How to Do Proper Kettlebell Renegade Rows

Horizontal pull

Gym class doing push-ups on kettlebells
Kettlebell Workout. alvarez / Getty Images

The Renegade Row is a unique strength exercise, which effectively combines stability and mobility together in a horizontal pulling movement. The dynamic stability exercise challenges chest, abdominals and the supportive muscles of the anterior core of the body, while also actively building the biceps and back muscles involved in pulling.  

Renegade Row is a horizontal pull, and so effectively address a movement range that is not commonly trained with classical kettlebell lifts performed on the feet in primarily vertical pulling and pushing movements.

Mobility and Stability, or Movement and Stillness, are qualities of motion and posture that integrate within effective dynamic movements. If one can balance in a static hold, but not maintain balance while moving, there is a movement dysfunction due to some weakness, imbalance or restriction. On the other hand, if one moves well yet at certain phases of the movement loses control, there is a movement dysfunction due to a lack of strength or stability.

The ability to maintain stability while moving, and to create mobility while remaining stable is called Dynamic stability and Renegade Row is a valuable exercise for learning the anterior body control.

The anterior core, or anterior chain exercise requires pelvic control in order to stabilize the lumbar spine. In many knee-dominant movements, such as squats, there will be a tendency to underutilize the hips and over utilize the low back, which eventually leads to low back strain.

The Renegade Rows trains to prevent extension of the lumbar and reinforce keeping the low back level and stable. This movement combines the anterior plane stability of a front plank, with sagittal (lateral) mobility of horizontal rowing. This combination of frontal plane stability with sagittal plane mobility trains anti-rotation, or resistance against being rotated.


Here is how to train the Renegade Rows:

Place two heavy Kettlebells on the floor shoulder-width distance apart. It’s important to use heavy kettlebells that will not flip or roll while supporting your body weight. I suggest using kettlebells not lighter than 12kg/25lb, and preferably heavier. Place each hand on a handle and squeeze the handles tightly while pushing straight down through the handle into the floor. 

Place your body in a plank position like in the top position of a pushup, balancing on the balls of your feet. Make sure to keep the spine level. Don’t arch or collapse the hips. With your body weight balanced evenly between your hands and feet, shift your weight to one hand, and make sure to press that hand firmly down through the Kettlebells, so that it is stable. With the other hand, pull the other kettlebell up until it touches to your ribcage.

Slowly lower that Kettlebell down, then shift to that side and repeat the row on the other side. Go back and forth, one side up and down at a time.

Pay equal attention to the stabilizing arm as well as the pulling arm.

Keep the shoulders of both arms connected into the socket via contraction of the latissimus dorsi. Pull the kettlebell to the rib cage.

Focus on pulling the elbows up and toward the center of the spine, rather than letting the elbow drift outwards to the side. 

Breathing – inhale as the kettlebells are pulled to the hips/waist, exhale as they are lowered back down

Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

Avoid the mistake of rotating/twisting the torso during the pull. Instead, this should be practiced as an anti-rotation exercise, which prevents the rotation of the hips during the rowing movement by keeping the abdominal firm and hips stable, with both hips and both shoulders facing down to the floor throughout the movement.   ​

Avoid Pulling primarily with the biceps and instead initiate the pulls with the back muscles. Keep the rib cage expanded and focus on pulling the elbow toward the ribs.

Don’t allow the hips to sag and drop down. Activate the core muscles to ensure proper alignment. Aim for a straight line from the head to the heels.

Don’t bend the stabilizing arm, which will result in poor control and loss of leverage and power. Keep the supporting arm fully extended and locked to maintain a stable base. 

Mix in the Renegade Rows to introduce anterior core development and horizontal pulling movements, to make your kettlebell training more well-rounded and comprehensive, and develop a strong and dynamic core midsection.