Exercise Spotlight: Suicide Row

Torch your entire posterior chain with the row variation that humbles the best of them.

These days, lifters are looking for as much bang for their buck as possible, to make workouts run efficiently to save time. This can cause the spawn of a whole lot of creative combination movements that fall short of having actual realistic application other than just plain being difficult to pull off. There needs to be a method to the madness, which is why I’ve chosen this exercise as a real gem that belongs in any muscular development program. Before I get into the lift, let’s focus on why I chose it by reviewing a few key facts:

The Hamstrings are also a hip extensor. For people who are stuck in the groove of hitting the hamstrings through knee flexion (think prone hamstring curls, Nordic curls, or swiss ball curls), the fact of the matter is, they’re only accomplishing half the battle by neglecting their role as extensors of the hip. This can help the lower back and glutes not have as much responsibility for movements like running, hinging, or walking.

Everyone can use postural training. The mirror muscles take too much priority in the typical program, and that needs to change. Enough said.

The Lats articulate with the lumbar region. Adding some movement of the torso by way of back extension is a great way to target the lats from the bottom up, not just from the top down.

Not everyone can Deadlift for low back  health. This is an important point. The stress forces on the spine can rule deadlfits out for people who have a history of spine problems. Finding a suitably loaded alternative to hit the glutes, hamstrings, and back at the same time can be tricky.

Enter the Suicide Row

Simply put, this exercise attacks all of the points made above, combining hip extension with thoracic extension for a hit to virtually the entire posterior chain. It’s even more effective if you have a horizontal back extension  machine or glute hamstring raise machine to perform them on.

The fact that you’re able to ‘hang’ with the bar in the bottom position can do a lot to place the hamstrings in a loaded stretch (to optimize the length-tension relationship) while also decompressing the spine, which is vastly different than many loaded pull variations.  In addition to this, you’re given the freedom to change your grip, or even the implement being used. Underhand or overhand grip with barbells, or a neutral or fluid grip using dumbbells can all jive here.

Suicide Row: Coaching Cues

  • Position the leg rest for the GHR or back extension machine at hip height. It should wedge neatly into the hip fold to properly support the hinge movement.
  • Place the barbell or dumbbells on the floor in front of the machine. You’ll pick them up when about to start your first rep.
  • Hold the bar or weights in the hand position that’s most comfortable for you. That could be overhand wide, underhand wide, narrow, or even neutral with dumbbells.
  • Maintaining a flat spine, begin by squeezing the glutes and performing a hinge motion until parallel to the floor.
  • At the same time in one fluid motion, transition the hip extension into a row pattern with the arms. Bring the hands right to chest level, and lower the arms as you descend for your next rep. Keep the movement controlled on both halves of the lift.
  • Focus on sets of 8-12 reps, and be conservative with the weight you choose.

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