Renegade Row Muscles Worked: It’s More Than Just the Lats

muscles worked by renegade row

Considering the Renegade Row is quite literally a cross between a bent-over dumbbell row and a standard plank, a large number of muscles are contracted at any given point in its range of motion. 


Renegade Row Muscles Worked

The Latissimus Dorsi

The latissimus dorsi are a pair of large muscles spanning the entirety of the upper and middle back, creating the appearance of “wings” or a letter “V” when contracted outwards.

location of the lat muscles

The latissimus dorsi feature attachment points from the thoracic and lumbar sections of the spine to the general armpit area. 


The latissimus dorsi adducts and extends the arm from the shoulder joint, but also aids in medial rotation to a lesser extent.


The latissimus dorsi is the principal mobilizer used during a repetition of the renegade row, featuring significant dynamic contraction throughout the entire repetition.

Activity During a Renegade Row Repetition

The lats contract to pull the upper arm behind the trunk – raising the dumbbell up towards the ribs in tandem with the other mobilizer muscles.

lat activity during renegade row

The Trapezius: Upper and Middle Traps

The trapezius is a pair of large triangular muscles spanning the upper back and dorsal section of the shoulders, where they visibly rise above and extend into the neck.

trap muscles

The traps feature quite a few attachment points throughout the upper trunk, ranging from the cervical spine at the highest to the thoracic spine and ribcage at the lowest. Other attachment points include the clavicles and the scapula.


The trapezius muscles offer quite a few mechanical actions, the most immediately relevant of which are internal arm rotation and elevation/depression of the scapula.


The trapezius acts as a secondary mobilizer where it works in tandem with other back muscles to retract the scapula – allowing the dumbbell to be pulled upwards or lowered with control.

Activity During a Renegade Row Repetition

The traps allow the shoulder blade to be pulled backwards behind the body, quite literally pulling the dumbbell upwards without directly contributing to flexion of the arm.

renegade row movement

The Biceps Brachii

The biceps brachii are a pair of muscles located along the anterior section of the upper arm, where they are most prominently visible when the forearm and elbow is in a state of supinated flexion.

biceps anatomy

Both bicep heads attach at the scapula and within the elbow joint, hence their primary activity of pulling the forearm towards the shoulder girdle.


The biceps brachii primarily work to execute arm flexion at the elbow while also contributing to supination of the forearm.


The biceps act as a secondary mobilizer due to the limited dynamic contraction they exhibit during a renegade row. 

Activity During a Renegade Row Repetition

During a renegade row, the lifter will need to bend the elbow behind the trunk in order to achieve a full range of motion. The biceps stabilize, initiate and sustain this mechanic while the back muscles bear the remaining load.

renegade row muscles worked

The Rotator Cuff Muscles

The rotator cuff muscles are composed of the infraspinatus, teres minor, supraspinatus and subscapularis – grouped together as such due to their shared function in stabilizing and rotating the shoulders.

rotator cuff muscles

These muscles are considered “deep” muscles in that they are not immediately noticeable owing to their position and small size. Nonetheless, the rotator cuff muscles feature attachment points at both the scapula and the dorsal section of the humerus.


The rotator cuff muscles extend and rotate the humerus at the shoulder joint while simultaneously stabilizing and supporting the shoulder itself.


During a renegade row, the rotator cuff muscles act as secondary mobilizers during the upper half of the range of motion.

Activity During a Renegade Row Repetition

As the upper arm dorsally rotates within the shoulder joint and the shoulder itself externally rotates (upwards, in the plank stance), each rotator cuff muscle is utilized in both an isometric and dynamic manner.

The Triceps Brachii

The triceps brachii are a trio of muscles (long, medial and short head) located along the posterior and lateral section of the upper arms. In particularly well-trained individuals, the triceps create the appearance of a “horseshoe” when viewed from behind. 

anatomy of triceps brachii

The triceps muscles insert either within the elbow joint or along the distal section of the humerus, whereas they feature an origin at the outer section of the scapula.


The triceps brachii work to extend the arm at the elbow joint – especially if the hands are in a supinated or pronated orientation.


The triceps brachii are mainly a stabilizer meant to keep the elbow fully extended as the opposite arm rows a dumbbell.

Activity During a Renegade Row Repetition

The triceps brachii act to keep the non-working arm fully extended at the elbow – subsequently stabilizing the entire body.

The Pectorals

The pectoral muscles are a pair of muscles spanning the entirety of the chest, where they are divided into the larger pectoralis major and the far smaller underlying pectoralis minor.

pectoralis major muscle

Both pectorals muscles attach to the upper arm and to the sternum – hence their mechanical action and usage in practically any activity involving adduction of the humerus.

pectoralis minor muscle


The primary mechanical activity of the pectoral muscles is adduction or inward movement of the arms along a horizontal plane. 

As a secondary role, the pecs will also aid in internal rotation of the arm to a somewhat more diminished extent.


The pectoral muscles are considered to be a stabilizer muscle during a renegade row set.

Activity During a Renegade Row Repetition

Like the triceps, the pectorals primarily stabilize the arms and shoulders as one arm rows the dumbbell. In addition, they aid in the actual action of pulling the dumbbell upwards by acting as an antagonist through adductive tension.

The Core: Abdominals, Spinal Erectors, Lower Back

Though technically multiple large muscle groups, the core is utilized throughout the entire set of renegade rows due to the relatively unstable position the exercise is performed in.

core muscles

To be more specific, it is the abdominal muscle group, spinal erectors and the lower back that work in tandem to keep the trunk rigid and stable despite the plank stance being employed. 

These muscles encompass most of the waist, lower back and (in the case of the spinal erectors) run vertically along the entire spine.


The core musculature are responsible for flexion and extension, rotation and stabilization of the trunk at the waist, lower back and hips.


As mentioned, the core acts as the main stabilizing structure throughout a set of renegade rows.

Activity During a Renegade Row Repetition

The core musculature ensures that the trunk remains stable and rigid, allowing the mobilizer muscles to exert greater force while simultaneously reducing the risk of injury.

Tips for Better Muscular Contraction During Renegade Rows

To maximize muscular contraction during a renegade row repetition, focus on beginning and ending each repetition with a small amount of scapular protraction. This will ensure the back musculature is worked through a full range of motion.

In addition, making small individualized adjustments to technique (i.e. grip style, hand positioning, switching to a kneeling plank stance) may help make the exercise more comfortable.


1. Volkmar, Michael. “The Dumbbell Workout Handbook: Weight Loss: Over 100 Workouts for Fat-Burning.” United States: Hatherleigh Press, 2018. ISBN: 9781578267552, 1578267552