Exercises You Should Be Doing: Half Kneeling Cable Batwing/Pulldown

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Every so often (read: all….the….time) I come across an exercise or exercise variation that someone else made up or invented and the first thing that crosses my mind is how brilliant that person is for thinking up something so spectaculous.*

Not surprisingly, soon thereafter the second thought that hits me like a ton of bricks is how much of an numbskull I am for never having thought of it myself.

One such moment came about a year ago when I read something from Dan John about “batwing” rows (see picture just above). For those unfamiliar, basically you perform a standard chest supported row and then HOLD the retracted position for a certain amount of time.  The idea is to increase time under tension and to strengthen the scapular retractors – something most trainees can never get enough of anyways.

It was a fantastic concept, and something I implemented with a few of my own clients almost immediately.

Fast forward to within the last few weeks where Ben Bruno has taken the same concept and added his own spin to it, which, of course, made me feel like an idiot (seriously, why can’t I ever think of something so cool?).

…..but unlike times past, Ben’s thinking outside of the box prowess, gave me an idea:

Half Kneeling Cable Batwing/Pulldown

Who Did I Steal It From:  I’d like to take full credit for this one, but again, I have to give props to Ben for giving me the idea for the exercise.  Too, giving added credit where it’s due:  Mike Boyle wrote a fantastic article last week on t-nation where he expanded on a few similar variations, which served as a precursor to this blog post.

What Does It Do:  This is an excellent exercise which trains the middle and lower traps, as well as the rhomboids and lats (of course).  As a nice corollary, by doing this in a half-kneeling position, you also get the side benefit of performing a active stretch on hip flexors of the trailing leg.  In short, while it may look like a simple exercise – and it is – you get a lot of bang for your training buck.

Key Coaching Cues:  As far as the “batwing” portion is concerned, whichever leg is UP is the side you’ll pull to and hold.  Here, you want to focus on pushing your chest forward and holding that scapulae in a retracted position.

With the opposite arm, you’ll perform the allotted repetitions focusing on keeping the shoulder blade depressed the entire time – do not go into scapular anterior tilt!  In addition, you’ll also want to “dig” the toes of the trailing leg into the ground and squeeze the same side glute – HARD – to get more of a co-contraction in the hip flexor.

Perform 8-10 repetitions, then switch sides and repeat the same process on the opposite side.

* = HA!  I just made up a word.  Take that people who are smarter than me!

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