Build a Superhero Back with the Reeves Incline Row

One of the most underrated exercises for building major back muscle is something called the Reeves Row. The move is named for its creator, legendary bodybuilder Steve Reeves, and it has you grasping the plates on a barbell and rowing from that position, bent-over row style. It’s a solid move that creates a ton of tension for your back.

But it can also be a challenge for your lower back. That’s why Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., has his own, slightly safer twist on the Reeves Row, the Reeves Incline Row Dropset. “What we change is the back position,” says Samuel. “No longer does your lower back feel all the potential pressure that comes with bent-over rows.”

That means you’re trading a bit of lower-back strength and stability work for an ability to go a bit heavier and focus on the main portion of the movement, the rowing, and that will help you build your lats, rhomboids, and rear delts. “The rear delts get a serious workout in this move,” says Samuel, “because we’re taking that nice wide angle on the bar.”

Despite that, you still get to attack mid-back a ton. And one upside to the Reeves row also comes through as well, says Samuel. “Standard rows occur with an overhand grip on the bar,” says Samuel, “and that can lead you to slide into internal rotation at the shoulder joint, which isn’t ideal for shoulder health. The Reeves row keeps you in a neutral grip, and that helps just a bit.”

Add the Reeves Incline Row to your workouts in the gym. Here’s the game plan:

  • Start with your chest on an incline bench, a loaded EZ curl bar (or barbell) beneath the bench.
  • Grasp the bar by the plates. Lift it from the ground. Tighten your shoulder blades. This is the start.
  • Row the bar up, touching the bar to the bench, then lower. Do 8 to 10 reps, pausing at the top of each rep.
  • Place the bar back on the ground, and grasp it with an underhand grip. Do as many reps as you can with good form. Rest 90 seconds. Do 3-4 sets.

    The Reeves Incline Row, done in this setup with the underhand rows afterwards is a perfect endgame back exercise and a strong way to finish off any back workout. It can also fit into a total-body session as your back move for the day, or be used in a total-body circuit. It’s also a great move in a full-on upper body workout, where you’re hitting chest, back and shoulders.

    For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full slate of Eb and Swole workouts. If you want to try an even more dedicated routine, consider Eb’s All Out Arms program.

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