Want a wider, thicker, more defined back? Meet the best back exercise you’ve never tried: the 2/1 Row.
It basically takes the standard seated cable row and puts it on steroids.
First a bit about why this sneaky lift works so well, then we’ll break it down – with a video walk-through to make it clear exactly how to nail it.
Standard rows do an excellent job of working the concentric portion of each rep. However, the eccentric part doesn’t get hit with enough resistance to maximize its (huge) muscle-building potential.
The 2/1 Row solves the problem by hitting both the concentric and eccentric parts of each rep as hard as possible.
Don’t worry – we got you. This will be quick and painless, and it’ll make you a better lifter.
Every rep has two parts, the concentric and eccentric. To understand the difference, think of a bicep curl:
When the weight is by your side and you curl it up, that’s the concentric phase – when your muscles are working to move something.
When you lower it slowly back to your side, that’s the eccentric phase – when your muscles are working to resist a force that’s trying to move something (such as gravity, a cable, a band, etc).
It’s easy to ignore, but the muscle fibers are putting in real work during the eccentric phase – if they weren’t, the weight would free fall back down after each rep (making you look hilarious and bruising the hell out of your leg in the process).
Now that we’ve got the concentric and eccentric parts of each lift sorted out, consider two critical facts about the oft-overlooked eccentric phase:
Which brings us to the 2/1 Row – a seated cable row that's been modified to reap the full benefits of both the concentric and eccentric phases.
The 2/1 Row allows you to take full advantage the eccentric portion of a seated, cable row, using heaver weight than would normally be possible.
In turn, this extra resistance during the eccentric increases micro-tears in the muscle fibers of the back and biceps, leading to increased hypertrophy (muscle growth) as the body repairs and strengthens them.
Here's how it's done:
- On a seated cable row, you'll pull a weight you can row for ten reps with two hands during the concentric portion of the movement.
- Then you’ll return slowly, as controlled as possible, with only one hand during the eccentric portion.
Now see it in action:
Because your muscles are nearly twice as strong during the eccentric phase, you’ll find that the weight you need two hands to pull can be resisted (returned slowly and under control) with only one hand.
This allows your entire back to row the weight in the concentric portion, while forcing just one side to bear the entire load during the eccentric.
Essentially, it’s equivalent to increasing the eccentric part of your row by 100%.
By utilizing the strength advantage of the eccentric portion that traditional rows neglect, the 2/1 Row better stimulates the muscle fibers of the back and biceps and unlocks new growth potential.