Lower back pain is a common affliction shared by sedentary and active individuals alike. Whether it's caused by poor posture or muscular imbalances, having a sore back can make even the most basic of movements a trying task. When it comes to strength training, most of the big “bang for buck” exercises all involve the lower back to some degree.
In the case of rows, the lumbar musculature is treated as an important synergist, assisting the body in maintaining stability. Whether you're doing them from the ground or a static position, having an aching lower back will only hamper your ability to perform the movement effectively.
Another danger with performing regular rows with a compromised lower back is the risk of exacerbating the condition. Injuries around the lumbar region, such as slipped discs, can be for life. However, that doesn't mean that you have to swear off rowing altogether. Using a wall as a counter-balance can allow you to perform rows using kettlebells without discomfort.
Location and equipment courtesy of TripleFit
Aside from taking the lower back out of the picture, the advantage of using kettlebells is that it turns what is usually treated as a bilateral exercise into a unilateral one. This is particularly useful if you've discovered that you're not pulling as well on one side of the body; having a separate kettlebell in each hand will allow you to address this bilateral deficit before it develops into an imbalance.
One important thing to note about performing the wall-supported kettlebell row is the placement off the hips. In order to make proper use of the wall, your hips need to be driven into it as opposed to just lightly touching or resting on it. Moving your feet out slightly in front of you can help with this “pushing”.
Along with the wall-supported kettlebell row, other back exercises like chest-supported dumbbell rows and cable rowing are excellent horizontal pulling exercises that are decidedly lower-back friendly. Combining them with vertical pulling movements such as pull/chin-ups and lat pulldowns means that back day never has to end up on the back-burner, even if you're aching!