, CPT, recommends that athletes be able to master the regular plank for 60 seconds before moving on to this type of exercise. He then lays out the steps to completing it correctly:

  1. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand and get into pushup position, balancing on the handles.
  2. Shift your body weight to your right side so your left arm feels light.
  3. Row the left-hand dumbbell to your ribs, bring back down to the starting position, and repeat.
  4. Keep your body in a straight line and your abs braced throughout. Do not move your hips.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side of your body.

If your athlete is struggling to do this exercise, Nimblett suggests moving the feet into a wider stance, which gives a more stable base. Once the athlete begins to build strength and becomes more used to the exercise, the feet can be gradually brought back together. However, make sure that while this change is being made their body stays in alignment throughout.

When implementing this exercise into your athlete’s workout, it is important to not overdo it. Haley suggests starting with a lighter weight, and gradually moving up as strength increases. He also recommends not utilizing the Renegade Row too often. Instead, integrate it one or two times per week into the core workout, with 3-4 sets of 5 reps on each side. Nimblett echoes this sentiment, suggesting that athletes focus on quality repetitions over quantity.

To see the Renegade Row in action, check out this video from Nimblett.

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