Renegade Rows: Muscles Used, Form, and Benefits

There are a plethora of bodyweight and lightweight back movements that are extremely challenging and great for building serious muscle (yes, you can get pretty strong and fit without crazy heavyweight…gasp). While heavy Pendlay rows and lat pulldowns may dictate your back training movements, I guarantee you can benefit from performing these highly challenging and core intensive movements.

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Muscles Used

The renegade row is unique in that it not only targets the muscles used in a traditional row, but also the entire body, specifically the anti-rotational muscles deep within the core, scapulae, and arms. Below is a listing of the specific muscles groups primarily targeted during the renegade rows, in no specific order:

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  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Serratus
  • Rhomboids
  • Obliques
  • Rectus abdominus
  • Anterior deltoids
  • Triceps
  • Forearms

How to Do the Renegade Rows

Below is a great video demonstrating the correct technique when performing the renegade row. It is important that athletes, coaches, and general trainees comprehend that while the name implies it is a rowing focused movement, the real magic of this exercise comes from the ability to remain in a rigid plank while performing the row. If an athlete cannot perform single arm planks and/or perform slow and controlled repetitions without shifting weight to one side of body, reaching full retraction in the scapulae, or bumping the hips up/down in the movement, he/she should not be progressed until they can successfully fulfill the planking requirements.

Renegade Row Benefits

Below are some briefly discussed benefits of the renegade row, regardless of ability level and/or sport.

Core Stability

While many people may classify this as an upper body and back movement (which it is), I feel it is just as much core stability and strength as it requires a great deal of body awareness, control, and strength to resist rocking the body or losing balance during the movement. For beginners, I recommend using a wider stand, with the hands also about shoulder width to allow for a greater base of support. As you become more advanced, you can keep the loading the same and perform reps with a narrower stance arms.

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Unilateral Strength and Balance

Like any unilateral movement, there are a great amount of benefits offered to the lifter. Renegade rows are still unilaterally challenging in nature, as one arm is moving while other is working in support mode. Increased muscles awareness, activation, and hypertrophy can all occur under unilateral training environments, making the renegade row a great training tool for beginner and intermediate lifters.

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Total Body Movement

As discussed above, the renegade row challenges just about every muscles and motor neuron in the body depending on the base of support, loading, etc. When looking for a movement that can increase back strength, control, core stability, and body awareness, look no further than the renegade row.

How to Program the Renegade Row

I find that renegade rows are best done with light to moderate weight that is capable of being slowing controlled and moved throughout a full range of motion without any jerky motions and/or compensation patterning (hips rocking, etc). Sets of 8-16 repetitions (total) are generally a good place to start, as it means a lifter will need to promote movement and remain under tension for upwards of 60 seconds, therefore increasing metabolic demands and potentially muscular hypertrophy, etc.

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