They say, “you gotta row to grow.” And what they’re (virtually all the time) referring to is the large, fundamental, bent-over barbell row. The barbell row is among the most difficult workout routines you may you implement into your again exercises.

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The barbell row is commonly thought-about some of the basic workout routines, proper up there with the Big Three powerlifts — squat, bench press, and deadlift — as a result of it’s a complete motion for constructing a base of dimension and energy. It helps you construct a thicker, wider, stronger again whereas additionally creating an even bigger, stronger set of arms. Here’s the right way to get probably the most from this back-training staple.

How to Do the Barbell Row

The bent-over barbell row generally is a quite simple train to arrange and carry out. All you want is a barbell, some weight plates, and a ground. Accessories like lifting straps to help your grip energy or a lifting belt to supply further decrease again help aren’t all the time required.

Master the train itself, after which think about including gear relying in your particular wants and necessities.

Step 1 — Get Into the Starting Position

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Walk as much as a loaded barbell and place your ft shoulder-width aside or barely inside hip-width. The bar must be usually over the center of your ft. If you’re fairly tall, it’s possible you’ll be extra snug with the bar positioned in opposition to your shins.

Push your hips again and bend on the waist. Keep your again straight and your knees barely bent. Hold the barbell with an overhand (palms down) grip simply outdoors of your shins. Pull your shoulders again and really feel stress in your lats (again muscle tissues) as you put together to take management over the burden. Keep your head in a impartial place — not wanting on the ceiling or tucking your chin down.

Straighten your legs and arise straight, very like you’d in a deadlift. From the locked out place, bend your legs barely and hinge at your hips till your higher physique is barely above parallel to the bottom. Allow the barbell to hold close to your legs along with your arms prolonged.

Form Tip: Keep your eyes fastened on a spot roughly one to 2 meters (three to 6 ft) in entrance of you. This will show you how to preserve a secure physique place, encourage constant bar place between every rep, and cut back the chance of damage as a result of technical failure.

Step 2 — Pull the Weight Up 

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With the bar in a dead-hang place, drive your elbows up in direction of your hips. The barbell ought to attain your stomach button. Once you get into the highest place, focus in your shoulder blades squeezing collectively and feeling a tough contraction in your again musculature.

Your higher physique ought to stay largely horizontal all through the rep. Avoid utilizing your legs to “jumpstart” the burden and don’t enable your torso to drop down to satisfy the barbell.

Form Tip: It is vital to acknowledge if you start sacrificing approach for heavier weight. Key indicators that you simply’ve gone too heavy embrace: your elbows flaring out to the edges, the bar now not reaching your stomach button, or feeling further stress by your decrease again which prevents you from holding a robust, secure torso place.

Step 3 — Lower the Weight to Stretch

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Once you may have accomplished the concentric (lifting) portion of the motion, stay in a robust and secure place whereas decreasing the barbell underneath management. Don’t enable the bar to free fall into the underside place.

Straighten your arms and permit your shoulder blades to launch from the retracted place. Feel your again musculature lengthening till your arms are totally prolonged.

Form Tip: Some lifters will decrease the barbell too rapidly and never take note of the bar path or muscular management. Focus on decreasing the barbell in the very same bar path as you probably did when lifting it. This will be certain every rep is identical and let you preserve stress on the again muscle tissues whereas lowering the chance of damage.

Barbell Row Mistakes to Avoid

The barbell row could appear easy on paper, however you may nonetheless very simply make errors which will hinder your progress and coaching. Below are two of the commonest errors to keep away from.

Lifting with Your Arms

Many newbie lifters rapidly type the behavior of pulling the barbell up utilizing their arms greater than their again muscle tissues. Sure, you may’t carry out a row with out utilizing your arms in any respect, however correct muscle contractions ought to emphasize the bigger again muscle tissues extra considerably than the comparatively smaller muscle tissues of the arms.

muscular person in gym rowing barbellCredit: Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

If you proceed activating your arms first, as the burden will increase, your arms will take over the motion and your again might be under-recruited just because you’ll not have frolicked specializing in feeling the again muscle tissues contracting.

Avoid It: It is vital to deal with feeling your again muscle tissues stretch and contract. This can increase the mind-muscle connection, which has been proven to enhance outcomes. (1) If you actively drive your elbows into your hips, as a substitute of focusing in your arms pulling the burden up, you may emphasize the lats.

Standing Too Upright 

The barbell row requires you to be set in a bent-over place, or what’s known as a “hinged position.” While your physique doesn’t have to type a strict 90-degree angle, it’s crucial that you simply preserve some kind of secure and predominantly horizontal angle to carry out the barbell row successfully.

On high of this, some trainees will use a weight that far exceeds their good-form lifting capabilities. This can result in remaining too upright with the intention to counterbalance the burden, and the motion turns into extra of a shrug than a row. These two components typically work hand in hand, since extreme weight and a scarcity of hinge stability will result in being too upright.

Avoid It: If you may have bother sustaining a hinged place, carry out the train close to a wall and get right into a hinged place along with your glutes firmly in opposition to the wall. This will let you higher leverage your self as you enhance the coordination and energy required to stay hinged whereas contracting your again musculature. 

Benefits of the Barbell Row

The bent-over barbell row is taken into account a foundational train as a result of it delivers a number of advantages for a number of muscle tissues within the higher and decrease physique.

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Below are some key causes to incorporate the barbell row into your exercise routine, whether or not you’re a newbie or an skilled lifter.

Improved Spinal Stability and Posture 

A standard weak point for lifters within the skill to take care of a impartial backbone (flat again) throughout many actions. The barbell row helps to enhance postural management in fundamental positions, which might carry over to energy and stability in different actions. It additionally strengthens postural muscle tissues just like the spinal erectors, that are a key muscle group for decrease again well being and stability.

Building a Stronger Back 

As your again will get stronger, your skill to brace your higher physique will enhance. This permits better general stability throughout actions just like the overhead press, bench press, and squat.

The barbell row is among the best methods to construct upper-body energy as a result of it coordinates energy by the lats, higher again, decrease again, shoulders, arms, and grip. Compared to different variations of rowing workout routines, the barbell row permits you to doubtlessly use extra weight, which additionally makes it a simpler strength-builder.

Increased Back Size

Building a wider, thicker again is among the best methods to enhance your physique. The lats are one of many largest muscle tissues on the physique and a well-developed higher again can’t typically be hidden underneath garments, not like well-developed arms or legs. Making the barbell row a mainstay in your again exercise is a time-tested method to pack on dimension.

Muscles Worked by the Barbell Row

The barbell row is a compound train, which suggests it entails a number of muscle tissues shifting throughout a number of joints to carry out the motion.

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The main muscle tissues recruited are all through the again, whereas secondary muscle tissues, such because the biceps and forearms, are additionally referred to as upon.

Latissimus Dorsi

The lats type nearly all of your again musculature and are the first muscle you may be stimulating throughout the bent-over row. Your lats work to deliver your higher arm from in entrance of your physique, or above it, to alongside your aspect. This perform is why the cue of “pulling your elbows toward your body” helps to recruit the lats.

Spinal Erectors

The spinal erectors run the size of your spinal column, together with the part mostly referred to as “the lower back.” During the bent-over barbell row, your spinal erectors are recruited to stabilize your backbone and forestall rounding when you preserve the hinged place.

Because your spinal erectors are required to carry a secure place at some stage in every set, lifters with pre-existing decrease again points typically have bother performing barbell rows and usually select an alternate train.

Scapular Stabilizers 

The scapular stabilizers discovered throughout the higher again embrace a number of muscle tissues working in associated roles. Your trapezius, rhomboids, rear deltoids, and teres management actions reminiscent of bringing your shoulder blades collectively and aside, in addition to shifting them up and down.

This happens whereas rowing the bar up and squeezing your shoulder blades collectively (retraction) and when decreasing the barbell again to the beginning place, releasing (protracting) your shoulder blades.

Glutes and Hamstrings

In a hinged place, your glutes and hamstrings help your physique isometrically, very like your spinal erectors work to take care of a secure higher physique posture. Many lifters really feel a big stretch of their hamstrings or glutes throughout a set of barbell rows as a result of the muscle tissues are being labored in a stretched place with no full contraction.


The biceps are recruited any time the arm flexes (bends). During the barbell row, your biceps play an help position to raise the burden. Your biceps could be extra considerably recruited through the use of an underhand (palms-up) grip, which locations them in a extra advantageous place to be activated.


The wrist extensors alongside the highest of the forearm and the wrist flexors on the underside are each extremely activated throughout barbell rows to help a robust grip on the bar. Your flexors, specifically, are recruited to stabilize the burden as it’s lifted.

For many skilled lifters lifting heavier weights, the gripping energy of the forearm muscle tissues generally is a limiting issue throughout rows, which is why lifting straps could also be used to supply further help.

Who Should Do the Barbell Row

Whether you’re coaching for energy, energy, or aesthetics, the barbell row can profit your coaching objectives. Here are extra convincing causes to incorporate the barbell row in your again exercise.

Physique-Focused Lifters 

Bodybuilders, physique athletes, and any lifter eager to look extra muscular can profit from the barbell row. It applies muscular stress to all muscle tissues of the again and has the potential for shifting heavy hundreds, which could be an efficient method of triggering muscle progress. The barbell row has been an important again train for a few of the best-built physiques.

Strength Athletes 

Strength athletes can profit from utilizing the barbell row to construct pulling energy in addition to total-body stability. The barbell row builds energy that helps higher physique urgent and pulling. The decrease again and postural stability may assist to enhance energy throughout squats and deadlifts.

How to Program the Barbell Row

The barbell row is a foundational motion which might accommodate quite a lot of rep ranges, appropriate to all lifters, objectives, and packages. Below are two frequent and efficient suggestions primarily based in your particular coaching aim.

Heavy Weight, Low to Moderate Repetitions

If maximizing energy is your aim, three to 5 units within the 4 to eight rep vary is an efficient place to start out. Use a weight that permits you to depart a minimum of two reps left “in the tank” to make sure optimum approach. Rowing extraordinarily heavy weights to muscular failure can add stress to the spinal erectors and enhance the chance of damage.

Moderate Weight, Moderate Repetitions 

If maximizing muscle progress is your aim, three to 4 units within the six to 12 rep vary is the best rep unfold you ought to be concentrating on. This will give you a bump in coaching quantity, which is helpful for constructing muscle. (2) The elevated quantity with comparatively lighter weight additionally permits you to develop higher muscle coordination, and might ultimately result in higher recruitment of the again musculature.

Barbell Row Variations

The bent-over barbell row is a flexible and basic train, however not all lifters are ready for the problem. Below you’ll find associated variations that ship comparable outcomes with barely diverse muscle recruitment or approach.

Yates Row

The Yates row was popularized by one of many best bodybuilders of all time, six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates. The concept behind this train variation was to have a barely extra upright posture whereas additionally flipping your grip to a supinated place (underhand). These changes higher recruit the higher again, traps, and biceps.

The key to this train is the bar path and torso stability wanted to maximally recruit the muscle tissues being focused. You wish to deal with the barbell being as near your thighs as doable as you pull up by your elbows.

T-Bar Row

For this train, you’ll both want a devoted T-bar row machine or you may take a close-grip deal with from the cable station and use it with a barbell set inside a landmine attachment.

The T-bar row is much less demanding on the decrease again, which makes it an amazing train to emphasise the remainder of the again muscle tissues. It’s ultimate on the tail-end of your exercises to totally exhaust all remaining muscle fibers that have been recruited throughout your exercise.

Single-Arm Dumbbell Row 

One of the commonest variations of the barbell row is its dumbbell counterpart. The single-arm dumbbell row permits you to work one aspect of the physique at time and offers stability, which reduces decrease again stress. The elevated stability additionally permits you to deal with reaching an extended vary of movement to extra completely work the goal muscle tissues.

This is an efficient motion to strengthen muscular imbalances by concentrating on one aspect of the again at a time.

Barbell Row Alternatives

Feeling like you may have totally exhausted your skill to proceed progressing the barbell row or simply want a change of tempo? Here are a few of the simplest alternate options to proceed constructing again dimension and energy.

Inverted Row 

The inverted row is a perfect body weight train various for the barbell row since you may practice the identical muscle teams in the identical motion sample. It additionally solely requires your physique weight to supply a stimulus for muscle progress and strength-building.

This could be helpful as a main train if you’re first beginning out on studying to coordinate your muscle recruitment within the barbell row or, for extra skilled lifters, on the finish of your exercises as a finisher after finishing your heavier weight coaching earlier within the exercise. 

Seal Row

The seal row, typically referred to as a bench pull, is a chest-supported row variation that fully removes the necessity to hinge. Because you’re mendacity inclined on an elevated bench, you may extra successfully isolate the bigger again muscle tissues with out recruiting your decrease again or decrease physique.

This various offers much less stress and stress on the decrease again and hamstrings, however it additionally means the quantity of weight lifted could also be  lower than what you could possibly use with a standard barbell row. 

Pendlay Row 

The Pendlay row is commonly confused with the essential barbell row for good motive. The approach, muscle recruitment, and basic motion sample is almost similar. The key distinction is that every repetition of the Pendlay row begins from full dead-stop on the ground.

This pause between reps assists in sustaining correct positioning, minimizes any momentum, and helps to develop explosive energy. This generally is a nice various when you discover it troublesome to stay set in a correct hinged-position, as a result of you may reset your place between every rep.

Meadows Row

The Meadows row was popularized by legendary bodybuilding coach John Meadows. In this train, you’ll be able to enhance your vary of movement by adjusting your hip and torso place.

The distinctive physique positioning and leverage from the landmine will work the again musculature from a barely completely different angle, cut back stress on the decrease again, and reduce momentum.


I really feel my higher again working greater than another muscle, what am I doing flawed?

There are two prospects. The first is that you could be be utilizing an excessive amount of weight, inflicting you to face extra upright and shift muscular stress away out of your lats and onto your higher again and traps. The second potential situation is that you’re not correctly set in a robust and secure hinged place.

Reduce the burden and deal with feeling your lats contract throughout the train. Also spend a while specializing in moving into a great hinge place — push your hips again and preserve a extra horizontal higher physique place at some stage in the set. Slowly enhance weight over time as soon as you’re sturdy sufficient to take care of a secure torso in a hinged place.

Can newbies carry out the barbell row?

Absolutely. Beginners can profit significantly by together with the barbell row of their programming. However, you will need to notice that if you’re a newbie, keep in mind to prioritize approach over added weight and don’t hesitate to hunt help along with your approach from a certified employees member in your native fitness center. 

Row Until You Can’t Row No More

Many of the all-time nice bodybuilders, powerlifters, and energy athletes have constructed admirable backs by prioritizing the barbell row. It trains each muscle in your again, and builds energy and stability which carries over to different huge lifts. It may also be a satisfying train to grasp when you’re capable of stroll as much as an imposing barbell and pull it off the bottom.


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  2. Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Krieger, J., Grgic, J., Delcastillo, Okay., Belliard, R., & Alto, A. (2019). Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy however Not Strength in Trained Men. Medicine and science in sports activities and train, 51(1), 94–103.

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