Programming Rowing for Optimal Gains

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I love rows for building a bigger stronger posterior chain and healthy shoulders. And honestly think that row VARIATIONS can be trained daily if undulated properly in programming.

But lets call it what it is, placing 7 synergistic row variations together into a weekly program is next to impossible (I’ve done it successfully a few times, only took me 10 years of fucking up to do it lol) and probably not realistic for us or our clients.

So that means we should instead be focusing on the MAJOR row variations throughout the week with the biggest bang for the buck. And that’s rowing with a focus on strength and hypertrophy stimuli.

As we’ve talked about in the PPSC Masters programming modules, each movement pattern, region or muscle group should be optimally hit 2x per week to maximize gains across:

1) Muscular Strength

2) Muscular Hypertrophy

3) Motor Learning and Sequencing

And as much as we love the row and it’s potential benefits, the row can simply fit into this 2x/week blueprinting block for your own programming or for your clients.

 

HOW TO VARY

So if you have 2 row variations to prioritize throughout the week, I recommend that you place your first exercise focus on building full body strength in a 6-10 rep range AND more importantly have the core involved (not supported). An example of this would be a staggered stance single arm dumbbell row.

 





 

The second row in the week should be programmed with a higher rep scheme (traditional 10-20 reps for hypertrophy works here) with a “muscle building” emphasis. But as the rep range climbs, so do potential compensation patterns hitting the system as duration of sets drag on.

Simply put, the spine, hips and shoulders (non-contractile structures) start to take a brunt of the hit, taking stimuli away from the prime muscular movers being trained. That’s not a good thing for building muscle OR staying healthy.

In these extended set situations for the row pattern I like supported positions such as seated rows, chest supported rows, kneeling rows, etc.

Here we can ensure an active AND supported spine that remains in relative neutral while placing more trainable stimuli on the muscles themselves.

 





 

This breaks down to training the row 2x/week minimum

1) Strength (NON-Supported Spine Position)

2) Muscle (Supported Spine Position)

And if you want to get crazy and throw a 3rd or 4th frequency for rows into the programming, stick to power and metabolic stress work to hit this pattern from all physical characteristic needs.

Lets get rowing people!! And any questions?

-JR

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