The motorcycle row is a forgotten — but potent — old school upper back developer popularized by the legendary Vince Gironda. Add beef to your back with this Golden Era exercise or if you’re looking to spice up your back training, you can add this movement as a finisher.
Last week our Golden Era Bodybuilding account tweeted out this classic picture of a largely forgotten exercise, the Gironda motorcycle row. Here we’ll show you how to perform this fantastic lat-building exercise.
The motorcycle row, as demonstrated by Vince Gironda
Over the past few months we’ve looked in-depth at various aspects of what might be called the ‘Vince Gironda system’.
We’ve discussed his unique ideas about diet: the steak-and-eggs, or ‘Maximum Definition’, diet, which involves eating only steak and eggs every day to torch fat in preparation for a competition (or if you just want to lose fat and preserve muscle); and the 36-eggs-a-day, or ‘Hormone Precursor’, diet, which Vince claimed is the closest a natural lifter can come to doing a cycle of steroids without doing a cycle of steroids.
We’ve also considered some of Vince’s favourite exercises, including the exercises Larry Scott used under his tutelage to build an Olympia-winning chest (and no, the bench press wasn’t one of them), and his patented method for busting through plateaus, the 10-8-6-15 workout.
A fount of unconventional ideas, Vince also cautioned lifters not to skip leg day if they wanted big arms. Huh? That’s right. Don’t skip leg day if you want big arms. As in so many other ways – like in his insistence on the anabolic properties of eggs – science has vindicated Vince. By performing leg exercises before you work your arms, you
Here’s another entry in that series, to be marked under ‘exercises’: the motorcycle row. The motorcycle row is designed to isolate the lats and help build that classic wide spread that defined the bodybuilders of the Golden Era.
We offer a classic Golden Era programme designed around the routine the great Reg Park used to build his incredibly powerful physique. The programme is built around a 5×5 set and rep scheme, but differs from other 5×5 programmes in that the emphasis is as much on balanced aesthetics as strength. The programme lasts for twelve months and is designed for beginners or intermediate lifters.
We also offer the Golden Era 5×5 as part of a bundle with a diet book based on Golden Era dieting principles. Build muscle and torch fat by combining the Golden Era 5×5 with a ketogenic diet.
The Motorcycle Row
The Motorcyle Row
Yes, I see what you did there. Very funny.
I’m sure you already know bent-over rows and maybe even Yates rows (bent rows with a supinated grip), but do you know motorcycle rows? Probably not. Which is a shame, because this is a supremely effective exercise for the back.
In fact, the motorcycle row is so effective that trainer Christian Thibaudeau, famous for his no-BS approach to training, had this to say about the exercise.
“This has become one my favorite “bodybuilding” back exercises. It’s simply unparalleled when it comes to the focused development of the latissimus dorsi, with a special emphasis on the lower portion of the lats.” [R]
The exercise is easy to do. Attach a straight bar to a seated rowing machine, low pulley or a cable station. Step back to bring the pulley tight, bend at the knees and lean forward so that your body is at a 45-degree angle to your hips. The effect really is like sitting on a motorbike.
Now contract the muscles of the back and pull the bar in to the midsection, hold for a moment and then release.
The main benefit of this exercise is that, due to the angle of the body, it targets the lats while almost entirely bypassing the rhomboid muscles. This allows you to focus the effort on the lats to a far greater degree that would be possible with a lat pulldown or even a pull-up.
One of the great benefits of this exercise is that you can vary it in a great many ways, and this is something you can experiment with yourself. You’ll notice that in the picture of Vince above, he has the bar attached to a low pulley system. Now compare this with the two videos below. In the first, Christian Thibaudeau’s student has the bar attached to a horizontal rowing machine, whereas Lee Hayward, in the second video, has the bar attached high.
Motorcycle Row Videos
Others add a sort of rolling motion after the pull, as demonstrated in the video below.
You can also change the type of handle – for instance to an EZ bar handle or a rope – and you can also, of course, as with any other kind of row, alter your grip width and type (overhand or underhand).
Christian Thibaudeau likes to perform the exercise one-handed, claiming that it increases activation of the high-threshold motor units at the same time as increasing the range of motion.
However you choose to do it, you’ll find it widens your back in a way that few other exercises do.
So what are you waiting for? Get on yer bike!
Don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for personalized coaching and a client questionnaire if you’d like DEDICATED tailor-made personal training on strength training, building muscle, losing fat, developing athleticism, and more — all to your liking, lifestyle, habits, and taste!
Alternatively, you can pick up a FREE eBook on fundamental strength principles offering an introductory workout program.