The Back and Core Exercise You Never Knew You Were Doing Wrong

by Brook Benten Jimenez on June 24, 2020 in Lifestyle, Sports, Wellness,
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Whether you’ve been exercising for as long as you can remember or you’ve just gotten off the sofa, some common exercises seem like no-brainers. 

But, all too often, it’s on these seemingly obvious exercises that 90% of exercisers (and plenty of certified personal trainers) need a tune-up. Over the next weeks, we’ll dive into a series of moves that you never knew you were doing wrong. Today, the first in the series covers the Renegade Row.

Renegade Rows, also known as Plank Rows, are seemingly straightforward exercises that are often performed improperly. By “seemingly straightforward,” I mean that it’s a plank hold with a row to the lower rib cage.  Easy, right? Not really.

Core Stability is Key

Many of us perform Plank Rows focusing solely on the row and ignoring the hips. By doing so, the hips turn to the side when the arm leaves the ground, and that’s the major goof people make with this exercise. Core stability is common sense with this exercise, but it’s not common practice.

Simply put, your “core muscles” are all of the structures that support your spine and pelvis.  Because you have a core, your upper and lower body can move independently of one another.  For instance, your upper body can rotate while your lower body stays still–and vice versa!  We all should be doing some “anti-rotation” exercises to train a stronger, more stable core.

In other words, in moves where the hips want to rotate because the upper body is flexing/extending/rotating, we should make extra effort to keep the hips stationary. It takes mind-body awareness to do this, because your hips and shoulders prefer to work in tandem.

Step 1: Place your hands underneath your shoulders and your feet hip-width apart, belly facing down. Tighten your abdominals and clench your glutes. Hold steady “high plank.” Photo courtesy Brook Benten Jimenez

Combating Hip Rotation

Renegade Rows are very challenging to perform as an anti-rotation exercise. Let’s face it, your body is horizontal, so when you lift a balance point (your hand as you row to your ribcage), it is a legit balancing test to keep your hips from moving too.

That’s why you have to recruit mental focus along with core strength and stability. Most likely, you will get a teeny bit of movement in the hips as you row, and the heavier the weight used for the row, the harder the shift will be to control. For that reason, you should start performing renegade rows with no weight and work on eliminating the rotation at the hips. Once the movement is performed with no rotation, it is time to progress to a light hand weight.
Eventually, add a heavy weight, but do so in a quadruped position (on all fours) so you can keep the hips still. With patience, time, training, and effort, you will eventually be able to engage that powerhouse core and perform Renegade Rows with heavy load and with very little movement in the hips. 

Step 2: Maintain posture described in Step 1, but lift one hand from the ground and pull the hand to the bottom of your rib cage. Try to minimize or eliminate any shift in the hips. Return to Step 1, then perform Step 2 with the other hand. Photo courtesy Brook Benten Jimenez

How To (See Photos Above)

Step 1:  Place your hands underneath your shoulders and your feet hip-width apart, belly facing down. Tighten your abdominals and clench your glutes. Hold steady “high plank.”

Step 2:  Maintain posture described in Step 1, but lift one hand from the ground and pull the hand to the bottom of your rib cage. Try to minimize or eliminate any shift in the hips.
Return to Step 1, then perform Step 2 with the other hand.

Now that you know the problem, you can start making strides to fix “the back and core exercise you never knew you were doing wrong!”


Cover photo courtesy Brook Benten Jimenez

Brook Benten Jimenez, M.Ed., is an exercise physiologist in Georgetown, Texas. She has starred in over a dozen highly acclaimed workout videos. Benten Jimenez was named 2012 “Austin’s Fittest Fitness Professional.” 

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