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Dumbbell “rows” to strengthen your upper body

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One of the preventable ways that your quality of life can diminish over time, either through sudden injury or normal wear and tear, is through muscle imbalances.

This means one muscle — or group of muscles — is stronger or more developed than others, and vice-versa. This is common and leads to things like shoulder pain, or hip pain, or knee pain or arthritis on one side only. When the muscles on our dominant side are well-developed or, conversely, the muscles on the less coordinated side are under-developed, an imbalance occurs that can cause pain, inflammation and joint damage. But like I said, this is preventable…

In today’s video, Tema Esberg of Potentia Personal Training will show a really great upper body strengthening exercise called the “row.” She shows you how to do them “single arm” to strengthen each arm (triceps and shoulder) individually, and then to do them together for greater balance and development. Try them!

To get started

To get started you will need a set of dumbbells or hand weights. You will need to figure out the best weight for you to begin with. If you don’t work out with weights regularly, it’s best to start with five pound weights. If you’re a little stronger, try ten or 15-pound weights. In this video, Tema is using 10 pound dumbbells. Start lighter and do the reps and see how you feel, and increase from there.

You will also need a stool or counter top or back of a stable chair, like a sofa, for balance.

Single-arm rows

Single-arm rows are great because they isolate each arm individually to do all the work. Most of us are dominant in one arm and this forces the other to “level up” and not be helped in the process. Having both arms at the same strength level is best.

Begin by stepping your right leg back, keeping it straight, and your left leg is bent. Your left hand is pressing the bench or table for support and your right hand holds the weight.

You want to also have a flat back; meaning no curve in the spine, and you want your right arm to be straight as well.

To do a row you will simply bend your elbow to pull your right arm back to your ribs and then lower the weight back down to starting position.

Follow along with Tema as she does a series of 10 repetitions with her right arm.

Now switch sides and do a series of 10 rows with the weight in your left hand. Be sure to follow all the pointers from above, but flipping them here, including: left leg back, right hand on the support for balance, left hand hanging with weight, and so on.

Again, follow along with Tema as she counts out 10 repetitions. Stay motivated!

Double-arm rows

Not that you’ve done both hands individually it’s time to do them at the same time. And because there is no free-hand to use for balance, we must change our stance for support.

Stand holding each weight with extended arms by their respective sides. You want your feet to be 1.5 to 2 shoulder widths apart.

Soften the knees by bending them to a comfortable level. And flatten the back by pushing out your bottom far behind you; but not so far you get a deep sway in the low back. You will feel when a nice balance position is established.

Now pull both hands back to their respective rib sides, just as you did in the single-arm rows, but this time pulling them back together at the same time.

Again, follow along with Tema for a nice set of 10 repetitions and enjoy the feeling of a nice balanced upper body strengthening exercise!

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