Row Row Your Back!!
by Scott Tully
I’m going to start this off by letting you know I’m not a writer, ha ha. I want to write this about something that has helped me a lot in my overall training, and also want to let you know how we have tried to come up with a new handle to allow you to get even better Upper back and trapezius strength and gains. When I started training at the Dino Gym almost 10 years ago, I had mainly competed in Olympic lifting and strongman. One area of major weakness for me was the top end of my deadlift. I also noticed weakness in my strongman training with stone loading, as I could lap heavy stones but had a hard time transitioning to the load. Al Myers and my training partners can attest I would miss many deadlifts over the knee. We talked extensively about how to fix this. Rack pulls helped a little, but it seemed there was another issue. Al recommended I add in more upper back and trap work. I had always done lat pulls, but never that heavy and always for high reps, and very rarely any rows. I thought I got enough of that type of work from strongman training, well I was wrong. After we had this conversation, I started adding in heavy lat pulls, not shying away from heavy sets of 5, and added in 4-5 sets of rows. Rows included standing 45 degree dumbbell rows, bent over dynamic rows (Pendlay or Russian Rows), chest supported dumbbell rows on a incline bench, and seated cable rows.
Over the years I’ve been able to make this an area of strength. It’s still not what I’d like it to be, but at least it’s not a glaring weakness. I truly believe that I get the most out of standing 45 degree and chest supported rows with dumbbells. The problem that myself and a lot of others run into is being able to use a heavy enough weight. At the one gym I train at our DB’s go up to 120, and at the Dino Gym they go to 150. The other problem with a DB is that often the plates hit your body before your elbow is far enough back to engage the lats all the way and being that a DB is totally fixed, it doesn’t rotate in your hand at all to allow the elbows up and to be able to pull back. So I found an idea on the net for a handle and got a hold of Al, and 3 days later we had the Dino Row handle. The problem with the one I had the pic for was that there was not enough room to add the weight needed, mind you, because I wanted to be able to shrug with these also. We were able to make the handle the exact height away from the loading shaft that we needed. After using these and testing them out I think it’s the most effective way to hit your lats in a rowing movement. This handle can go as low as 25lbs, and as high as around 250lbs. One thing I mentioned above was hitting the traps. The problem I have with barbell shrugs is that they wreck my lower back. I had a microdiskectomy of my L-4 and L-5 in 2006 and a few movements still bother it, but with these handles I can hold them out to my side and take the pressure off the lower back and extend the shrug higher. By hitting the Lats more specifically with the rows I have taken my deadlift from the low 500’s before my back surgery to a 617 in competition and a 650 in training, and rarely do I ever miss a deadlift over the knees now. There are pics included in this so you can see the handle, and if you’re at the Dino Gym you have to try this out, and the next day your lats will thank you for it.