After a while, taking on the same workout over and over again gets boring. We love dumbbell rows to build up a strong, solid back, but you can only perform the standard version of the exercise so many times before you need to switch things up.
That’s why Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. uses smart variations of standard exercises like the row to spice up his workout. Flipping the script doesn’t just change your routine—you’ll also have opportunities to work muscle groups you might not engage in more standard versions of the exercise. Case in point: this elevated plank row series, which offers you the perfect opportunity to chisel out your V-taper torso for beach season.
“The elevated plank row is one of the most versatile rows you can do, forcing stellar core position while also letting you get a near-full rowing range of motion (unlike the traditional plank row),” says Samuel. “This three-way plank series forces a lot of core time-under-tension. It’s also attacking your back from varying angles. The end result is V-taper one-stop shopping: You’re training your core to control your ribcage, carving your obliques, and building plenty of back width because, as you get comfortable, you can load this up with a decent amount of weight.”
To take on the elevated plank row series, you’ll need a weight bench (or some similar platform) and a medium weight dumbbell. If you want to try this at home and you need a weight, check out this adjustable option from Bowflex, or any of our favorites here.
Men’s Health/Eric Rosati
- Set up in an elevated plank position on top of the bench, placing your elbow and forearm on the surface for support. Squeeze your core and glutes throughout the series to keep your spinal position strong. Hold the dumbbell in your other arm, with the weight down.
- Squeeze your back to row the weight up with your elbow flared out wide. Pause at the top for a count.
- Row with your elbow close to your body, turning your palm inward so it faces your head. Pause at the top for a count.
- Row with your elbow close to your body again, keeping your hand in position.
- Perform 3 to 4 clusters of this series for 1 set.
The variety of the movements in the series is more valuable than just something to add some spice to your workout. “By constantly changing up the angle of the row, your abs have to maintain the plank while also adjusting constantly to different anti-rotational stimuli,” says Samuel. “The elbow-flared row at the start creates the greatest anti-rotational force, shocking your torso on the first rep, even if you’ve done plank rows before. The next two rows move the weight closer to your torso (and thus aren’t as ab-challenging), but they attack different sections of your back. You’ll catch a lot of lats by creating that slight rotation on the second row, and by pulling toward your hip, and the final row, as always, hits your mid-back.”
Add the elevated plank row series to your back workout as a finisher or as a standalone routine with 3 sets of 3 to 4 clusters per arm. For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full slate of Eb and Swole workouts. If you want to try an even more dedicated routine, consider Eb’s New Rules of Muscle program.
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