Train Your Body to Move and Stabilize in All Directions

Split-Stance Low Cable Row

Outside the gym in your everyday life you twist, you turn, you bend. You move in all directions: forward, backward, side to side and rotationally. A common mistake that many gym-goers make is in not training their body to move and stabilize in all directions.This can lead to injury.

A short lesson in movement planes. There are three directions, or planes, that we move in. Most people do the majority of their training in the Sagittal plane. Think forward-and-back as in a squat, bicep curl, triceps pushdown, front lunge, walking, climbing stairs; frontal plane, think side-to-side, like in a side lunge, side bends, side shuffle, side plank, lateral shoulder dumbbell raise; and transverse like in a trunk rotation, throwing, golfing, swinging a bat or a racket.

You need to be strong in every plane of motion to help prevent injury when moving in everyday life.

Gym-goers typically spend most of their time doing sagittal plane exercises and don’t do enough exercises in the transverse plane and this can lead to injury, particularly to the low back.

Some low back problems occur because the abdominal muscles are not maintaining tight control over the rotation between the pelvis and the L5 to S1 spine vertebrae.

Transverse plane exercises can help prevent injury as they develop your ability to resist and control rotation. These types of exercises are called anti-rotational.

Anti-rotation exercises train your body, particularly your core, to stay aligned and keep your pelvis and low back stable as you resist an outside force that is attempting to pull you out of position.

The Split-Stance Low Cable Row is an excellent transverse plane exercise that stabilizes the pelvis and fights rotational movement which trains you in an anti-rotational manner. Obviously this row exercise is going to strengthen the upper back (specifically the scapular retractors).  And, by bending over at a 45-degree angle ( which you don’t do during a typical cable row) the spinal erectors get quite a bit work trying to prevent shear loading. There is major glute activation in the front leg and a fair amount of glute activation in the trailing leg. Also, there is multi–planar stability in the front leg, as the hip muscles (glute max and med, deep hip rotators) have to fight the torsional forces placed upon the body. In short, there’s a lot of “return on investment” exercise, which makes it one of my favorite exercises.

Here is Caroline demonstrating proper technique. And if you are curious about Caroline’s Success Story, you can read it here along with her review of her experiences with me.

  • Set up a low cable with a single D-handle, grab the D-handle and face the stack.
  • Bend the front leg, the back leg is straight with the back foot flat. Shift most of the weight to the heel of your front foot. Keep that leg bent and you should feel the front leg’s glute contract to stabilize.
  • Bend forward from the hips, not the low back, about 45 degrees. Keep your back straight and your chin tucked in throughout the exercise.
  • Pull the handle towards your torso with a vertical palm grip, performing a row, pausing at the top for a one count. Engage your back muscle and pull your shoulder blades together and down towards your low back. Think “back-and-down”. Do not allow the elbow to be pulled further back than the line of your back.
  • Keep the shoulder blades pulled back throughout the movement. Brace through your core and do not allow your hips or lower back to twist at any point during the movement.
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