Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cable Rows Using a Dowel Handle

I have been toying around with different exercises lately down at IZZOSTRENGTH, and have come up with one that is both fun to do and beneficial for upright core bracing. When we think about the core, we tend to assume it is simply in the front of the body. Most trainers teach core bracing with simply coaching cues that consist of "tapping the abs" or some cases, administering Bruce Lee's lethal 1-inch punch:
However, the core surrounds the entire torso. It includes the internal, external obliques, transverse abdominals (TVA), and multifidus. While we are at it, we can also include the lats, gracillus, quadratus lorburum (QL), tenser fascia latae (TFL)---or simplistic terms...any muscle or group of muscles that assist in stabilizing the spine during movements such as (but limited to) locomotion, squatting, rotating, bending, and isometric prone/supine positioning. Because the spine is attached to the pelvic girdle, any muscle that aids in stabilizing the pelvis--in an effort to stabilize the spine--is also considered "core" in my book.
Chop and lift exercise have become synonymous with core training. The attachment, which I coined the "Cook Stick" after the popular physical therapist, Gray Cook, is simply a 3-4 foot dowel with rings for attachments on either end. Typical chop and lift exercises call for the trainee to be position in a tall kneeling position, half kneeling position, or standing position (staggered stance). With the movement occurring away from the attached load, the trainee must resist rotating the torso and hips during execution. This action stabilizes the spine and is the premise for the drill. However, I have come up with a cable rowing motion using the dowel:
Using the dowel with both hands firmly gripped, allows for a rotary effect to occur. Unlike holding to one D-handle, the pulling mechanism is stressed and more controlled with the opposite (non-pulling) arm. Unlike a conventional, chop and lift, there is little pull to initiate the movement. Once the dowel is pulled, it must stay positioned while the pulling arm does the rowing. Although, I stressed a rotary effect takes place, the object of this drill is to "resist" the urge to rotate. That is the anti-rotational component that I like about this exercise.

The beauty of the exercise is that you can gradually add weight and teach a trainee how to stabilize the spine while retracting the scapulae and bending the elbows. The more weight used,  the better workout for the rhomboids and lats; but more coaching needs to be stressed upon for the stabilization portion.

A few things...if you know how to brace the abs...it will "kick in" very easily when performing this exercise. You can begin with a pull of the dowel to initiate the movement. In the video, I don't do that. I simply go right into the rowing portion and stabilize the torso and other end of the dowel. Its important to retract and depress the scapula--as with any rowing movement. Give this exercise a try and let me know what you think!


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