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Get a great workout with kettlebells.
Rowing exercises, where a weight is pulled in to your abdomen or chest, work your back muscles. The angle of the pull and the position of your body dictates exactly what part of your back you emphasize. Rows can be performed using both arms together or one arm at a time for variety. Single arm rows can be performed using a kettlebell or dumbbell as preferred.
Hitting the Target
Single arm kettlebell rows target your back, but that term covers a lot of area. The main muscles in this exercise -- properly called the agonists -- are your latissimus dorsi, located on the side of your upper back beneath your armpits. In addition, your middle trapezius and rhomboids, which are between your shoulder blades, are also strongly involved and can also be considered agonists.
Getting Some Help
While the single arm kettlebell row is classified as a back exercise, other muscles are also involved in the action of pulling the weight up and in to your body. These helper muscles are properly called synergists. The main synergists in this exercise are your biceps and your posterior deltoids, or rear shoulder muscles. Although they are not the target muscle, both the biceps and posterior deltoids get a good workout from this exercise -- albeit indirectly.
While you are busy pulling your kettlebell up and into your body, muscles known as fixators or stabilizers are working hard to keep your body properly aligned. As you are bent over, the main stabilizer is your erector spinae or lower back muscles, but because you are also resting on your non-working arm for support, your triceps and shoulders on that arm will also get in on the act.
By pulling the weight up toward your shoulder and flaring your elbow out to shoulder-height, you place extra emphasis on the muscles of your upper back, namely your middle trapezius and rhomboids. Keeping your elbow low and into your side and pulling the weight toward your abdomen places an emphasis on your latissimus dorsi. Adjust your exercise performance to target the muscles of your choice. To increase lower back involvement when doing this exercise, do not use your free hand for support but simply lean over from your hips and do the exercise unsupported.