Learn this crucial move plus three muscle-sculpting variations that target your arms, back, and core.

Pulling exercises are the key to a well-rounded strength routine?in fact, people who sit a lot (which, ahem, is most people) should actually dotwice as many pull moves (to work those back muscles) as they do push moves ?(which utilize the chest and front-of-body muscles). This helps prevent rounded shoulders and forward slumping reinforced by hours spent in front of your computer.The simplest posture-perfecting pull is also one of the most effective?it’s the bent-over row. And it comes with a sexy side effect: a sculpted upper back. Check out the basic move below, plus three variations that help you get even stronger:
Learning the Basic Move?
The standard version is done using a heavy barbell or dumbbells?you’ll be able to lift more (read: get stronger) with a barbell, but a total weight of 20 pounds is a good place to start, regardless of what you’re lifting. Begin with feet a comfortable width apart, somewhere between hips and shoulders. Holding your weight(s), hinge forward with your hips, letting the arms hang down and the knees bend slightly. You want to carefully lower your torso so it forms at least a 45-degree angle with the floor?60 to 80 degrees is better?while keeping your chest proud and open, your shoulders down and back (in other words, channel that good posture you want to develop), and your gaze diagonally toward the floor.
?Inhale, then exhale and pull your arms back, bending the elbows and keeping them close to your sides until they break the plane of your back; if you’re using a bar, it should align with your body right around diaphragm height, or with dumbbells, they should be just in front of the sides of your ribs. Take care to keep your back flat without curving through the lower back. Vary this move with the wide-arm version?elbows winging out to the sides?to hit all the major muscles of the back. Aim for three sets of 10; if you feel like you could comfortably do three or more per set, go heavier with your weights.

Modification for Lower Back Pain?
If you find yourself bowing through your lower back, feel any discomfort there, or just have trouble getting into the bent-over position, try this: Using a bench and one heavy dumbbell (try 12 pounds to start), place one knee on the bench and bend forward to place the same-side hand in front of you, directly under that shoulder (the knee should be right under the hip, too). Hold the dumbbell in the opposite hand, and row back with that one arm. Keep your shoulders square to the bench?don’t let yourself open up and twist as you pull back. You’ll want to stop moving the arm at the point where the shoulder wants to open up. And don’t forget to switch and do the other side. The same three reps of 10 applies here, grabbing heavier weights when an additional three would be a cinch.

Work Your Core?
This version will really target the muscles in your core, especially your obliques. Get into position to perform the standard bent-over row withdumbbells, but this time just row one side at a time. Keep your core engaged to make sure your shoulders stay parallel to the floor and you’re not twisting your torso from side to side. One left and right equals a rep; do 10, repeating the set three times.

The Total-Back Challenge?
Ready to make it even harder? Get your entire body horizontal for the renegade row. Set down two dumbbells on the floor and get into a plank position with your hands on the weight handles. Holding the straightest, flattest plank you can muster, row back with one arm; replace the weight on the floor, then row with the other arm. But here’s the crucial part: Don’t let your hips sway or twist from side to side as you row back and forth. This means your entire core and back need to be engaged for the whole move. Do three sets of 10 reps.


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