Renegade Rows – How to Get Ridiculously Hard Abs, Part I

The renegade row, developed and named by coach John Davies, is one of the hardest and most effective abdominal exercises. The reason for this is that renegade rows force you to use the primary function of the stomach muscles – stabilization. In other words the exercise teaches you how to keep your body as rigid as possible. You have no other choice but to contract your abs as hard as possible. Otherwise you won’t be able to maintain a rigid body.

Above is a video of the renegade row. Watch and note the three main keys to the proper execution of the movement.


  • The hollow position is key. You need to stay as rigid as possible. Tuck in your butt and squeeze the abs hard.
  • Transfer weight between the arms This the key to the exercise. If you don’t transfer your weight to one of the arms, you cannot lift the other one AND still maintain a rigid body parallel to the ground.
  • Squeeze your but hard Tightening all your muscles is important, but squeezing the butt is especially helpful.
  • Tighten the supporting side leg You want to establish a firm support from which to row.
  • Don’t twist the hips Most of the videos you will see on the web show people performing the exercise incorrectly. Twisting the body or hips makes the exercise easy and ineffective. Avoid this mistake and keep the body parallel to the ground!
  • Row the weight using your back. When doing a rowing motion, always rely primarily on your back muscles (try contracting your armpit muscles) and NOT your biceps. Try leading with your elbow as if your arm was just a hook to which the weight is attached.




  • Low reps are the only option This is not a bodybuilding exercise. It is not meant to fatigue the muscle. On the contrary – it is meant to teach you how to contract your whole body as hard as possible. So perform low reps with 100% focus.
  • 3 sets of 5 are enough Beginners will do fine with just 3 sets. They will progress easily this way while also learning to contract the body and execute the exercise properly.
  • 5×5 also works for advanced athletes Once you get good, you can add a few more sets for more stress on your body.

Action plan

Here is how you can introduce renegade rows in your workout. You have a few choices.

  • Once per week for multiple sets of 2-5 reps. This option is for those who are short on time, but still want to get massive results from the exercise.
  • 3-7 times per week for 2-3 sets of 2-5 reps. This is the best way to get GOOD at doing a certain skill.
  • Once per week for 2-3 sets of 2-5 reps. This option allows you to add other core conditioning drills such as the L-Sit.

Note, go read Part II of the renegade rows series to discover how people mess up with renegade rows. And for more information on strengthening the abs, I recommend reading Pavel Tsatsouline’s excellent book Bulletproof Abs.