Ten Row Variations For Strong, Pain Free Shoulders

Muscle imbalances are one of the primary causes of shoulder pain in adults as they get older. Rounded shoulders caused by long hours of sitting or imbalanced training stress the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the shoulder. Which is why everyone should incorporate rowing movements into their exercise routine. The following ten exercises are safe row variations that you can use to build strength, restore balance, and solve shoulder pain.

Banded Rows

Sometimes the simplest exercise is the best. The Banded Row is a way to introduce rowing patterning in a safe environment. Practicing good form is important to avoid reaggravting shoulder pain from rows. Start with a neutral grip and pull toward belly button to avoid ‘hunching’ your shoulders.

Single Arm Dumbell Rows

This variation is perfect for anyone who has some side to side imbalance in shoulder strength. By training each arm seperately you force the weaker side to work just as hard as the stronger side.


By far my favorite exercise for overall shoulder health. Facepulls strengthen the upper back muscles. Start with an overhand grip and pull to your chin. Keep your elbows high but shoulder relaxed to avoid ‘hunching’ your upper traps.

Banded Pull Down

The Banded Pull Down is a great row variation to engage and strengthen your latissimus dorsi muscle group. Use this as a warm to bigger movement like pull up or deadlift. Or use heavier resitance for a stan-alone exercise,

Rear Delt Fly

Your deltoid is the big ‘ball’ muscle that surrounds your shoulder. The rear delt fly strengthens the posterior aspects of the muscle and upper back for strong, pain free shoulders.

Y’s and T’s With Hip Hinge

Y’s and T’s is a classic physical therapy exercise to engage different muscles of the upper, mid and lower back. This bodyweight row variation incorporates the hip hinge movement to challenge your postural muscles.

Banded Rows With Hip Hinge

Using the same hip hinge movement to engage your postural muscles you can include the row movement. For this movement it’s OK to drop the trunk a little more to avoid ‘hunching’ your shoulders while your row. Just be sure to not allow your lower back to round.


The TRX is one of the safest and most effective tools available to strengthen your shoulders. The TRX Row allows you to change the difficulty by simply changing the angle of your row – making it perfect for all ability levels.

Birddog Row

The birddog row allows you to incorporate core strength and coordination into your rowing routine. Being able to maintain a neutral spine, engage your glutes, and stabilize your core while rowing makes this a great full body exercise to add to your routine. It’s OK to start with a lighter weight, this one is harder than it looks!

Single Arm Dumbell Row

When you’re ready to move to heavier weights, The Single Arm Dumbbell Row is the best variation to build strength in the movement. Be sure to keep your spine in a neutral position and avoid letting the weight twist your trunk downward at the bottoms of the movement.

Injections and surgeries are rarely needed to solve shoulder pain and often do more harm than good. By strengthening the muscles of our back we can correct the muscle imbalances that lead to shoulder pain. These ten row variations are used in EVERY program I put together to solve shoulder pain.

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Ten Exercises For Pain Free Shoulders: How To Work, Sleep, And Exercise With Less Shoulder Pain

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