Hard To The Core

The core row is one of the best exercises to build strength and size in the upper back. Strong lats and rhomboids are important for fighters because they help boost punching power and improve shoulder health.

Fighters also need a super strong core. The hardest strikers have the strongest cores. A floor crunch, however, won’t cut it for a combat athlete because it only activates part of the core. Abdominal muscles fire most intensely when you are off your back. Research by spinal experts has demonstrated that the core is most active when it resists movement at the spine (an isometric contraction).

An ideal way to train your upper back is with an exercise that also challenges your core—specifically, an exercise that forces your core muscles to fire isometrically.

The core row has been a mainstay in my strength training programs for years. It’s simply one of the best exercises any fighter can do.


1. Get in a push-up position with your hands wrapped around two moderately heavy dumbbells. Your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width.

2. Brace your abs tight, as if someone were about to punch you in the stomach.

3. Row with your right arm, without letting your hips shift to the left.

4. Row with your left arm, without letting your hips shift to the right.

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