Barbell bent-over rows have been a staple movement in weight lifting programs for a long time. Used by many strength and conditioning specialists, powerlifters, personal trainers, and general lifters, the barbell bent-over row is a great exercise for lifters looking to gain strength in their lats, upper and lower back, and biceps.
In this guide, I will be going over how to perform a proper barbell bent-over row, coaching points, common mistakes, alternatives, and more.
Table of Contents
How To Do Barbell Bent-Over Rows
- Bumper or Iron Plates
- Approach the barbell and take a shoulder-width stance. Your shins should be almost touching the barbell.
- Hinge at the waist and bend the knee until you can grab the barbell. Use a pronated grip (Knuckles facing the floor). I will talk later about the supinated grip (palms up) in this movement.
- Always keep a flat back, and a neutral spine, and keep your eyes focused slightly down about 1 foot in front of you.
- Take a deep breath, brace the abdomen, and pull the bar in until it makes contact at right about the belly button.
- Pause for about 1 second. Squeeze the shoulder blades and lock in the rep.
- Slowly return the barbell back to the starting position (weights about 1-2 inches off the ground).
The initial setup and stance for this movement should be specific to the lifters deadlifting and Olympic lifting goals. Having identical setups and grips will be great for the lifts to carry over to the compound movements.
I would highly recommend this movement to any lifter or athlete. It develops strength in the posterior chain and can be overloaded over time easily.
I typically recommend the pronated grip here for athletes. Especially athletes that are cleaning and snatching as the pronated grip will carry over to cleans and pulls.
However, there is some benefit to the supinated grip for general lifters and bodybuilders. The supinated grip will engage more of the biceps and can be a great time under tension movement for hypertrophy.
The setup here is very similar to the Deadlift. With that in mind, always remember to keep a nice neutral spine. DO NOT ROUND YOUR BACK.
Another common mistake is I have seen lifters go too heavy and therefore need to “hitch or yank” into a lock in position. Never sacrifice your form for more weight. You will get hurt eventually.
- Upper and lower back
- Abdominal muscles (Stabilizing the horizontal lifting position)
Barbell Bent-Over Row Alternatives
The barbell bent-over row is fantastic for any lifter but is a more advanced movement for novice lifters. If you want to work your way up to this movement, try these out first.
Chest Supported Dumbbell Row
Lie down on a bench (the angle at 30-45 degrees) with your dumbbells and perform your rows. This essentially takes all the setup out of the equation and you can just focus on rowing. This is also a great movement for anyone with a lower-body injury who still want to get rows in from a free-moving implement instead of machines.
This is also a great movement for athletes who are in season and need to save their lower backs and stay injury-free. The drawback of this movement is obviously it is not going to be specific to out-of-season athletes who play on their feet or Olympic lifters who need a strong setup.
DB One Arm Row
For DB One Arm Rows, grab a dumbbell and a bench. Stabilize one hand on the bench, hinge at the waist, slightly bend the knee and row the dumbbell.
This is a great movement for progression into barbell rowing. This movement can easily progress with weight, tempos, or both.
2 Arm Dumbbell Bent Over Row
Perform the bent-over row with 2 dumbbells. This is what I would consider to be the final progression before having a lifter use the barbell for rows. A nice benefit of this movement is that by using dumbbells, both arms have to work independently to execute the lift. Dumbbells are very versatile in this way for pressing and rowing.
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