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Written on September 15, 2010 at 9:35 am, by Eric Cressey
Without a doubt, the chest-supported row is one of my favorite strength exercises. It is a great upper-back-builder and shoulder health exercise to include in strength training programs because it keeps folks strict with their rowing by forcing them to keep the chest in contact with the pad.
And, while I absolutely love the fact that we have a specific chest-supported row set-up at Cressey Performance, I understand that not everyone has access to one of these bad boys. Fortunately for those of you in that position, though, we have a few excellent substitute strength exercises for the chest supported row that you can use that offer similar benefits without the "cheating" you often see with a traditional bent-over barbell row.
First up is the chest-supported dumbbell row. While you can't use a pronated grip here, it still keeps you honest. The only potential problem is that some benches have cumbersome "leggings" on the outsides that get in the way of ideal range-of-motion. Most work out just fine, though.
Your second option is one you can do just about anywhere: the head-supported dumbbell row. While you don't have the chest in contact with anything, you do have to put the head in contact with the pad at all times (you can use an incline bench, glute-ham raise, or other set-up at that height). Just make sure that you keep a neutral spine and tuck the chin so that the cervical spine is in a neutral position.
Both these modifications are featured in the "Exercise Modifications" chapter and accompanying video database in my e-book, Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better. With over 175 exercises in this video library, one of the central pieces of Show and Go is that it's versatile – and I'll help you to make modifications to the program (2x/wk, 3x/wk, or 4x/wk) based on your equipment restrictions – whether you train in a commercial/university gym, at home, or in a souped up high-performance training center. For more information, check out www.ShowandGoTraining.com.
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