How To Do Renegade Rows

By: Chris Freytag, CPT // June 23, 2022

The renegade row is a total body exercise that specifically works the back and bicep muscles while incorporating the core. It’s one of the most effective compound exercises strengthening the upper body’s largest muscle: the latissimus dorsi while also engaging the biceps. Better than just a standing mid-back row, the dumbbell renegade row adds a plank to the mix, forcing you to also engage your core muscles. It’s at the top of our list for multi-muscle group moves. This is definitely an intermediate to advanced exercise designed to improve upper body and core strength, but we also include renegade row variations and modifications in order to increase or decrease the intensity.


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    How To Do A Renegade Row

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    Here’s how to perform the renegade row properly: 

    1. Begin in a full plank position with dumbbells in your hands, arms extended, hands under the shoulders, and on your toes. Make your feet a little wider for a more stable base and keep your body straight from head to heels. Think long spine, butt down, and abs engaged.
    2. Pull the right dumbbell up toward the right hip keeping the dumbbell close to your side, elbow driving back. Resist rotating your shoulders and hips. Use your core strength and keep them facing the floor as best as you can.  
    3.  Slowly return it to the floor and repeat with the left dumbbell.

    Renegade Row Modifications

    The most common mistake people make with this exercise is that they let their hips sag in the plank, opening up room for back pain. You have to keep your abs contracted and engaged and keep your spine neutral. If you are a beginner or working towards better core strength, you’re better off practicing renegade row modifications than doing them without proper form. To modify this move and make it easier you can: 

    1. Use lighter dumbbells. 
    2. Perform this exercise on an incline. Place your weights onto a step or sturdy platform. The higher the incline, the easier the movement becomes.  
    3. Drop to your knees which will take some stress off your back and make it easier to focus on the move itself. 

    It’s a good idea to practice renegade row modifications if you’re just starting out.


    If are more advanced and want to this even more challenging, you can: 

    1. Add a decline by elevating your feet onto a sturdy bench or step. The decline row will really challenge you. 
    2. Check out more renegade row variations below for additional ideas.  

    What Muscles Do Renegade Rows Work?

    Renegade rows are a powerful move that strengthens your back muscles. The latissimus dorsi, or “the lats,” are the “V” shaped muscles on either side of your back. They are your primary pulling muscles used for so many of your everyday tasks.

    Renegade Rows

    They also incorporate the biceps, the muscle group in the front of your arms. Many people want to sculpt their biceps for vanity reasons but once again, the bicep is a very functional muscle group responsible for picking things up throughout your day. 

    Renegade rows also fire up your core muscles known as your body’s powerhouse. A plank will fire up the rectus abdominus, your six-pack muscle; the transverse abdominus, your human belt; and your oblique muscles, your twisting muscles. The plank will also engage your back extensors and stabilizers. 

    Renegade Row Variations

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    Love this exercise? Here are more renegade row variations (some easier, some harder) of this awesome move:

    1. Incline Renegade Row: Taking this exercise to an incline plank position will take pressure off of the shoulders allowing more focus on squeezing the core and fighting the rotation in your hips while rowing the dumbbell past your hip. 
    Incline Renegade Row
    1. Modified Plank Renegade Row: This renegade row modification takes the plank onto your knees. The concept of the exercise will remain the same except you lower your knees to the ground and perform the exercise from a modified plank from your knees. Maintain a neutral spine position from the modified plank position and continue to support your abdominals and core while rowing the dumbbell to your hip.
    Modified Renegade Row
    1. Decline Renegade Row: An advancement on the move, this takes the exercise to a new level. Elevate your feet up on a step, platform, or sturdy chair and perform the exercise. With your feet elevated, your upper body has to bear more weight.
    Decline Renegade Row
    1. Push-Up Renegade Row: You are already in the correct position so why not add a push-up to the exercise to make it a beast of a move. Again, either in full plank or on your knees, keep your abs tight and lower your chest to the ground to perform a push-up then perform the exercise on the right and left side. Make sure you practice proper push-up form.
    Push Up Renegade Row
    1. Kettlebell Renegade Row: Are you up for a challenge? Switch out your set of dumbbells for a kettlebell. By using a kettlebell instead of a dumbbell, the unevenness of the weight distribution of a kettlebell makes the exercise more difficult to control. This uneven weight distribution forces the core to work a little harder. You’ll need to take your plank onto some sort of incline and put the kettlebell on the floor, horn facing up so you can pick it up with alternating arms. 
    Kettlebell Renegade Row
    1. T Plank Renegade Row:  Perform the exercise on the right and then raise the dumbbell up into a T plank. Contract your abs while rotating your body and extending one of your arms straight up to the sky so your body creates the letter T.  Do this on the right. Repeat on the left.  
    T Plank Renegade Row

    Try these renegade row variations in order to increase or decrease the intensity of the exercise.

    Benefits of a Renegade Row

    In today’s world, with our laptops and smartphones, we are constantly in vulnerable positions for bad posture. Our backs really take a hit! A dumbbell renegade row is a great way to help strengthen the back muscles, which are also vital muscles for functional core strength. There are many reasons you should incorporate this exercise into your workouts. Here are just a few:

    1. Improves Core Strength

    A renegade row flies under the radar for core work but this move will actually bring you quicker results for a strong core than all the crunches in the world! Your core muscles not only hold you in a plank position, but they also force you to find stability and stay centered while the arm is rowing. It’s double duty for the six-pack!

    2. Improves Coordination

    This exercise uses unilateral (one arm at a time) training. Working one arm at a time, it helps to improve coordination and core stabilizing. 

    3. Improves Balance

    This exercise is also an awesome move for improving balance sine you have to hold your body in a plank position while lifting and lowering one arm. Keep your body as still as possible while you rotate between sides. If at first you find yourself leaning to one side, practice our modifications and keep at it. Before you know it, you will have improved your balance.

    4. Improves Upper Body Strength

    The dumbbell renegade row is primarily an upper-body strength move. The main goal is to strengthen your upper back, shoulders, and arm muscles. It’s an amazing move that sculpts and shapes your upper body quickly.

    5. Improved Metabolism

    This multi-muscle group exercise fires up several muscle groups and when incorporated into a full workout will help build muscle and improve metabolism. 

    If you’re looking for a way to incorporate this exercise into a more robust routine, check out our Build Your Best Back workout.

    How Many Calories Does A Renegade Row Burn?

    People often ask how many calories they are burning in their workouts. When it comes to strength exercises, the answer is that it depends.

    It depends on how heavy you are lifting, if you are performing a renegade row modifications, how many repetitions you do, and honestly, that is not the purpose of performing strength exercises.

    Burning calories is less important than the fact that you are building muscle. Work until you feel muscle fatigue. Be consistent and get excited to see strength gains in your back, biceps, and core.  

    After all, muscle burns more calories than fat, so the more you perform strength moves and build the muscle, the more calories you burn at rest every day! Talk about a gift that keeps on giving. 

    Other Exercises Similar to Renegade Row

    If you like this exercise and the results you get from it, here are a few more exercises you might want to try.

    Incorporating Renegade Rows Into Your Workouts 

    This is a great move to practice any time on its own however, you could also incorporate it into other workouts to mix them up. Here are some ideas to make that happen.

    Upper Body Challenge

    Working your upper body muscles can be an intense training session. Use this series for your upper body day and you’ll feel it the next day. Get a set of dumbbells and do each exercise for the number of repetitions listed with just a few seconds in between to rest.

    10 Modified Push-ups

    10 Dumbbell Chest Flys

    10 Alternating Renegade Rows

    10 Bicep Curls

    10 Tricep Kickbacks

    10 Reverse Grip Double Arm Row

    10 Overhead Shoulder Press

    Repeat one more time

    Full Body Strength Workout

    Leg day is great. Upper body day is fantastic. But FULL BODY day is the best!  Take one workout and get it all done at once. This next workout gets it all done lots of basic strength moves you will love! Grab a pair of dumbbells and try it!

    Warm-up for about 2-3 minutes then do between 10-15 of each of the following moves:

    Basic Squat


    Side Lunges

    Tricep Dips

    Alternating Forward Lunges

    Renegade Row

    Russian Twist (with or without a dumbbell)

    10-Minute Dumbbell Core Blast 

    A dumbbell renegade row is an awesome upper body move, but there is true magic in the way it works your core! Check out this dumbbell core workout and you’ll feel your abs on fire!

    Get a medium pair of dumbbells and try each of these moves as listed. Go through the routine two times for maximum results!

    Russian Twist

    Renegade Row

    Leg Loops

    Overhead Pull

    Side Plank with Arm Extension

    Ab Reverse Curl


    Here are 3 more workouts that incorporate this powerful exercise:

    Exercise Form, Fitness

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