Forgotten Bodybuilding Exercises: The Gironda Motorcycle Row


How do I train my back? A common concern for weightlifters, bodybuilders and the average Joe or Jane seeking to get the most from their training.

We all know the basics: chin ups, rowing movements, pulldowns and of course the deadlift. But what else can be done to throw some variation into our training systems. Well, as we so often do on this website, we decided to return to Vince Gironda’s bag of tricks for inspiration.

Aside from pulldown movements utilising a range of hand positions and his own unique style of chins ups, Gironda was greatly fond of the 45 degree row or the motorcycle row as it has been termed in later years. Seen by the Iron Man as one of the quintessential back builders, the Motorcycle row is undoubtedly a neat addition to your regular workout.

How to Row Gironda Style

Thankfully this exercise can be performed easily without the need for any sort of mechanical nuance. Begin by hooking up a straight bar to a seated row machine or failing that, a cable station. Grab the bar and take a few steps back so that the cable is tight and you can get a full stretch in the arms.

Bend over slightly and lean forward so that you’re at a 45 degree angle between the hips and upper body. It’ll look like you’re riding an imaginary motorcycle (hence the name!). Stretch out the arms, thereby allowing the arms to go forward. Now contract the bar muscles and pull the bar into your midsection. That’s one rep.

For the visual learners amongst us, you can’t go wrong with Lee Hayward’s tutorial given below

What’s so great about the Motorcycle Row?

Two things really, in the first instance the rhomboids are almost completely excluded during this exercise owing to the angle created by your upper body. This forces a much greater effort on to the lats than is usually the case when using for example, the Lat Pulldown Machine.

Secondly this exercise lends itself to quite a bit of variation. T-Nation writer Christian Thibaudeau has long preached about the benefits of this exercise alongside it’s one armed variant. Similarly others have added a ‘dipping’ motion to the exercise to further increase the stretch on the Lats. See the video below for an example of this

A final yet simple variation can be made utilising different attachments. Once you get comfortable using a straight bar, other options such as ropes, rowing handles and EZ bars can all add to the workload of the Lats.

A personal favourite of mine is to use the rope extension attachment so that I can extend the handles once they hit the midsection, thereby increasing the stretch. I do this at the end of the workout and the pump in the back is something else.

So why not try the Motorcycle Row and thus pay homage to the Iron Guru’s legacy.

As always, happy lifting!