What’s the single most difficult exercise to teach someone?

Fundamental movements: squat, bend, push, and pull.

Most problems in the gym can be stated simply. I don’t want your back to move around too much when you squat or bend. I want your shoulder blade to follow your arm when it moves.

“Fixing” a lower body “problem” can be difficult, but usually there’s a simple idea behind it. Get the hips in the right position and maintain balance.

Upper body pushing isn’t too bad; make sure you cue a full reach at the top.

Upper body pulling, however, is a bear. Lead with the shoulder blade, make sure the rib cage moves, don’t compensate with the spine (but still let it move a little), kill momentum, don’t shrug, pause at the top, don’t let the head flop around, where should the eyes look, bring your elbow away from your side (but not too far), count your reps, and try not to think about how many sweaty people have been on this bench since it was last cleaned.

Which brings us to this video.

This post is NOT for people looking to be told what to do. I want to give you a broad vision of rowing, how to coach it, and where it fits into a person’s entire training regimen. I don’t want you to rely on inaccurate, concrete progressions, but instead start to think through and problem solve for your clients (athletes and gen pop alike).

This post is NOT for people who are lost and don’t know what to do. This post is for people looking for a better way to do things.

The agenda:

  • A short talk on how muscles hypertrophy (so we know what we need to do to get gains) [see more below]
  • The variations I like to start with (and how to coach them)
  • The variations I think are easiest to teach (good programming makes you a successful coach in the gym)
  • The variations I think are most prone to error (make your clients earn their stripes before you give these to them)
  • How you can tweak little positioning details to totally change the exercise (and get what you want out of it)
  • Why I would have someone reach while they row (do you think I’d have everyone do it?)
  • Everything you need to understand to keep your clients’ joints healthy (I just want to help you think about scapular movement, glenoid position, rib cage orientation, joint forces, and muscular anatomy at play)
  • How to tell when the latissimus dorsi is taking over (and why that can be such an issue)
  • The two different types of rowing mindsets (one that helps you get jacked and another that helps you feel better)
  • How pull-ups fit into this equation (it’s the same only different)
  • Thoughts on chin-ups vs pull-ups (sometimes I care what grip they use, sometimes I don’t)

I’m an anatomy nerd so take this with a grain of salt: honestly, I’ve found that knowing the anatomy has helped me coach this more than anything else. That and practicing it in my own training. Once you know all the pieces, it’s much easier to focus on just one of them at a time while still keeping the bigger picture in your mind.

Prerequisites and why should you row?

Starting Variation – 3-Point DB Row

Starting Variation – Chest-Supported Row

Common Rowing Mistakes

Bent Over Barbell Row

Vertical Rowing – Pull Ups

Pull Ups vs Chin Ups

Extra Questions

Long head of triceps brachii & why does a scapula wing?


Hip extension & reaching while you row

Muscle Hypertrophy

I don’t think I discussed this topic adequately when we filmed (it was pretty late), so I wanted to add some notes.

Watch this video for a more science-y lecture on hypertrophy from Stuart Phillips, PhD.

Here’s a short summary of that 25-minute talk:

  • Elevated protein intake is sufficient AND necessary for hypertrophy, but the effect is small relative to total gains.
  • Heavier loads are sufficient, but unnecessary for hypertrophy.
  • Lighter loads develop both hypertrophy AND strength.
  • Hormones are neither sufficient NOR necessary for hypertrophy and strength.

Upper Limb Anatomy

We also have a long series on Upper Limb Anatomy if you need a refresher.

Upper Limb Anatomy

Other Videos…

Since we’ve been making videos on IFAST University for a while now, we actually have some related videos that will augment this experience for those who want to dive a little deeper.

…on rowing

Long-term IFASTU members will also recognize that I’ve talked about rowing before.

Counterintuitive Progressions: Comparing and contrasting unilateral rowing variations

…on trunk rotation

Ty has a great piece where he dissects the golf swing. If you can understand these mechanics, your anatomy is top notch.

Training Golfers: How a movement coach can help you hit the ball

Wrap up

That’s all for now! As always, leave any questions in the comments below and send this to anyone who might want to watch it.

Related Posts

Published by Lance Goyke

Let's have a discussion

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.