Shrugged Collective

How to Build a Strong Back w/ Bent Rows – TechniqueWOD

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One thing that confuses me about the competitive fitness scene is exercise selection. 

Athletes and coaches are doing an amazing job of assimilating diverse training methods into new, core programming philosophies. For the first time we are seeing VERY strong athletes who are also VERY fit, armed with a wide-range of well developed skill sets.

That’s amazing. However, there is a fundamental bias that’s baked right into this new breed of fitness programming. Because so much must be trained you have to prioritize your efforts and resource. Most programs place a premium on movements that yield maximum function and training effect, which is great. But this is not all there is.

Movements that just target a body part for mass and strength are typically judged to be inferior and less useful. Anything that would be common to bodybuilding training is taboo. This is a shame. Athletes and coaches are missing out on a gold-mine of value built during a century of experimentation that crosses over all of the barbell sports.

There are some exercises that almost all strong people do, regardless of the sport. The bent-row is a great example. If you want to improve your deadlift, clean, squat, bench press, you name it, then you need to make your back very strong. You need to be able to pull heavy loads towards your body as you maintain proper pulling position.

As one of my very first strength coach told me years ago, “A man’s strength is measured in his back.” If you want to make the most of your strength, make sure you’re comfortable pulling heavy loads. Work some of these varieties into your programming as assistance work. I think you’ll enjoy the training effect.



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Doug Larson


  • I got so excited just listening to the intro because this is exactly what I needed to see! So thank you for this video and for all the other videos you guys post that make my training better and safer!

  • Really enjoyed the video.

    I have always seen either the bodybuilding style of row where the back is more upright and it a lot of momentum is used or the the super strict pendlay style with zero leg drive.

    I felt like you finally gave me the freedom to use some leg drive to emulate the deadlift.

    Thanks Chris, you da man!

  • Im a bigger athelete with 500+ back squats and dead lifts, ~300lb clean finally (5’9″, 225-230). I competed this past weekend and did well but died on the sprints with body weight movements such as pull ups and box jumps. I started training a few months ago on things like bent over rows for my cleans and snatch but what would you recommend for bodyweight movements…with the open quickly approaching I have got to be able to handle the volume seen durimg the workouts.

    • Yeah, you are on the heavier side for CF. You are very strong. Sounds like you’re a perfect lifter frame, actually. Travis Mash is about the size I think. Maybe heavier. So yes, you can improve, but at this point RELATIVE strength as to be your focus. Maintain strength, up WOD. Move more efficiently, not just with heavier loads. Move quickly. And most importantly tighten down the diet a bit to lean up. Dropping a few pounds of weight will make those wods much easier. WORK STRENGTH still, just give relative strength and gymnastics way more focus. You’ll do much better.

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