Train Like Batman to Build a Stronger Back

Do the Batwing Row exercise to strengthen neglected back muscles and fix your posture.

Your workouts are ruining your posture. And you can thank the widespread overemphasis on pressing exercises.

It's understandable. Who doesn't love showing off on the Bench Press or doing chest exercises until your pecs look like they might explode out of your chest?

It's all fine if you balance pressing moves with pulling exercises, such as Rows, to strengthen your back. The general recommendation is at least two pulling exercises for every pressing exercise.

Unfortunately, too many athletes do pulling exercises totally wrong or ignore them altogether.

The result: forward rounded shoulders or even a premature hunched back. Combined with frequent sitting and constantly staring at your phone, you're setting yourself up to look like a jacked Quasimodo.

The solution is quite simple. Enter the Batwing Row.

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Benefits of the Batwing Row

Popularized by strength coach Dan John, the Batwing Row specifically targets the rhomboids, the muscles in your upper back next to your spine that are responsible for retracting (pulling back) your shoulder blades.

You've undoubtedly heard the cue "pinch your shoulder blades together" during an exercise. That is instructing you to use your rhomboids.

According to strength coach Ben Bruno, many people unintentionally neglect their rhomboids, because they don't get proper scapula retraction during rowing exercises. They tend to use too much biceps or they perform the reps so quickly that the rhomboids don't need to do any work.

The Batwing Row solves both of these problems. It eliminates any potential to cheat on the rep and it forces a deep isometric contraction of the rhomboids to strengthen those oft-neglected muscles.

Plus it looks kind of cool.

"I call them bat wings because originally it was a joke; but then one day I realized that it kind of actually did look like bat wings from the side," John wrote in an article on his website.

By regularly incorporating Batwing Rows into your workouts, yo

u might be able to correct persistent posture problems that you've been ignoring for years. And they will teach you the proper technique to make your rhomboids actually engage in your regular back exercises.

How to Perform Batwing Rows 

Setup: Lie with your stomach on a flat or incline bench. Hold dumbbells or kettlebells directly under your shoulders. If you're using a flat bench, the dumbbells should be on the floor and your arms should be slightly bent.

Action: Pull your shoulders back and row the weights until your thumbs are in your armpits. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement and hold for one or two counts. Slowly lower and repeat.

In an article on T-Nation, John recommends performing 4 sets of 5 reps. If you're using heavy weight, proper form is critical. It's better to get a solid squeeze at the top of the rep than to struggle to reach full range of motion with weight that is too heavy.  You can also use a light weight and hold the contraction for 30 seconds, which is shown here by strength coach Kevin Carr.

Do the Batwing Row exercise before heavy strength work to prime your rhomboids and familiarize yourself with proper rowing technique.


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