Exercise of the Week: Inverted Row

Shoulder problems are something that you see a lot in a fitness center atmosphere. Whether it’s from an old high school injury or simply something that happened to while working out, shoulder pain is something that many of us have encountered to some degree.


And although some shoulder pain is actually from a traumatic event, tearing a rotator cuff or a shoulder separation, a lot of shoulder pain comes from more subtle issues. One of those issues that we’ll talk about today is lack of balance.


Push Exercise VS Pull Exercise


When I talk about balance, I’m not talking about balancing an object with your arms. I’m talking about the balance of push exercises VS pull exercises.


Push exercises are the exercises that you will see any day of the week if you walked into a fitness center. Bench press, shoulder press, machine press, pushups…these are all push exercises. Basically, any exercise in which you are pushing weight away from you or pushing yourself away from an object is a push exercise. If you pay attention long enough (or take a look at your training program) you’ll notice that there is plenty of pushing going on in the gym.


Pull exercises, on the other hand, are exercises in which you are pulling weight towards you or pulling yourself towards an object. Pulldowns, seated rows, machine rows, dumbbell rows…these are all types of pulling exercise. These are rarer in a fitness center. And herein lies the problem.


What Balance Has to do With Shoulder Pain


Performing more push exercises than pull exercises is the culprit when it comes to shoulder pain. What happens is, as you perform more and more push exercises (typically bench press and variations thereof),  your chest and anterior (front) shoulder muscles become more and more dense and start to pull your shoulder girdle forward. You get this same effect from bad posture (the rounded shoulder look).


When you don’t have back muscles and posterior (rear) shoulder muscles to counter act this pull from the front, you’ll slowly develop pains because of the bad positioning of the shoulder girdle itself.


How to Counter Act So Much Pushing


So the goal, then, is to start adopting pull exercises into you training program. But not just any type of pull exercise. Most of you do pulldowns. As a matter of fact, I would imagine many of you do pulldowns every time you go to the gym. And, although pulldowns are a pull exercise, the don’t work the muscles that you need to work in order to counter act the rounded shoulder issue.


That’s why you need to incorporate horizontal pulling exercises, otherwise known as rowing exercises. Rowing exercises utilize the muscles of the back and posterior shoulder that we need to build up in order to get our shoulder back to balance. And a great exercise to use for this problem is inverted rows.


An inverted row is simply a reverse pushup. It can be done at any gym with a squat rack or smith machine. This is a great exercise to help build total body control. It’s also great for those of you that are working to do a chin up. At Thrive Fitness, we use the inverted row as a regression to the chin up. So, if you aren’t able to do a chin up initially, we’ll start you here and work toward pulling yourself over the bar.

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Jerry Scarlato
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Jerry Scarlato

Owner, Fitness Coach at Thrive Fitness
Jerry Scarlato is a Personal Trainer and Entrepreneur who lives in Northern Kentucky. He runs 2 businesses related to health and wellness: Thrive Fitness and Thrive Online. Jerry has been involved in the fitness for his entire adult life, including playing sports through college. Along with being an Entrepreneur, Jerry is a content creator,
Jerry Scarlato
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