Smoke Your Back and Fry Your Forearms With This Challenge

There are more tools at your disposal in the gym than what you’ll find sitting on a weight rack. To really challenge yourself and switch up the way you get a grip on back day, pick up a towel.

This routine from Men’s Health Fitness Director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., uses a towel to challenge your forearms while you recruit your back muscles to row. “The towel is the key for your forearms,” says Samuel. “It’s going to make you squeeze and really challenge your grip.”

You can use the challenge to start or finish a back day or, if you’re in a hurry, you can pair it with a few accessory moves to serve as the centerpiece of your workout.

To perform the landmine row towel challenge, you’ll need a landmine anchor and a barbell. If your gym doesn’t have one, check out this option, or just prop one end of the bar in a corner (if you do this, make sure to cover the barbell with another towel so you don’t damage the wall).

Eric Rosati/Men’s Health

  • Set up a barbell landmine and load a weight that you can row for multiple reps.
  • Stand straddling the bar in an athletic stance, then wrap the towel around the bar and hold it with an overhand grip tightly in both hands.
  • Squeeze your back muscles to row the weight up to your chest explosively.
  • Immediately after lowering the bar, perform another row and hold for one second.
  • Perform one more explosive rep, then hold for two seconds.
  • Repeat the cycle, adding time until you reach 4 to 5 seconds per hold.

    Your forearms will probably be fried from the grip challenge presented by the towel—but your back will also get a ton of work because of the long holds.

    “The iso holds in between each regular row rep present a chance for you to perfect your row form and learn to squeeze your mid-back more effectively,” says Samuel. “Actively pull your elbows as high as you can, and check in with the rest of your body during each hold. Are you maintaining the natural arch in your back? Is your weight in your heels? Are you pulling hard for the full 3 or 4 or 5 seconds?”

    To add the challenge to your workout, aim to perform 3 to 4 sets. For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full set of Eb and Swole workouts. If you want to try an even more dedicated routine, consider Eb’s New Rules of Muscle program.

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