When it comes to core strengthening, the exercises that personal trainers should incorporate most are not crunches or the Russian twists, but rather functional exercises (exercises that are actually good for you and your back) like the Renegade Row. Functional exercises that resist movement and rotation at the spine are most effective at helping clients achieve a stronger core. For anti-rotation (resisting back rotation) and anti-extension (resisting back extension) planks and side planks reign supreme. However, for a greater challenge for more advanced clients, the Renegade Row is an excellent exercise selection.

This plank variation is a great core exercise when done correctly. As with most exercises that we may see in health clubs, the form is usually less than par which can lead to injury and less-than-ideal results. As fitness professionals, it is our job to ensure proper execution, have your clients slow down, and do it right.

Functional Exercises Have Prerequisites

Keep in mind, however, the Renegade Row is not for everyone. Your clients should master the plank for 60 seconds before moving on to a more advanced exercise like the Renegade Row.

How to Do the Renegade Row

1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and get into pushup position, balancing on the handles.

2. Shift your body weight to your right side so your left arm feels light.

3. Row the left-hand dumbbell to your ribs.

4. Keep your body in a straight line and your abs braced throughout. Do Not move your hips!

5. Repeat on the opposite side of your body.

Muscles Worked

The Renegade Row is what I call a “multi-purpose exercise” Your entire body is engaged to maintain proper position throughout the exercise. The rectus abdominals and obliques are worked the most with a major contribution from your latissimus dorsi, rear deltoids, anterior deltoids, biceps brachii, and triceps brachii.

Common Mistakes

  • Hips sagging
  • Hips and upper body twisting side to side
  • Going to fast

Is Renegade Row Too Hard?

Move your feet out more. Widening your legs increases your “stable base” which makes the exercise a little more manageable. As you increase your strength and stability gradually bring your feet closer together. Look for gradual improvements, never sacrificing form.

Get Started

The Renegade Row has many benefits but slowing the exercise down and bracing will be keys to getting the most out of it. Instead of going for super high reps, have your clients focus on fewer repetitions (8 on each side) and better quality reps. The rep cadence will greatly increase exercise intensity. For the Renegade Row, I like 1-second row on the concentric, 2-sec hold, and 2-sec eccentric (lowering of the weight) on each arm. Gradually adding weight to keep the gains coming.

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Ian Nimblett

Ian Nimblett, CFSC, CSCS, NFPT-CPT and is a functional strength & conditioning coach, personal trainer, and author. He is the founder and owner of Premier Fitness Group LLC in South Salem, NY, a world-class functional training facility that provides private, semi-private, and group training.