Challenge Your Strength, Balance, and Stability With the Bird-Dog Heavy Row

Grooming by Christie Caiola for Ennis Inc.; back exercise
Justin Steele for Men's Journal

The bent-over row is an imperfect exercise. Sure, it helps build upper-body strength. But the position—bent over at the hips, rowing dumbbells or a barbell—is easy to botch. Round the spine or drop the chest, and the lower back can take on a lot of pressure. If the weight is heavy, the torso might bounce, creating momentum and stealing some muscle-building potential. This hybrid move fixes these—and then some.

It starts with a bird-dog—a classic for glute activation and trunk control. From hands and knees, reach one arm forward and the opposite leg back behind you. For the bird-dog heavy row, do the same thing but this time on a flat bench, holding a hefty dumbbell in the elevated hand. “By adding the row, you get a huge anti-rotational component. It forces engagement in the trunk muscles and glutes to secure stability,” says trainer Vernon Griffith, owner of Virginia High Performance in Virginia Beach.

Pick a weight that’s 70 to 80 percent of your typical dumbbell row. Get in bird-dog position, the weight resting on the bench below chest. Tuck chin, keep back flat, engage core, squeeze glutes, then slowly draw elbow up along rib cage. Aim for three or four sets of six to eight reps per set. Do all reps on one side, then switch sides.

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