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October 25, 2022 11 min read

The Renegade Row is a compound exercise that offers strength, scapular mobilization, increased core stability, back isolation, and a whole lot more. However, it's not everyone's cup of tea.

Renegade Row – Image from Shutterstock

The renegade row places your body off balance, forcing you to recruit a variety of stabilizers and muscles to maintain control.

Beginners may not have the necessary strength in their hip muscles, and they might be wise to try renegade row alternatives with more stability at first. Here we will discuss seven alternatives that offer similar benefits and work the same muscles.

The renegade row begins in a plank position with your palms resting on a dumbbell or a kettlebell and your feet shoulder-width apart.

You then row one arm up to your chest lifting the weight, before lowering it back to the starting position. You repeat this motion for the desired number of repetitions before switching arms.

What muscles does renegade row work?

Renegade rows are full-body exercises, great to improve hypertrophy, that bring simultaneous activation of your core muscles like the obliques, back muscles like the rhomboids, and arm muscles like the triceps. With proper form, renegade rows can develop upper body strength while improving balance and stabilization.

1. Plank Shoulder Taps 

Plank shoulder taps have a very similar range of motion to renegade rows, but with less resistance, so they are useful for beginners who don’t yet have the strength for the full exercise. They predominantly work your core, and you won’t feel as much benefit in your back muscles, but they will certainly help you improve your stability. 

Starting position:

Start in a high plank position with your feet slightly wider than usual. For the high plant, start by kneeling on your mat. Walk your hands forward until your body is fully extended with your hands directly below your shoulders, supporting your upper body.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Shift your weight onto your right arm, and use your left hand to tap on your right shoulder. Core stability is important here, so, try to maintain a straight back and avoid swinging back and forth.

  2. Return the left hand to the starting position and repeat the motion by leaning on your left arm and using your right hand to tap your left shoulder.

  3. Start with 3 sets of 6–10 reps on each side, but give yourself at least 15 seconds of rest in between sets

The main attention point when doing plank shoulder taps is keeping your body straight. Do not lower your hips too much but don’t raise them too much either. Your heels, hips, spine, and neck should form a straight line.

Part of the challenge when doing renegade rows is balance and coordination. Plank shoulder taps can be a great alternative for beginner fitness workers who lack the balance and stability to train with equipment. High plank shoulder taps will help you build core stability.

2. Landmine Single Arm Row 

The landmine single-arm row helps you grow your back aggressively, but the stance allows you to stay in complete control throughout the movement and limit any issues for those with injuries. This is a compound exercise that activates almost all the back, shoulder, and arm muscles. You'll need a barbell and weights to perform this back exercise.

The muscles worked by this exercise include the lats, traps, delts, glutes, and erector spinae.

Starting position:

With feet shoulder-width apart, stand to the left of a barbell with the appropriate weight. Deadlift one end of the barbell with your right hand, with your knuckles touching your leg throughout. Hinge at your hips, push your hips back, and bend over until your chest is parallel to the floor.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Initiate the movement by retracting your shoulder blades and flexing your right elbow to raise the weight.

  2. Pull your right elbow back until the bar is at the top of your thighs. Pause for a moment in that position.

  3. Straighten the arm to complete one rep.

  4. Complete the desired number of reps for one set with your right hand.

  5. Stand on the right side of the barbell and repeat the lifting and lowering with your left hand for the same amount of reps.

  6. Rest for 15 seconds before starting another set.

You can work your forearm muscles at the same time by changing your grip.

3. Weighted Pull-ups

Pull-ups are great as an alternative to renegade rows; however, beginners might find them difficult to do. They should first master the pull-up without weight before starting with light weights and then gradually building up to heavier weights. They are a compound exercise, which means that they work a lot of major muscle groups without putting any stress on your legs. 

The weighted pull-up activates the same muscles as the conventional pull-up does.

However, with the additional weight, they make all those muscles work harder.

Back muscles

The back muscles work harder to keep the body from swaying and stabilize it than in regular pull-ups. The muscle that is primarily responsible for resistance and stabilizing the body is the latissimus dorsi. Other muscles activated include the trapezius, erector spinae, and rhomboids. If you seek the much-desired V-tapered back, then the pull-up is the way to go, and if you do weighted pull-ups, you’ll build even wider lats.

Abdominals

As a compound exercise, the pull-up further activates the rectus abdominis – the muscle that makes up the six-pack. Activation of the transverse abdominis and the external and internal obliques further stabilize and balance the body.

Shoulders and arms

Although a secondary muscle group, the shoulder muscles also contribute when you perform pull-ups. Nonetheless, you can intensify their contribution and build more muscle strength in your shoulders by switching from a wide overhand grip to a narrower underhand grip.

When it comes to the work your arms do, weighted pull-ups also work your biceps brachii, brachioradialis, and elbow flexors. 

Starting position:

In bodybuilding circles, a weighted vest or a weight belt is the common method used. If you don’t have access to such weights, you could even load a backpack with the weight you want to lift, which works just fine. Once you’re ready and equipped with a weighted object, grab the bar with the grip you prefer.

Here's how to do it:

With your chest up, and your shoulder blades pulled back, lift yourself upward while keeping your core stable.

  1. Pull yourself upward until your chin is over the bar.

  2. Pause for a second before lowering yourself back down to the starting position.

When choosing a weight, don’t go overboard and set yourself up for injuries. Select a challenging but manageable weight that allows you to do at least 5 reps without using leg drive, which means you should not have to use your hips to propel your body upwards.

4. One-Arm Dumbbell Snatches 

To build explosive power, powerlifters, bodybuilders, and anyone building body strength and muscle mass include dumbbell snatches into their workout routines. The one-arm dumbbell snatches engage your core and work your back muscles to control the movement. So, considering all this, one-arm snatches give you all the benefits of renegade rows. It is even a great exercise for beginners, although it is best to start with lightweight dumbbells first.

The one-arm dumbbell snatch is a compound exercise that uses rapid hip movement to propel the weight upward and land with an overhead lockout. Therefore, you engage a lot more than just your upper back muscles, such as your core and lower body muscles.

Core

When you perform a one-arm dumbbell snatch, activation of your core muscles helps you maintain your balance as you lift and lower the weight. Additionally, your obliques, abs, and lower back muscles work together to reduce injury risks. To maximize benefits, always ensure that you squeeze the core during both the concentric and eccentric phases of the exercise.

Shoulders and Traps

The dumbbell snatch fires up your traps and shoulders because you must lift the weight and keep it steady at the arc’s top, which adds additional stress to your shoulder. The traps also play a significant role in stabilizing your body as you lift the weight since they connect your shoulder and neck regions.

Legs

Your leg muscles, including the hamstrings, quads, and glutes play roles in the explosive hip action and rapid knee bend. Although the prime mover in the one-arm dumbbell snatch is the explosive hip thrust, the emphasis on engaging the ankles and knees is necessary since they contribute to balancing the weight overhead. Furthermore, the calf muscles remain contracted throughout the full range of motion. 

Starting position:

Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell firmly gripped in one hand.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Squat all the way down to the floor, then quickly stand back up while at the same time pulling the dumbbell all the way toward the ceiling.

  2. When the dumbbell is at the highest overhead point, fully extend your arm to stabilize it and hold the position for a few seconds.

  3. Then, bring your arm back down in a controlled manner to return to the starting position.

  4. Do 8–10 reps with one arm before switching arms.

New fitness trainers or strength builders are advised to do the first few snatches bodyweight exercises to master the correct form and movement before they weight up with a dumbbell.

5. Dumbbell Bent-Over Rows 

This row variation is one of many alternative exercises for renegade rows. It is also one of the best exercises because you can replace the dumbbell with a resistance band, kettlebell, or cable machine. This movement comes closest to the renegade row, yet, it is ideal for beginners because it requires less core strength. In contrast, experienced strength builders who are working on building stronger back muscles might want weights heavier than the maximum for dumbbells. They would typically opt for barbells or a cable row machine.

Starting position:

Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and stand up straight with your feet about shoulder-width apart.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Slightly bend your knees and tilt your upper body forward to a 45-degree angle with the ground while keeping your back straight and letting your arms hang downward.

  2. Bend your elbows until your hands reach your body. Your arms should be kept close to your body, your upper body in a straight line, and your feet in the starting position throughout the range of motions. The proper form will make your back muscles support this exercise.

  3. Hold the position at the top of the movement for a second or two.

  4. Lower your hands again to the position of step 1 in a controlled motion before repeating the lift.

Some people choose to use the support of a weight bench instead of the hip-hinge position to help them maintain balance.

Dumbbell bent-over rows work out one side at a time, and they help you strengthen similar muscles as the renegade row. The bent-over row primarily works the latissimus dorsi, the lower and middle trapezius, the posterior deltoids, and the rhomboids.

6. The Half-Turkish Get Up

Some call the Half-Turkish Get Up a monster move, which may be true, but it works your whole body. It's a full-body exercise that engages your shoulders, core, glutes, traps, quads, and hamstrings.  It works out your entire body and even gives you a cardio boost. Also referred to as the half TGU, it ticks the entire list of muscles worked by the renegade row.

Shoulders

The half TGU works multiple shoulder muscles, including the deltoids, rotator cuff, trapezius, and posterior deltoids. The rotator cuff muscles provide shoulder joint stability while the delts and traps lift the weight. The posterior deltoid muscles pull the weight up from the shoulder to your ear and help you maintain it in that position.

Abdominals

As you proceed through the steps of this exercise, you’ll need a strong core to stabilize and balance your body as you go through the exercise. It activates all the muscles of the abdominal wall – the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and external and internal obliques.

Back

The back muscles worked include the erector spinae responsible for extending the spine, the latissimus dorsi for pulling the shoulder blades back and down, and the trapezius for holding the shoulder blades in position.

Starting position:

Sit upright on the floor with your left leg extended in front of you, your right knee bent at a 45-degree angle, and your right foot flat on the floor. Place your left hand, palm down, next to your lower back behind you for support, and grab a dumbbell or kettlebell with your right hand, resting that elbow just above your knee on your right thigh.

Here's how to do it:

  1. With your left arm and leg kept in the starting position, slowly lift your torso off the floor to an upright position parallel to the floor, using the strength of your core muscles.

  2. Maintain eye contact with the weight throughout the movement. This helps you to maintain the alignment that's required to perform the lift correctly.

  3. Hold that position for a few seconds before slowly reversing the motion, and returning to the start position.

  4. You can perform the number of desired reps on one side and then switch arms.

Make sure you select a weight that allows you to maintain alignment throughout. If the weight is too heavy, you increase injury risks.

7. Hollow Hold Dumbbell Press 

The hollow hold press is, like the renegade row, a compound workout that targets your core as well as your arms and shoulders. But these are two exercises combined, and it demands a fair bit of core strength.

Core

Even without using a weight, the hollow hold press is a great exercise to build core strength. Once you’ve mastered the movement, you can add weights, and gradually increase the weight as you progress. As you move the weights, you force the core to work harder. The primary targets in this exercise include the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and the external and internal oblique muscles.

Shoulders and Arms

Stable shoulders are vital for this exercise because the pressing occurs while you are completely off balance. If you allow your shoulders to slouch inward, activation of the anterior deltoids, pectoral muscles, biceps, and triceps will become the focus.

Focus on bracing the core and maintaining the integrity of the spine. No slouching, inward or backward. 

Starting Position:

Lie flat on your back with your knees bent, your feet together and your toes pointing up. and the back of your head touching the ground. Your feet will be together with your toes pointing up. Grab two dumbbells and hold them near the chest. Slowly straighten your legs, holding them a few inches off the floor. Tuck your chin in to list your head and shoulders off the floor.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Slowly press the weights up until your arms are straight, making sure your glutes and back remain flat on the floor and not arched at all.

  2. Brace your core while pushing up the weights and keep breathing in when pushing up and out when lowering the weights.

  3. Hold the position for a second or two at the top of the movement before slowly lowering the weights to above your chest.

  4. You can press the weights together, or alternatively, turn this into a unilateral move.

  5. If you maintain the proper form, you should feel it in your back muscles rather than your chest.

Do this move slowly at first. It can be hard to keep your legs at a 45-degree angle, but the static nature of this exercise gives you great results.

Conclusion

The renegade row is an extremely effective exercise, this movement is a full-body workout in itself that benefits not only your quest to build muscles but also overall wellness.

Not only do you get the benefits of planking, such as stabilization and core strength development, but the movement also engages your upper body to a high degree. 

Here we suggested alternatives to target your core, chest, triceps, shoulders, and even lats. Your core will be hammered since these exercises force you to engage your anterior core muscles against the extension over an extended period of time, building endurance. Some allow you to work out one side at a time, which is great for addressing muscle imbalances.

While these exercises are all great for muscle building, you might also be working on losing a bit of weight. We can help with that too. 

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