Exercises You Should Be Doing: Barbell Seal Row

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It’s a national holiday here in the States – President’s Day – which means my wife has the day off from work. Whenever that happens we like to go get a workout in together since it’s rare we have the opportunity to do so.

Note: for the record, this is not Lisa and I. (Photo Credit: Tony Bonniot)

Contrary to what many reading may thing, getting a lift in at a commercial gym is actually something I look forward to, because it allows a little change of pace and environment for me. Plus it gives me access to pieces of equipment I normally don’t have access to.

Pec deck for days baby!!!

Another side benefit is the observations into human behavior it highlights. Commercial gyms are a petri dish of odd and comical behavior.

Today called for squats. I walk into the main weight area and noticed that both squat racks were in use by, weirdly enough, two guys squatting. Awesome. I’ll wait.

The “wait” turned into ten minutes as one guy, in his mid-20s, was taking F.O.R.E.V.E.R in between his sets. When he’d complete a set he’d stand there looking straight into the mirror, gazing into his own eyes for a few minutes catching his breath, and then walk over to his what I have to assume girlfriend to chat it up.

After the 3rd round of this, I casually walk up to him and ask, “hey man, how many more sets do you have?”

“A few sets.”

“Mind if I jump in and start warming up?”

[Cue incredulous look, as if I just asked him if I could fart in his eye.]

“Um, yeah, sure.”

As I start my warm-up I notice, through the corner of my eye, him acting all “huffy” with his girlfriend.

It ended up being fine. I made sure to re-rack the bar to the weight he was using and by the time I was half-way through my warm-up sets he had finished. But man, the experience just reminded me that people are way too serious sometimes.

End rant.

Lets get to the gist of today’s post.

Barbell Seal Row

 

Who Did I Steal It From: The guy who writes my programs, Greg Robins, put these into one of my days last week and I loved them.

When I posted this video up on my Instagram account, Greg noted he “stole” the exercise from a guy named Mike Shea via Josh Bryant. Who, I can only guess, got it from some obscure Russian weight training coach or The Rock. Doesn’t matter. It’s a baller exercise.

What Does It Do: This is an excellent exercise that hammers the upper back, specifically the (lower) lats. The exercise lends itself to taking away “body english” and forces the lifter to place a premium on technique and really “feeling” the lats fire.

Key Coaching Cues: 

  • Be sure you use a set-up that allows you to fully extend (straighten out) your arms. The should be enough room for the shoulder blades to move around the thorax/rib cage.
  • Squeeze glutes, brace abs. This will help prevent any hyper-extension of the lumbar spine.
  • Try to keep the neck packed (make a double chin).
  • Think about pulling your elbows towards the hips. The barbell will more or less be in line with that cute, little, belly button of yours.
  • Pull barbell all the way up until barbell touches the bench. I you find that that position places you in too much glenohumeral extension (shoulders roll forward), you can add a fat pad to the barbell to help lessen the ROM.
  • Progression would be to eventually lift the legs off the bench, via the glutes (hip extension).
  • Try not to wear too tight of a shirt, cause you’re jacked, and you’re shirt will rip….;o)

Perform for sets of 8-10 repetitions.

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  • Rock Smash

    In the rowing world, these are bench pulls and have been used as part of the national team selection process for at least 30 years. We used to submit to testing with a specific weight close to bodyweight for 6 or 7 minutes. I think the National Canoe program does a similar test with 40kg for reps.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Yeah, but, seal row sounds way cooler…….;o)

    • Greg

      Thanks for that information. Where can I find more information on Row testing in the gym, and on the gym based training of rowing both long term and for the more elite?

  • Patrick

    I have used these with a client that no matter what I tried, could not maintain a neutral thoracic spine while doing bent rows. He used a super deadlift bar, which allows a neutral grip (palms facing) and is not impeded at the top of the range-of-motion by the bar clanking against the bench frame.

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  • Dalton

    This is popular in Sweden from what I understand.