I know the name of the exercise is a doozy, but I promise the length of the name is proportional to the awesome benefits it offers. Building strong and thick rhomboids, traps, and lats is not only a priority if you want to have a back that draws everyone's attention at the swimming pool, but it is also important for injury prevention and performance.
Strong rhomboids and lats help you pull more weight from the floor without losing good position. They aid in back squatting to stabilize the spine as you descend and ascend. They prevent you from developing a Mr. Burns-like posture.
Plus a strong muscular back just looks way better on a man or woman in my opinion. It gives them a strong and athletic build that speaks to their performance both in the gym and outside of it.
However the go to exercises we use to develop such upper backs can become a bit boring and/or monotonous from week to week and program to program. I know myself I get tired of the same old One-Arm DB Row or Barbell Bent Over Row after a couple months. That is why I like to add some new age twists to these old exercises that makes them more challenging and novel and in this case adds an additional benefit.
The exercise I want to show you today is a variation of the basic Bent Over Row only done with dumbbells instead of a barbell. In this variation you are going to be bent over in the a position that simulates the bottom position of a good Romanian Deadlift. Your weight should be supported by your entire posterior chain not just your lower back this means you should feel your calves, hamstrings, and glutes engaged in this position. A lot of people describe it as tautness which is probably the best approximation to the correct feeling.
You just don't want all the load creating a large shear force across your spine at least no more than what is absolutely unavoidable.
Then to make this exercise a bit more difficult and in my opinion more effective we are going to hold the dumbbells in the top position so that your lats and rhomboids are engaged and your shoulder blades are being squeezed together. Think of the exercise Dan John talks a lot about, Bat Wings.
From this position you will then lower one arm down towards the ground all the way being sure to get to full extension of the elbow and full protraction of the shoulder blade. If you are getting there you should feel a slight stretch through your upper back muscles of the same side as the arm you are lowering. You will then pull the weight back up towards you being sure to retract or squeeze your shoulder blade toward your midline as you bend your elbow.
During this movement the opposite arm and shoulder blade should remain fully engaged and should not move.
You'll then repeat the same motion with the opposite arm. Alternating back and forth for the prescribed repetitions.
The reason I like this rowing variation is because not only do you forces the muscles to work eccentrically and concentrically, but you also make them work isometrically. Not to mention you are developing control over your scapulas independent of one another. And also you are not only challenging core stability in preventing flexion, but also in preventing rotation as you lower the arm to the ground.
I told you the length of the exercise name and it's benefits are proportional. It's rather kickass and it will leave you with one of the best upper back pumps ever.
But to make sure you don't mess up your technique be sure to select a weight that allows you to perform the exercise flawlessly. You should be able to keep the shoulder from tipping forward as you row as well as keep the spine from flexing or twisting during the exercise. If either of these is occurring you more than likely need to drop the weight.
I'd use this exercise as either the first exercise in the workout or as an accessory lift. If you start with it at the beginning of the training session a good set and rep scheme would be something like 4 sets x 5 reps on each side. And if you choose to use it more as an accessory lift I'd try going for 3 sets x 12 reps on each side.
How To Perform the Two Arm DB Bent Over Row w/Alt Iso Hold
Below is a video of me demonstrating it in it's entirety.
Happy moving and heavy lifting!
Practical, Purposeful, Effective Training