Tip: Do The Gorilla Row

Rows are nonnegotiable in back training. So mix it up a little with this new variation.

For building a strong back you can't leave out rows. But this variation is likely missing from your training, and that's a shame because you're going to love it. Here's how it's done.

  1. Get your feet shoulder-width apart with two kettlebells between them. Hinge at the hip until you're able to grab the handles of the kettlebells. This should put you in a deadlift position.
  2. Keep your knees out and sit back a little in order to engage the glutes and hams.
  3. Row one of the kettlebells up towards your hips with a slight rotation in order to allow your elbows to come back farther. Keep a tight grip on the other kettlebell that's still stationary on the ground.
  4. Return the kettlebell back to the ground and repeat on the other side. Keep your back flat and head neutral.

You can alternate sides or do all your reps on one side before the other, which makes it convenient if you only have one kettlebell.

These are perfect for building grip and back strength. By rowing from a static position, you recruit more motor units which will increase muscle tension and have your lats pumped with blood. It also just enforces a proper hip hinge position. Although it emphasizes the back muscles, you'll be surprised at how much your legs are actually working while performing this row.

Cool Combinations

Get creative and combine this row variation with other exercises. Here are two different combos to try:

Renegade + Gorilla Row

You can do a prescribed amount renegade rows before moving on to gorilla rows, or you can alternate between the two until you reach a total number of reps. I suggest doing all your renegade rows before the gorilla rows since the renegade variation is a bit more complex.

Gorilla Row + Deadlift + Farmer's Walks

Try this at the end of the workout. Do between 4-10 reps of gorilla rows, followed by 4-10 reps of deadlifts, and end with a specific distance for your farmer's walks, like 20 yards.

Wait, Why Is It Called the "Gorilla" Row?

The exercise came about when doing a combination of kettlebell movements. After I finished them, I lowered the kettlebells to the ground between my feet and found myself in a nice hip hinge with the kettlebells in perfect position to row from a dead stop. So I began rowing and my training partner said, "You look like a damn gorilla." And that's where it came from.

Daniel Aipa is a writer and strength and conditioning coach based out of Hawaii. He’s a former college head strength and conditioning coach where he programmed and coached 21 collegiate sports. Currently, Daniel works out of his own training facility KU Performance while continuing his creative work with The KU Project. Follow Daniel Aipa on Facebook