The Pull for Shoulder Health – The Bent Over Row!
The Bent over Row is a perfect combination in one exercise. It has anti-rotation, a hip hinge, a unilateral pull, and posture stability. Anti-rotation when you pull with one side is a great core challenge. So, your core has to maintain and be strong against a one-sided load. Hip Hinge, the biggest movement pattern for anyone to functionally practice and strengthen is key for this upper body pull. The hip hinge is where you rotate from your hip joint keeping your back still. This loads more of your glutes and hamstrings. In this exercise, they are holding the position and working on endurance of this posture. Posture stability with upper back strengthening is the main part of the exercise. This upper back strength is key for breathing, neck health, and low back health as well as shoulder strength. This is the PULL!
With all of these parts, there are many that do this exercise and feel a stress in their neck. They feel low back pain or tension. They feel like they are stressing things more than helping them.
I did a video on 3 main keys to do to make this exercise work for you and support your body.
Keep a Flat Back
This flat back is needed to use your core and hip hinge properly. This is where you trigger the postural stability and the core anti-rotation. You will feel your abdominals engage and become more of a corset vs a tail tuck feeling. This allows your low back to not take the stress but be supported by the front body. Now you can strengthen your back muscles but not overuse them for the stability that you need in the core. This is the stability and strength we need for climbing and descending on the mountain bike.
Bring Your Shoulder Blades Down
Bringing your shoulders down does a couple things. It one makes you use more of your middle and lower trap as well as your rhomboids, but it also takes load off of your upper traps and neck. This scapular depression is the key for the change of muscles being used in the pull. Many times, when doing the pull, we pull upwards to the ceiling vs pulling into our shoulder blade and getting some of your deltoid muscle as well. When you pull to the ceiling you cant keep the shoulder blade depressed, it elevates, using your upper trap and pulling on your neck. This is the same posture that we as mountain bikers need to strengthen for stability over the bike on the downhills. This may be why you have neck issues after a long downhill or after a tough climb.
Pull Through Your Shoulder Blades
Pulling is the main movement of the bent over row. But how you pull is key to making this a good exercise vs a great exercise. When you pull through your shoulder blade you retract it toward your spine and pull it into your rib cage. If you bicep curl this move then you don’t get the upper back strengthening that you are targeting with this exercise. That part of the pull is what many lose over years causing poor posture, shoulder rotator cuff stress, and neck stress. So don’t add too much weight here, causing your bicep curl to be the biggest thing. Lighten the load and then you will be able to get the less strong muscles, your shoulder blade muscles.
The Bent Over Row is a Great Exercise
In conclusion, the bent over row is a great exercise to improve not only your mountain biking, but your posture, core strength, shoulder health, and spine stability. Give it a try in your next routine or check out the Ride Life Team for more workouts and exercises with a purpose!