How to Do Shoulder Rows: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do shoulder rows to help with upper body strength and endurance, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

woman-doing-shoulder-rows-exercises-with-band

How to Do Shoulder Rows: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do shoulder rows to help with upper body strength and endurance, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

woman-doing-shoulder-rows-exercises-with-band

How to Do Shoulder Rows: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do shoulder rows to help with upper body strength and endurance, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

woman-doing-shoulder-rows-exercises-with-band

How to Do Shoulder Rows: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do shoulder rows to help with upper body strength and endurance, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

woman-doing-shoulder-rows-exercises-with-band
Table of Contents

Many different stretches and exercises can help alleviate muscle and joint pain in the upper back, shoulders, and neck region. One that Hinge Health physical therapists love to recommend: shoulder rows. This exercise targets and strengthens the muscles around the shoulder blades and upper back. This can counteract some of the pain and stiffness that comes from staying in one position for long periods of time — something that many people with desk jobs and long commutes struggle with. 

There are many ways to perform shoulder rows, including with a resistance band, which we’ll show you below, along with how you can modify shoulder rows to be easier or more challenging. 

Our Hinge Health Experts

Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

What Are Shoulder Rows?

Sometimes referred to simply as “rows,” shoulder rows target the muscles in the upper back and shoulders. Using a resistance band can provide constant tension throughout the movement, potentially leading to more muscle activation.

What Muscles Do Shoulder Rows Work? 

Shoulder rows primarily target the muscles of the upper back and shoulders, including the: 

  • Rhomboids: These muscles are located between your shoulder blades (scapulae) and are responsible for retracting them (or pulling together).

  • Trapezius: This large muscle spans the back of the neck and shoulders. The middle and lower parts of the trapezius are engaged during rows, helping in scapular retraction and depression.

  • Latissimus dorsi: Often referred to as "lats," these are large back muscles that contribute to the rowing movement, especially when there's a more extended range of motion or a wider grip involved.

  • Rear deltoids (posterior deltoids): Located on the back of the shoulders, these muscles assist in pulling the arms back during the rowing motion.

  • Teres major: This muscle lies beneath the latissimus dorsi and aids in the movement of the upper arm, especially during the rowing motion.

During the rowing motion, you also engage other muscles to a lesser extent, such as the biceps (upper arm) and the core muscles, which help you maintain good posture and form. 

Benefits of Shoulder Rows 

By strengthening the upper back and shoulder muscles, shoulder rows can assist in a range of daily activities and reduce the risk of strain or injury. You may notice certain tasks are easier, such as: 

  • Lifting and carrying objects, such as grocery bags, children, or bags and suitcases.  

  • Pulling and pushing actions, like opening heavy doors, pushing a grocery cart or lawnmower, or even drawing curtains.

  • Reaching for objects. Whether it's grabbing something in a high cabinet or at the back of a shelf, stronger back and shoulder muscles can make this action more effortless.

  • Recreational activities. Everything from gardening and playing certain musical instruments to doing physical activities like rowing and climbing can be more comfortable and efficient with stronger back and shoulder muscles. 

  • Finding a comfortable posture. It’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as perfect posture, but having good upper body strength can help you feel comfortable in a variety of positions so you’re less likely to have back pain or neck tension throughout your day. 

Shoulder Rows: Exercises and Modifications 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

Shoulder Rows

Shoulder Rows

Shoulder Rows

Shoulder Rows

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To do shoulder rows: 

  • Secure a non-looped resistance band (also called a therapy band) by opening a door, wrapping the band around the door handle, and then closing the door. Stand on the closing side of the door to make sure the band does not accidentally pull the door open. 

  • Hold the ends of the band and take a few steps back, away from the door. Your arms should be straight and raised to about chest height, and the bands should have some tension. 

  • Stretch the band by bending your elbows and pulling toward the sides of your ribcage. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you hold this position. 

  • Relax your arms back to the starting position. 

Everyone is different, which is why you may need to modify shoulder rows to meet your needs. 

Shoulder Rows Modifications

Shoulder Rows Modifications

Shoulder Rows Modifications

Shoulder Rows Modifications

To make shoulder rows easier:  

  • Reduce resistance by starting closer to the door so there is more slack in the band. 

  • Use a lighter resistance band. 

To make shoulder rows harder: 

  • Start by standing further away from the door to increase resistance in the band. 

  • Use a heavier resistance band. 

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.  

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. 

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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References

  1. Seguin, R. C., Cudlip, A. C., & Holmes, M. W. R. (2022). The Efficacy of Upper-Extremity Elastic Resistance Training on Shoulder Strength and Performance: A Systematic Review. Sports, 10(2), 24. doi:10.3390/sports10020024

  2. Youdas, J. W., Kleis, M., Krueger, E. T., Thompson, S., Walker, W. A., & Hollman, J. H. (2020). Recruitment of Shoulder Complex and Torso Stabilizer Muscles With Rowing Exercises Using a Suspension Strap Training System. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, 13(1), 85–90. doi:10.1177/1941738120945986

Table of Contents
What Are Shoulder Rows?What Muscles Do Shoulder Rows Work? Benefits of Shoulder Rows Shoulder Rows: Exercises and Modifications To do shoulder rows: To make shoulder rows easier:  To make shoulder rows harder: How Hinge Health Can Help You References