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How To: Upper Body Pulling Movements for Personal Trainers

Upper Body Pulling

Pulling or rowing exercises play a pivotal role in performance, injury prevention, and movement quality.

The main muscles targeted in upper body pulling movements like rows are the latissimus dorsi (lats), rhomboids, and trapezius (traps).

In addition to increasing strength and hypertrophy in the lats, rhomboids, and mid traps, upper body pulling can also increase the strength of the stabilizing muscles around the shoulder joint and help keep the humeral head centered within the glenoid fossa. This will help maintain the range of motion in both internal and external rotation, which can over time be lost.

Wide Grip Rowing

Before Beginning

  • Grasp the bar with a closed, pronated grip with Grip wider than shoulder-width (1A).
  • Lift the bar from the floor as described for the deadlift exercise using a pronated grip (1B).


                                                                            Figure 1A                          Figure 1B

Starting Position

  • Position the feet in a shoulder-width stance with the knees slightly flexed (2A)
  • Flex the torso forward so that it is slightly above parallel to the floor (2B)
  • Create a flat-back torso position (2B)
  • Focus the eyes a short distance ahead of the feet (2B)
  • Allow the bar to hang with the elbows fully extended (2B)

Wide Grip Row Starting Position

Wide Grip Row Starting Position

                                                                Figure 2A                                         Figure 2B

Upward Movement Phase

  • Pull the shoulder blades together then pull the bar toward the torso.
  • Keep the torso rigid, back flat, and knees slightly flexed.
  • Do not jerk the torso upward.
  • Touch the bar to the middle to lower chest.
  • Keep the elbows and hands aligned throughout the movement

Wide Rowing Upward Position

Wide Rowing Upward Position

Figure 3

Downward Movement Phase

  • Lower the bar back to the starting position.
  • Maintain the flat-back and stationary torso and knee positions.

Wide Grip Rowing Finish Position

Wide Grip Rowing Finish Position

Figure 4

Pull Down

Starting Position

  • Grasp the bar with a closed pronated grip (grip should be wider than shoulder-width).
  • Sit down on the seat facing the machine.
  • Position thighs under machine pads with the feet flat on the floor. Adjust seat and thigh pad accordingly.
  • Maintain an erect torso position with elbows fully extended.
  • Shrug the shoulder blades up, then depress to set them in a fixed, set position

Starting: Set Up Position for Pulldowns

Starting:Set Up Position for Pulldowns

                                                           Figure 5A                                                                 Figure 5B

Downward Movement Phase (Figure 6A)

  • Pull the bar down and toward the upper chest.
  • Maintain upright torso position
  • Shoulder blade remain depressed (pulled down and fixed)
  • Keep hands and elbows aligned vertically throughout the downward phase
  • Pull the bar down until elbows begin to drift behind hand position

Upward Movement Phase (Figures 6B)

  • Allow the elbows and shoulder blades to return to the starting position slowly.
  • Keep the torso in the same upright position.

Pulldown Downward and Upward Phases

Pulldown Downward and Upward Phases

                                                        Figure 6A                                                                         Figure 6B