- Benefits of the Renegade Row
- Proper form
- Mistakes people make
- How to address/correct these mistakes
- Some of my favourite Renegade Row variations
The Renegade Row is a tremendously effective exercise that gives you a massive bang for your buck. It develops upper body pulling strength, and is also brilliant at developing lumbo-pelvic stability. The Renegade Row also develops shoulder stability, a quality that is lacking in many.
This versatile exercise can be performed on its own, paired with a lower body or upper body pushing exercise (I usually don't like to pair it with a pulling exercise), or used as part of a metabolic conditioning circuit. In order to obtain the benefits of the Renegade Row, it needs to be executed with very solid form. Unfortunately, it is more common than not to see this exercise being totally butchered.
You should maintain neutral spinal alignment for the duration of the exercise. Your body should remain in a straight(ish) line from your head to your heels. Pay attention to the position of your rib cage, lower back, and hips. Your lower back should not hyperextend, your rib cage should not flare, and your hips should not collapse. Think of your body as a canister. Your ribs and pelvis should remain stacked. Keep your neck in neutral alignment and your chin tucked (pretend to make a slight double chin).
Breathing And Core
When you perform the Renegade Row, before each rep, you want to take a deep breath in (360 degrees of air around the spine), brace your core (I like to pretend that I am about to be hit in the stomach with a soccer ball), and actively tuck your rib cage towards your hips (close the space in your midsection). This will help keep your body in the proper alignment and will allow your anterior core to do its job, which is to stabilize your pelvis and spine. Reset before each rep. This is vital and will prevent your body from twisting, something that is commonly seen when people perform the Renegade Row.
Squeeze your glutes. This will help stabilize your pelvis and will keep your hips from dropping or piking when you initiate each row
Keep your knees so they are almost fully extended. Really contract your quads and hamstrings.
The closer together you place your feet, the more challenging the exercise will be. Conversely, the greater the width of your feet, the easier the exercise will be. Aim to keep your feet hip to shoulder width apart.
Set up the weights so they are directly underneath your shoulders. Your shoulders, elbows and wrists should be stacked on top of each other. Keep your shoulders packed for the duration of the exercise.
When you are performing the rowing motion, think about using the muscles in your mid/upper back to move your shoulder blade towards your spine and down towards your opposite hip. When you are returning the weight to the starting position, your shoulder blade should move in the reverse direction. Many people make the mistake of not allowing their shoulder blade to move. On the non-working side, I like to keep my shoulder blade slightly retracted and slightly downwardly rotated. You can pretend that you are trying to gently tuck your shoulder blade into your back pant pocket on the opposite side. Keep it there for the duration of the set as this will add stability to the non-rowing side.
When you perform each row, your form should resemble that of a bent-over row. You should initiate the pull with the muscles in your mid/upper back, not your arms. Think about leading with your elbow rather than leading with your hand and using your arm to do the work. Your forearms should remain in a vertical position. Many people perform their row so it resembles a poorly executed biceps curl and while in a horizontal position. Your elbows should remain close to your sides and should not flare out. Your rowing motion should end when your elbows are around the height of your sides. Do not allow your elbows to travel well past your sides.
If you are performing this exercise correctly and are engaging your core and glutes to their full potential, your weight should remain equally distributed on both feet and your body should not move at all. You will commonly see people shifting their weight from foot to foot, and their body rocking from side to side. This is often a reflection of poor lumbo-pelvic stability.
**This is one of the most important points of the article, hence why I am highlighting it.
Poor Lumbo-Pelvic Stability
When many people perform the Renegade Row, they allow their pelvis and spine to collapse (or pelvis to pike), or they allow their torso and spine to twist all over the place. This defeats the entire purpose of the exercise as the point of this exercise is for the lumbo-pelvic region to remain in a fixed position. The arms are the only part of the body where the movement should be occurring.
Here are a few of my favourite exercises that will help you improve your lumbo-pelvic stability:
- Set up a barbell and loop a resistance band around the top of the barbell, and stand on top of it. Obviously the thicker the band, the more challenging the exercise will be.
- Adopt an athletic stance. Your knees should be slightly bent, and your feet should be about hip to shoulder width apart. Maintain a tripod foot (weight on the mid to back of your foot, and keep your big and baby toe down) for the duration of the exercise.
- Before you perform the press, take a deep breath in through your nose (360 degrees of air around the spine). Now extend your arms, forcefully exhale, brace your core (imagine that you're about to block a soccer ball with your stomach), actively tuck your rib cage towards your anterior pelvis (close the space in your midsection), and lightly engage your glutes.
- As you bring your arms back in towards your body, stop when your elbows touch your sides.
- Maintain proper alignment for the duration of the exercise. Make sure that you engage your glutes, brace your core, and keep your rib cage tucked towards your hips for the duration of the exercise.
- Do not allow your rib cage to flare or lower back to hyperextend.
- Reset before each rep.
Feet Elevated Side Plank On Wall With Leg Abduction
- Set yourself up so you are in a side plank position with one hand on the floor and both feet up the wall. Generally, you want to position your hand so it is below your shoulder. I have my hand so it is slightly ahead of my shoulder, and this position feels great for me. Do what works for you.
- Once you are in position, tuck your ribs towards your hips (close the space in your midsection), contract all of your core muscles (essentially all of your muscles but your limbs), squeeze your glutes, and slowly lower your leg towards the floor, bring it back to the wall, reset and repeat.
- Aim to deeply inhale (360 degrees of air around your spine) and exhale the entire time.
- Keep your abducting leg as relaxed as you can so your core muscles will be forced to do the majority of the work.
- The whole point of this exercise is to keep your body in proper alignment, and for your body to resist extension, rotation, and lateral flexion.
Perform this variation of the side plank but do not abduct your leg.
Add in the bottoms-up kettlebell hold to this exercise.
- Set yourself up as you would during a regular single leg glute bridge. Make sure your shin is relatively vertical as supposed to angled, or else the hamstring will take over, and I want the glutes and anterior core to be doing the bulk of the work.
- Keep your hips elevated by squeezing your glutes.
- Do not allow your rib cage to flare or lower back to hyperextend. You will accomplish this by actively tucking your rib cage towards your pelvis, and bracing your core.
- I like to exhale as I am actively tucking my rib cage towards my pelvis, and this is when my leg is moving away from the midline of my body. I will inhale as my leg is approaching my midline, and I will reset before each rep.
- Do not allow your pelvis, spine, and ribs to rotate. The lateral leg movement/anti-rotational component will make this much more challenging.
- Even though you are using one glute more than the other, focus on engaging both glutes or else your pelvis will collapse on the one side and your body will twist.
- Keep the kettlebell in line with your shoulder the entire time, and keep your shoulder packed.
- As you become more proficient, you can increase the range of the lateral leg movement, and can use a heavier kettlebell.
A few different options include:
1) Perform this exercise without the kettlebell.
2) Drop your hips down to the floor between each rep.
3) Shorten the range of the leg abduction.
Add in a bottoms-up kettlebell press (this video is with the leg lowering and the bottoms-up kettlebell press)
When many people perform the Renegade Row, they cheat and use momentum. Quite often, the elbow will travel well past the side during the rowing movement, the body will twist, and the hips will collapse and/or pike. This defeats the purpose of this exercise as this exercise is meant to develop lumbo-pelvic stability, and proper rowing mechanics. Check your ego at the door and select a weight that will allow you to perform the exercise correctly so you get the most out of it.
- Kneel on a bench. Position one hand so it is directly below your shoulder, and grab onto a dumbbell or kettlebell with the opposite hand. Now extend the leg that is on the same side as the rowing arm so it's backwards and is parallel to the ground. Now perform a bent-over row. The key is to maintain proper alignment the entire time, and to row with proper form.
- Before each row, take a deep breath in through your nose (360 degrees of air around the spine), brace your core (imagine that you're about to block a soccer ball with your stomach), actively tuck your rib cage towards your anterior pelvis (close the space in your midsection), and squeeze your glutes.
- Towards the top of the row, exhale, and then take another deep breath in as you are returning the weight to the starting position.
- Stop your row when your elbow is in line with the top of your body.
- Lower the weight to the starting position with control, and keep your shoulder packed the entire time.
- Reset and repeat.
- If you are doing this exercise correctly, your body should remain in proper alignment for the duration of the exercise. Do not allow your pelvis, spine, and ribs to rotate.
- Do not allow your lower back to hyperextend or your rib cage to flare.
Perform a regular bent-over row or tripod stance bent-over row and use no momentum whatsoever.
Here is a progression of the quadruped bird dog single arm row combo that I posted above. This variation is on one foot and one hand so it is even tougher.
Scapular and/or shoulder instability plagues many. This instability might be due to a past injury, an unbalanced training program, or weakness in general. Here are a few of my go-to exercises that will help remedy this issue.
- Place a resistance band so it is around your forearms. Choose a tension that allows you to use proper form at all times.
- Adopt a split stance and set one foot so it is against the wall. Your torso should be 3-6 inches away from the wall.
- Your spine should remain in neutral(ish) alignment. Your head, torso, and hips should be in a stacked position. Do not allow your lower back to hyperextend or ribcage to flare. Keep your chin tucked.
- Your elbows should be bent to approximately 90 degrees, and positioned on the wall so they chest height. Play around though and see what height works the best for you. Put your forearms so they are against the wall, and are in an ''11 o’clock'' position, and press them out against the band. When you do this, you should feel the muscles around your shoulder blades kick in.
- For the duration of the exercise, it is imperative that you do not allow your forearms to lose the ''11 o’clock’’ position, and that you do not allow the band to lose tension.
- Before each rep, take a deep breath in through your nose (360 degrees of air around your spine), brace your core (2-3), tuck your rib cage down towards your hips (close the space in your midsection), and squeeze your glutes.
- Initiate the movement by squeezing the muscles around your should blades, and move your shoulder blades together and down. As you do this, your arms will spread, but do not actually perform the movement with your arms. Use the muscles around your shoulder blades to control the movement as you bring your arms back to the starting position.
- Do not allow your shoulders to elevate towards your ears, do not allow your rib cage to flare, or your lower back to hyperextend, and do not allow your wrists to collapse in and elbows to flare out. Many people compensate for poor overhead scapular stability by doing some or all of the above.
- As for your breathing, do what feels the best for you. Be sure to take deep breaths in through you nose (360 degrees of air around your spine) and exhaling through your mouth.
You can make this exercise easier by using no resistance band, sliding the band down your arms so it is closer to your elbows (versus your hands), using a band with less resistance, and decreasing the range of the movement.
You can make this exercise more challenging by using a band with more resistance, using two bands, or increasing the range of the movement.
- Get into a half kneeling position and perform a single arm bottoms-up kettlebell press.
- Maintain proper alignment the entire time. Your spine should remain in a neutral position, your pelvis and torso should remain level (think of them as a canister, and your body should not rotate at all.
- Press the kettlebell by engaging your delts (of course other muscles are assisting but the delts are the prime movers) and extending your elbow, not by shrugging your shoulder. Your bicep should be in close proximity to your ear.
- Lower the weight with control.
- Reset and repeat.
Here are some innovative variations of the Renegade Row. All of these options vary in difficulty, and will challenge different components of your overall strength and stability.