Row exercises target the various muscle groups of the spine and shoulders. The muscles of the upper back and shoulders are the rear deltoids, rhomboids, teres major, trapezius and levator scapulae. The latissimus dorsi are the largest muscles of the back and run from the middle to lower back, while the spinal erectors runs along the spine and support the spinal column.
The upright row isolates the shoulders and upper back muscles through lifting and pulling movements. Begin holding a weighted bar with an overhand grip and hands just beyond hip-width distance apart. Bend from the hips so the bar is lowered near the knees, which are slightly bent during the exercise. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and bring the bar up towards the belly button. "Upright rows work the shoulders and even the biceps a bit because you're engaging them to keep the bar balanced. You can change the way the muscles are worked by changing the distance between your hands or the grip as well," according to Certified Personal Trainer Shelby Young.
Dumbbell rows can be done to target the shoulders, upper back and middle back muscles. They can be done standing, using a bench or kneeling. Keep the spine straight and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Squeezing the shoulder blades and engaging the core, bring elbows in towards the body, bending them at a 90 degree angle before extending the arms back out. If the elbows stay close to the ribcage, the rear deltoids and rhomboids are worked; if the elbows bend outwards, the trapezius and latissimus dorsi are strengthened. "Dumbbell rows are really versatile because they can be adjusted to isolate different parts of the back," advises Young. "They can be done anywhere, with not a lot of equipment, but good results."
Dead lifts require a weighted bar and work the lower back, legs and arms. Standing with feet at hip distance and the knees slightly bent, hold the weighted bar in front of the torso. Bend from the hips, engaging the core, until the bar tracks along the leg just below the knee. Using the back muscles, rather than swinging the torso, lift the torso and weighted bar back to standing. "I love dead lifts because they really, really strengthen the lower back and can get your heart pumping at the same time," says Young. "The more weight you use, the more your back has to work to keep the torso stable and the spine aligned so it's a great move to tone and strengthen."
- "Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition and Human Performance"; William D. McArdle, Frank I. Katch, Victor L. Katch
- Shelby Young, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer; Hampshire Hills Sports and Fitness Center; Milford, New Hampshire