June 30, 2022
Have you tried every variation of standard rows and are still looking for an exercise that’ll target more than just the upper body? Look no further: The renegade row is the perfect, full-body variation to your standard row. Combining the best of back rows with the core-targeting effects of the plank, this compound movement builds muscle, blasts fat, and targets multiple body parts, including the core and upper body.
The true definition of a gym goer's dream come true.
In this post, we'll cover:
The renegade row, or plank row, is an advanced variation of a dumbbell row and deserves a spot in the back row variations line-up. Targeting the entire body, particularly the upper body, the exercise will challenge your core stability the entire time. When using perfect form, load, and progression for the renegade row, the move can help improve anti-rotation, stability, coordination, and strength. For women looking to build and tone back muscle, the renegade row makes the list of best back exercises.
The renegade row is most suitable if you have built a baseline level of strength with plank exercise variations and are comfortable spending time in a tall plank position. Not to worry: There are many ways to regress or progress the renegade row to suit your fitness level and personal goals. The most important part of renegade rows (and nearly all exercises) is executing repetitions with proper form. More on successfully executing a proper renegade row shortly.
The renegade row targets the entire upper body and core. Specific muscles include:
When stabilizing the body in the plank position, the deep core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transversus abdominis, are engaged. A key factor separating the renegade row from standard rows, row variations like t-bar row alternatives, or planks is its anti-rotational benefits. The core is targeted as one arm pulls into a row while the rest of the abdominals stabilize the tall plank position. The body’s natural response is to rotate with the row but in this case, resisting rotation taps into the deep stabilizer abdominal muscles.
Anti-rotational strength is highly beneficial in functional training, defined as a series of movements based on real-life occurrences or situations. It's also ideal for building core strength.
During everyday life, we can move in ways that put the spine out of alignment. For example: rotating while bending down and picking something up from the floor. Training anti-rotation helps strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine and helps protect the lower back from pain or injuries. Anti-rotational core strength can aid balance, coordination, and fall prevention.
The row is known for its back-targeting abilities, which is why they always have multiple spots reserved in the best back-building workout routines. The renegade row is no exception to this, targeting the lats, rhomboids, and traps. Your erector spinae is also going to be activated as it works with your core to keep your body stabilized. For a full back-blasting impact, begin your renegade row with your shoulder blades slightly protracted, creating tension throughout your back. Maintain the tension as you row back, and prepare to feel the back burn.
The biceps are targeted during the row portion of the exercise. Meanwhile, the triceps on the non-rowing side is fully activated as it works to stabilize your body, particularly as your weight shifts to one side.
Your shoulders are isometrically contracting throughout the entire movement as they work to support your body. You can activate them further by using your shoulders to push your weights into the ground. Make sure you continue to use them for stability as you shift your weight from side to side as you row. If you're looking for a burnout move to put at the end of a killer dumbbell shoulder workout, the renegade row is a great workout finisher.
This how-to is based on a standard renegade row where the upper body alternates sides for each row. For beginners, rowing on the same side for a designated amount of repetitions before switching sides is recommended. You can use dumbbells or use kettlebells in the kettlebell renegade row variation.
How to do the Renegade Row:
The exercise requires your hips to stay square to the ground the entire time. Once you feel fatigued in the renegade row, it is common to lose tension within the lower half of the body and begin to open up the hip on the same side of the arm that is rowing. As one hip rotates outwards, the other hip drops closer to the ground, decreasing core stability and can add additional stress to the lower back. When you feel your hips rotate, reset your plank position or take breaks within your rep scheme to perform strict reps with great form.
Before lifting any weights in the renegade row, establish a proper tall plank position. Engage your entire body while you intentionally breathe through your diaphragm, sending equal pressure to the abs and lower back. If you feel like you’re swaying side to side, your hips are shooting up or dropping downwards, try to widen your foot stance.
Another way to ensure your plank keeps form is to keep an eye on your form in the mirror. If you’re having difficulty finding stability in your plank, decrease the dumbbell weight and take a few counts to reestablish a strong plank before initiating the next row repetition.
Make sure to complete the full-range repetitions of your rows in your renegade form. While coming into the row, drive your elbow towards the ceiling and row the dumbbell up towards your hip. As your upper body gets tired from stabilizing the plank and rowing the dumbbells, it is common to half-rep the rows and barely lift them off the ground.
Decrease the weight of the dumbbells if you notice this as a recurring compensation. Another method to challenge your row is starting with heavier dumbbells and finishing your rep scheme with lighter ones as a drop set. Again, focus on your range of motion to access the greatest benefit in building your upper body strength.
The simplest way to modify the renegade row is to decrease the weight or regress the plank position. If you feel that the weight you are working with is hard to control, choose a lighter weight and make sure you maintain a solid plank. You may even want to begin a resistance band ab routine to help strengthen your core further. If that’s still an intense challenge, modify your plank by lowering your knees to the ground. Emphasize stabilizing the movement through your trunk.
With one dumbbell in hand, hinge into a bent-over row stance. Practice bracing and breathing into your core as you move through the row. The bent-over row builds your upper body strength and anti-rotational strength. This is a great beginner exercise before approaching any plank position for the renegade row.
Use a bench or a box to elevate your upper body. Set up for your renegade row the same way you would as if you were on the ground. Make sure your hands are right under your shoulders. This regression allows you to practice keeping a proper plank form with less of your body weight pulling you out of alignment during the exercise.
Start upright and grab one TRX strap. Slowly walk your way closer to the anchor point until you feel tension. Keep your body neutral, in an inverted plank, and drive your elbow back into a row. This variation helps you connect with your body in an inverted position. It also allows you to practice keeping your hips and shoulders aligned throughout the row.
Trying to make renegade rows more challenging? The most effective way to increase the intensity of your renegade row is to increase the weight or swap the resistance that you’re using. If not dumbbells, grab onto kettlebells or sandbells and gauge how the distribution of weight changes the difficulty level of the movement.
Complete one row on each side before dropping into a strict push-up. One rep = row on the right, row on the left, one push-up. This renegade row push up will take your workout to the next level.
As your right arm comes up to row, lift your left leg off of the ground so your plank is stabilized through your left arm and right leg. The bird dog position further challenges your core stability by making it harder to square your shoulders and hips to the ground.
For our final renegade row progression, add a plate or sandbag on your back in the renegade row stance. As you come up into the row, the weight will challenge you to avoid shifting through the hips or losing tension in your plank.
The renegade row accomplishes helping you build strength, but it isn’t the best movement to load with a lot of weight and max out. Since most of the movement's emphasis is on keeping the hips and torso squared and stable, the focus is more on performing the renegade row properly and choosing a sustainable load.
The following are sets and rep recommendations for specific goals:
The renegade row can be incorporated into your fitness routine in several ways. It is best programmed with upper body-specific training days, a full-body workout plan for gaining strength and mass, and core finishers. Renegade rows can be executed at any point of your workout, the beginning, middle, or end. If you're looking for an upper-body workout that includes the renegade row, try this results-driven back and shoulders workout. One thing to keep in mind: Ensure you still have gas in the tank to maintain form throughout the movement. As soon as you feel yourself compensating for your plank position, decrease your reps or choose a lighter set of weights.
Incorporating the renegade row into your routine can increase strength in multiple muscle groups, improve anti-rotational strength, and keep you on your toes (literally) by offering many progressions to keep improving your functional training capacity. Keep implementing this exercise in your routine with proper form, load, and progression, and you will see outstanding results.
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