The Ultimate Guide to the Renegade Row

Train Your Entire Upper Body With One Exercise

Trigger new muscle growth, improve performance, and strengthen a weak core. All with one exercise. Here’s how to do it.

The renegade row is a versatile, compound exercise that triggers muscle growth, improves performance, and attacks a weak core. That’s hard to beat.

The renegade row is one of the most butchered exercises in the gym. You need to perform the exercise correctly from the get-go to prevent injury, improve performance, and get the most gains. Beware, though. You’ll need to lift lighter weights than you’d expect. I’ve seen NFL athletes get owned by 45 to 55-pound dumbbells when they slow down and do the renegade row correctly.

How to Do the Renegade Row

  1. Get in a push-up position with dumbbells beneath your shoulders and your arms locked out. This stacked-joint position sets the stage for optimal results.
  2. Keep your hips level, not with your pooper to the sky or your back arched.
  3. Spread your feet a little wider than shoulder width. A wider base helps prevent rotation. You can bring the feet closer as long as you’re able to prevent your hips and spine from rotating.
  4. Do a full push-up. Tuck your elbows to about 45 degrees, making a “V” shape with your torso and arms.
  5. After the push-up, row one dumbbell toward your hip while pushing the non-working dumbbell and your toes into the ground. This will serve as a cue to keep your toes from coming off the floor and will help you stabilize and prevent rotation.
  6. Row slow and prevent your hips from rotating. If you can’t control rotation, you’re using too much weight or going too fast.
  7. Return the dumbbell to the floor, repeat on the opposite side. That’s one complete rep.

Benefits of the Renegade Row

The renegade row is a compound, high-performance exercise that strengthens the core, improves performance, and stimulates muscle growth. It also helps you prevent injury and build a rock-solid physique from head to toe. Here’s how:

  • The renegade row trains anti-extension. When you hold the correct position without arching your back or pointing your butt at Mars, you’ll build strength and endurance in your anterior core. The ability to prevent rotational movement when fatigued is key to preventing injuries.

  • The renegade row trains anti-rotation. An example of anti-rotation is checking your swing in baseball. Rotational power is important for athletes, but to build powerful rotation you must first be able to prevent it. With each rep of the renegade row, you’ll need to row slowly while pushing both hands and feet into the ground to prevent movement.

  • The renegade row hammers your chest, triceps, and shoulders. Your hands are elevated on dumbbells, leading to a deeper push-up. A deeper range of motion means a greater muscle stretch, leading to a greater concentric contraction. During each row, push the non-rowing dumbbell into the ground. This creates a tense isometric contraction of your chest, shoulders, and triceps.

  • As a bonus, each set of renegade row takes 30-60 seconds. Evidence points to time under tension (TUT) being a primary driver for metabolic stress-induced hypertrophy. After many sets, the cumulative time under load cooks your upper body and makes for an excellent high-performance finisher.

  • The renegade row trains your lats. You’ll need to row the dumbbell back toward your hip in a “J” pattern. When rowing in this fashion, the lats are the primary focus rather than the traps, rhomboids, and rear delts. Further, your push-up is deeper due to elevating your hands on dumbbells. This hits your lats and chest harder, as they work overtime to stabilize your shoulders. If you’re not accustomed to deep push-ups, the renegade row will create extreme soreness in your lower lats.

  • The renegade row integrates core strength and stability. Your core prevents unnecessary movement and the renegade row strengthens that ability. This protects internal your spine from folding like an accordion and setting you up for months of physical therapy.

There are two times during a workout when you can use the renegade row:

Do the Renegade Row as an Extended Warm-up

You can use the renegade row as a “primer” exercise before heavy strength work. Because of the large amount of muscle mass and integrated stability required to do the exercise, you’ll fire up prime movers in your upper body while firing up deep spinal stabilizers.

If you do the renegade row after your warm-up but before heavy strength work, keep the weight light and do 1-2 sets of 5 reps per side. The goal here is to stimulate, not annihilate. If you do too much volume, you could fatigue muscle fibers needed to produce massive amounts of force on the compound lifts you’re about to do. Keep it light and controlled. The goal is priming and stimulation.

Do the Renegade Row as a Finisher

At the end of your workout, your primary movers (triceps, chest, shoulders, lats) should be fatigued. Do the renegade row at the end of your workouts and you’ll fatigue the snot out of muscle fibers to increase metabolic stress to drive hypertrophy. Further, your core will work double time to prevent movement while you’re fatigued.

Doing the renegade row post-workout will teach your body to prevent unwanted motion when fatigued, thereby preventing injuries when they’re most likely to occur. Try 3-4 sets of 5-7 reps with 60-seconds rest at the end of your workout.