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The Compound Row by Matthew Romans

The Compound Row is a staple of the Total Results exercise philosophy, and is one that encompasses a large amount of muscle. This exercise primarily involves the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, posterior deltoids and trapezius muscles, with assistance provided by the biceps and the triceps. While the biceps and triceps usually perform opposite muscular functions (elbow flexion and elbow extension), in this case the long head of the triceps helps to stabilize the shoulder joint. We believe that it is important to perform an equal number of pushing and pulling exercises during a workout, in order to develop symmetrically and avoid muscular imbalances that can lead to injury. The Compound Row is a horizontal pulling movement that is often performed right after the Chest Press exercise in a Total Results workout.

Many of our clients have a variety of shoulder and elbow issues. The Compound Row is the most forgiving of the upper body exercises for the shoulder joint and the elbow joint, largely because the subject uses a neutral rather than a supinated grip. We have two different machines in our studio: one is made by MedX and one is by Super Slow Systems, and they are both outstanding. While both of these machines accomplish the same thing, there are subtle differences between the two. The MedX machine has articulating handles (to minimize elbow irritation), a stationary seat, an additional elevation pad, and the movement tracks in a slightly upward arc, while the Super Slow Systems machine has two fixed handles on each side (to accommodate people with a wider torso), a moving seat, rungs to place your feet upon, and a more horizontal movement. Both machines have a fairly radical resistance curve, meaning that the resistance feels very heavy when your arms are nearly straight, and it feels fairly light when your elbows are in the most flexed position. As I have mentioned in previous articles, this is based on leverage factors, and is something that most equipment manufacturers grossly miscalculate.

To properly enter the machine, shuffle carefully onto the seat rather than stepping over and balancing on one foot. This avoids unilateral loading of the pelvis and spine, which can cause serious injury. Seat positioning is determined by arm length; if you are set properly, the movement arm handles should just barely exceed your grasp. The torso pad is angled slightly forward; this will enable the subject to keep an upright posture and maintain contact between their sternum and the pad at all times. We often start the exercise in the most contracted position, and execute an interpersonal handoff to begin the exercise with the negative movement phase. The weight should be lowered (arms gradually straighten) until just prior to full elbow extension. A lower turnaround is then performed to begin the positive movement phase; think about pushing your sternum into the pad and depressing your scapluae (shoulder blades) as your elbows travel backward. Movement should slow down slightly prior to reaching the most contracted position. Once forward movement is no longer possible in good form (usually somewhere in the mid-range of the movement), a five to ten second thorough inroad should be performed to ensure a quality stimulus. The subject should then step back carefully to clear the edge of the machine and exit safely.

As I mentioned earlier the Compound Row exercise is typically the most forgiving on the shoulder and elbow joints of the four major upper body multiple-joint exercises that we perform at Total Results. It is really only contraindicated for women in the later stages of pregnancy, in which case we would have them just perform the Pulldown or substitute a Timed Static Contraction Pullover. The Compound Row is an essential exercise for maintaining the health and functionality of the thoracic postural muscles and vertebrae, and should be performed regularly as part of our comprehensive exercise philosophy for spinal health.

Posted September 16, 2019 by Tim Rankin