Exactly How To Do Renegade Rows

How To Do Renegade Rows

How to do Renegade Rows to increase core strength and stability and engage and define the shoulders, triceps, biceps and back.

Become A Fitness Superstar By Mastering Renegade Rows

Next up in my “Exercises You Should Be Doing” series is the Renegade Row. This exercise, developed and named by revolutionary strength coach John Davies, will challenge even the highest of fitness levels as it not only works multiple muscle groups, but also makes you look and feel like a fitness superstar!

Why Should You Do Renegade Rows?

Renegade Rows are so effective because they utilize full-body engagement. It takes all of the benefits of doing a plank (core strength and stabilization) and adds an upper body component with the addition of a dynamic rowing (pulling) movement that will do wonders for engaging the shoulders, triceps, biceps and back.
While Renegade Rows can be performed by beginners (I’ll show you a great way to introduce your body to Renegade Rows below), it should be noted that it is an intense functional exercise that does require some pre-existing core strength.

Who Should Do Renegade Rows?

This exercise should be a staple for athletes or individuals who perform rotary-type movements. Baseball, tennis, golf, hockey, lacrosse, swimming, etc. are just some of the sports that require the anti-rotary stability that Renegade Rows will give you.
But regardless of your fitness or athletic goals, Renegade Rows will make your workouts a bit more athletic while also adding some fun!

What You’ll Need To Get Started

Beginners should focus on using their own bodyweight (you should be able to at least perform a plank), while people of more advanced fitness levels will want to incorporate dumbbells or kettlebells. If using dumbbells, be sure to use the hex-shaped dumbbells so you can utilize the flat surface and not have them roll out from under you.

Renegade Row with kettlebell, position 1

Renegade Row with kettlebell, position 1

Renegade Row with kettlebell, position 2

Renegade Row with kettlebell, position 2

How To Do Renegade Rows:

  • Beginners should get into a push-up position with the hands placed directly under the shoulders. Advanced users should place a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells about shoulder-width apart on the floor.
    Renegade Row Starting Position

    Renegade Row — starting position in plank

  • Start with feet about shoulder-width apart. Beginners may find they need to widen the feet (and that’s fine), while advanced fitness levels may like the challenge of bringing the feet closer together.
  • Get into the top position of a push-up with your hands on the floor (beginners) or on the handles. Tighten up your entire body and give the handles a good, solid squeeze as if you’re trying to crush them.
    Renegade Row

    Renegade Row — engaging arm and core muscles as arm is pulled back

  • With your left hand, push hard into the ground while pulling the weight (or hand for the beginners) to your lower rib cage/waist area with the right hand.
  • Lower the weight in a slow, controlled fashion before repeating on the other side.

Here are a few key points to focus on when performing the Renegade Row:

  • Only perform these on a flat, solid surface.
  • Keep the elbow of the support arm locked out
  • Be sure to stay “rigid” by squeezing your abs and glutes.
  • Focus on leading with the elbow on the pull arm.
  • Do not twist the hips … your belly button and nose should face the floor at all times.
  • If you find your body wanting to twist, try taking your feet out wider.
  • For an advanced version, you can add a push-up between each row.
  • You can alternate sides with each rep (as described above), or perform all of your reps on one side before moving to the other side.

How Many Renegade Rows Should I Do? And How Much Weight?

Keep in mind that the Renegade Row is not a “bodybuilding” exercise but rather a functional exercise meant to build strength and stability throughout the core and upper body. I highly suggest focusing on good form first with lower repetitions. This exercise requires a lot of focus and attention to detail, so the goals is to get comfortable performing it correctly.
Beginners should start with 3 sets of 5 repetitions per side. As you advance, 5 sets of 5 repetitions per side should be a good challenge
As for the amount of weight, that will take some experimenting. Again, beginners can start with just the bodyweight version, while advanced levels can start with a light to mid-range weight focusing on perfect form.

Renegade Row with dumbbells, position 2

Renegade Row with dumbbells, position 2

Tip: The bodyweight version of the Renegade Row is a great exercise to add to your warm-up routine. Otherwise, try to incorporate this exercise fairly early into your workout routine. It places a high demand on your core and form could be compromised if you wait until the end of your workout when your body is fatigued.


About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.

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