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Correcting the Bent-Over Row

Although the anterior chain often receives more attention in most fitness centers than the posterior chain, next to the pressing machines undoubtedly there will be an equal number of machines aimed at training pulling movements. Likely, 50% will address shoulder adduction (lat pulldown) and 50% will serve the actions of horizontal abduction and shoulder extension (seated row). Since many of the machines are done in the oblique plane (somewhere between true sagittal/frontal or sagittal/transverse) the muscles of the shoulder complex work together with the muscles of the shoulder to accommodate the force demands. In a seated high row for instance, where the load is elevated above the chest, the rhomboids are involved in some level of scapular retraction and downward rotation aided by the trapezius, while the latissimus dorsi contributes to shoulder extension and adduction. When the resistance is lowered for the seated cable row, the rhomboids and mid-trapezius dominate but are assisted by the lats and teres major for shoulder extension. Exercises like the lat pulldown, high row, and seated row certainly have merit in a resistance training program aimed at strength and hypertrophy but for performance and function these stable, machine-based exercises pale in comparison to exercises like the pull-up and bent-over row.

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