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Why You Should Learn the ‘Fisherman’ Row

By Lee Boyce July 13th, 2020 | Image Source: Men's Health

Fishing for major back gains? This row variation is the key

Lee Boyce is a Toronto-based strength coach who helps clients and athletes reach strength and conditioning, sports performance, and hypertrophy goals. In his new column, Basics Made Better, he’ll help you tweak classic exercises to squeeze out even more muscle gain. Follow him on Instagram.

One of the finest dumbbell back exercises is the classic dumbbell row. But it’s also a tricky culprit to perfect form-wise. You have to read carefully around lower back issues and technical errors, and, very often, that can result in sub-par results.

The standard dumbbell row can start from a rough position in itself, with your feet staggered in a position that invites positional errors. That’s largely why we at MH teach it differently, but just for as a refresher course in the row, let’s look at a typical setup.

You’re on a flat bench, one leg on the bench, one leg on the floor, feet staggered and leg on the ground bent to attain a flat spine. You start with the dumbbell on the floor underneath your shoulder and, without twisting, you row to waist level using your upper back muscles.

We don’t teach that method here, instead pushing for a more balanced lower-body stance that doesn’t have a knee on the bench. But you’ll still see plenty of people rowing the wrong way. That invites them to rotate too much through the mid-back and lumbar regions, and it stops the upper back from being the prime mover of the lift. For lifters with a history of lumbar issues, the last thing they need is a one-sided load combined with an uneven hip position.

There’s another way to juice this row, and that’s called the Fisherman Row. The fisherman row makes a technique change that’ll fire up your abs a bit, too: Both knees are on the bench, not just one.

Here’s your game plan on the Fisherman Row.

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The FISHERMAN ROW creates a very useful and needed adjustment to typical single arm DB rows, that guys like myself can definitely get behind. Here’s why. _ Having one leg mounted on the bench, and one leg planted on the floor can make it difficult to find the right position to keep the pelvis level and free of an obliquity or rotation. Bearing load when you’re not perfectly set up can wreak havoc on a lifter’s lower back musculature and lumbar vertebrae – which is bad news for guys like me with a history of disc related back issues. _ Setting up on an angle to a bench, while placing both legs on top of that bench helps solve this problem for obvious reasons, but also creates a few more bonus benefits. First, since your hips are sitting level and a bit higher, it allows for a greater pulling reach for more ROM and a great hit for the lats and upper back. _ Second, this variation absolutely TORCHES the obliques. Enough said. _ Lastly, being on an angle leaves more space for the dumbbell away from the bench, making it a touch easier to turn the wrist within each rep for a nice rotation – which I always welcome. _ Straddle the bench like Bruno Caboclo. _ #hypertrophy #bodybuilding #backworkout #backday #backdayworkout #rows #dumbbellrow #lats #strengthtraining #strengthandconditioning #backtraining #posture #healthyspine

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  • Use any flat bench. Set it in an open area along with one dumbbell.
  • Place the dumbbell on the floor near the bench, and kneel across the bench diagonally.
  • Both knees should be on the bench, and one hand, supporting your torso, also on the bench.
  • Mildly arch the lower back by pushing the chest and butt up simultaneously. It helps to slightly sit back toward the heels while doing this.
  • With the free hand, reach down for the dumbbell. Maintain a flat back and row the weight in the same fashion you would with a classic single arm DB row. It’s okay to really “stretch” at the bottom of each rep too, as long as the spine stays neutral.
  • Remember to keep the chin packed, to ensure your neck stays in line with the mid and lower back.
  • Focus on sets of 12-15 reps per side. Do 3 sets.

It seems like a small adjustment right? But it’s the key to keeping your hips level and avoiding any unwanted lumbar rotation. Plus it keeps your shoulder square. And even when you do fatigue, the fisherman row helps; you’ll feel your obliques kick in to help protect the spine from a stable, bilateral base.

And a little extra ab work never hurt anyone.

Author: Lee Boyce

Source: Men’s Health: Why You Should Learn the Fisherman Row

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