Let’s talk about an overlooked exercise that can be a huge game changer for your son or daughter’s athletic development.  I’m not talking about squats, bench press, deadlifts, power cleans, or any exercise that requires fancy equipment. I’m talking about a relatively simple exercise that’s easy to set up and gives a lot of bang for your buck: Rowing.  Rows can be done with different variations, planes of movement, and equipment.  But more importantly rows can deliver back strength that translates to greater overall strength and improved speed development.  At the Boost Performance Center, we work exclusively with youth athletes which presents unique challenges.  Getting our athletes in positions that don’t jeopardize their trunk and spine, or choosing exercises that they can actually execute properly are always priority.  Here are 3 benefits of rowing to help build speed development in youth athletes.

1: Improved Posture

Good speed mechanics really comes down to running efficiency.  A strong back leads to improved posture and torso stiffness.  This is actually crucial to speed development as a strong back and torso allows for more efficient arm rotation, and force production through the legs.  Poor posture and weak back muscles are often easy to see with young athletes as their trunk rotates during arm movement, or the inability to stay upright during hip flexion while running.  You’d be hard pressed to find a great sprinter with weak posture.

2: Rhomboids & Tricep Development

The rhomboids are a pair of upper back muscles that help with upper limb movement and stability of the shoulder girdle.  The triceps are located in the back upper portion of the arms below the shoulders, and assist with elbow extension.  This can translate to speed development in the following ways. 

→Stronger rhomboids leads to improved upper limb movement and stability of the shoulder and can help increase efficiency of the arms when sprinting,

→When we sprint it’s important for the arms to be locked at 90 degree elbow flexion while still having the hands pass the hips during shoulder extension (pulling the arms back).  This is where tricep development comes into play to deliver aggressive elbow extension allowing the hands to clear the hips.  

Simply put, the arms control the legs when sprinting, and that means more efficiency with arm action translates to more efficiency with leg action.

3: Overall Strength Development

A stronger back and posture also leads to further speed development by simply building more overall strength.  With more postural integrity an athlete can expect to see more strength gains in other lifts as well such as the squat, deadlift, and bench press. Any good performance coach will tell you that speed is an extension of strength, so if you want to get faster it’s a must to get stronger.

Rowing is an underdog when it comes to developing athletic performance.  I always try to program vertical, horizontal, or isometric rows as much as possible in my gym.  I’ve seen it make a tremendous difference in not only my young athletes’ confidence in terms of the effect it has on their posture, but also big increases in strength that leads to better overall performance.  From ages as young as 8 to the most elite athletes, rows should be a staple of their program.-Boostman


Coach Bass

Owner, Boost Training Systems
Level 1 & 2 Coach Bommarito Performance