The dumbbell row is a key exercise for any athlete to master. The horizontal pull a.k.a row is a
fundamental movement pattern everybody should be able to do for a start, the lats are also a key muscle for generating power in the golf swing as they are responsible for shoulder adduction (i.e. the movement of the arms in the downswing), whilst scapular retraction (the major scapular movement promoted by rows) is beneficial for rotational mechanics.
More rows will balance out your overactive chest muscles leading to healthier shoulders and better rotation. The 3-point dumbbell row is also a great anti-rotation core exercise to boot.
The problem is it’s also one of the exercises I see butchered most often in gyms everywhere.
The issues I typically see are a poor spinal position, the knees caved in and the dumbbell travelling on a poor movement path. To be honest all these problems are pretty easy to solve with some good cueing from a coach standing next to you but this isn’t a luxury available to many - there aren’t all that many good golf fitness professionals unfortunately so quite often you just don’t have one local to you.
I do a lot of online coaching these days and it’s been a great way to reach and help those who can’t get to me in-person. However, this does mean I’m often not physically present for my clients’ workouts. This has meant I’ve had to develop a new set of coaching skills and find new ways to give my athletes the feedback they need. The 3 tips here are born directly out of that need.
Cat-camel: The fix for faulty spinal position
The most common mistake with dumbbell row is probably a poor spinal position, or more specifically a flexed spinal position. Rowing with a rounded low back is not going to lead to happy spinal disks whilst having a rounded thoracic spine goes hand in hand with pretty crappy movement mechanics and muscle activation. Ideally we want to have the lumbar spine arched so as to keep it stable and being rowing from a position of thoracic extension to better activate the scapular retractors and create better posture.
One way we like to go about giving clients the feeling of a good spine position for the dumbbell row is the cat-camel exercise. Simply perform a set of cat-camels before each set of rows and then try to recreate the cat position when setting up for the row.
Bench straddle row: The fix for caved knees
Particularly in junior and female athletes a common error is to row with the knees slightly caved in or pointing towards one another, this just isn’t a stable position to row from as well as creating a valgus force on the knee joint, which can lead to injury. In this case we simply have the athlete straddle the bench, blocking the knee on the non-working side from caving in and providing kineasthetic feedback if the other caves in (i.e. you’ll either hit the bench or see the knee getting closer towards it).
Banded 3-point DB row: The fix for a poor dumbbell path
The last form mistake we typically see is poor dumbbell path. Ideally the dumbbell should start hanging straight down from the shoulder and be rowed back towards the hip or shorts pocket. This is a much more friendly position for the shoulder as well as recruiting the lat much better. The issue is what we often see is the dumbbell starting under the shoulder and being rowed straight up to finish somewhere near the armpit (ok slight exaggeration but you get the point).
Attaching a band to the dumbbell and an anchor point directly out in front of you will help ensure a better line of travel. This technique is a little bit like the band RNT techniques we use in exercises like split-squat fairly often. The idea is the by having the band exaggerate and pull you into your mistake you will learn to resist that and the movement pattern will improve - usually as if by magic it’s that effective!
So there you have 3 quick and easy ways to fix your row technique, really I’d suggest you stop reading this and put them into practice! Although I would appreciate it if you could come back and leave a comment about how you found them once you have.