Blast Your Back and Abs at Home With This Workout Finisher

One of the greatest challenges of home training during #quarantinelife is this: Finding exercises to work your back. It’s easy to do pushups for your chest, for example, and bodyweight squats and lunges can help build leg strength. But to protect your shoulders in the long term (and also to build a balanced physique), you need to find ways to train your back.

That’s not always easy, says Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S, but it is possible, as long as you think outside the box. “You have to learn to retract your shoulder blades, and that’s what we master and develop when we train our backs,” says Samuel. “That does require some sort of external load, but you have that at your house.”

Samuel’s Two-Way Plank Iso-Hold Row doesn’t require any equipment or gear. But it will require you to search your house for something to lift, and for a chair (which you almost certainly have). From there, it smokes your back (and your core too!) with time-under-tension, leaving your entire body on fire after about 5 or 6 minutes. “This is perfect as a finishing move to a total-body workout,” says Samuel. “Or it can easily be an aggressive ending move to a more dedicated back workout at home.”

The Two-Way Plank Iso-Hold Row works by focusing on constant-tension during the pull, and by getting your abs in on the act. You’ll spend time in both a bear plank and a plank position, but you’ll hold those positions with one arm. That’s already a steep core challenge, even without weight. Then you add weight by introducing a row hold, which forces your back to fire up.

Even better, your lats and rhomboids have to do all the work in the row hold since abs, glutes, and most of your other stabilizing muscles are occupied maintaining first a bear plank, then a standard plank, with one arm. All that work is compounded since this is essentially a plank dropset; you start in the bear plank, which challenges core and glutes, then shift back to the more core-focused standard plank.

It’s also a move that can be done with varying loads. “In the video, I go heavy,” says Samuel, “essentially using 41 pounds of resistance via that five-gallon water jug. But you can easily use a single gallon and still find value in the exercise.” The key to the move, finding a load that works for you, says Samuel. “Feel free to modify the timing of the move based on what weights you have,” he says. “If you’re going much lighter, extend those holds, and let this be more of an abdominal challenge. If you’re working with a challenging weight to start (and 41 pounds was plenty for me), work with the times prescribed.”

You’ll need a chair and any load to do the move. Get creative with the load. A water jug works, but so does a backpack filled with books or laundry detergent.

Use the Two-Way Plank Iso-Hold Row as a regular back move if you’re training at home, doing it daily if you want. You can also use it as your back move in a full-body circuit (think of doing pushups and squats and lunges with it). And remember that any load works, says Samuel. “No matter what you’re using this will challenge your core and back,” he says.

For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full slate of Eb and Swole workouts. If you want to try an even more dedicated routine, consider Eb’s New Rules of Muscle program.

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