The bent-over row is a classic move that builds upper back thickness and lower back strength and endurance, while also improving shoulder stability by counterbalancing what the bench press does to your shoulders. It primarily targets the lats and rhombs, but works the biceps, traps, delts and core muscles to some extent as well. And properly performed bent-over rows have strong direct transference to the bench press, squat and deadlift.
Unfortunately, the bent-over row is also an exercise many lifters get wrong due to its seemingly confusing technical aspect, which increases their risk of devastating back injuries, including spinal disc herniation. This article will help you get on the right track and get the most out of this great old-school back-builder.
#1. One Arm Dumbbell Row
Although the barbell variation offers superior muscle building benefits, the dumbbell variation has some nice perks as well. Among other things, it allows you to isolate one side of the lats at a time and correct any strength imbalances in this muscle area, which will undoubtedly lead to an improved performance at all your major lifts.
Here’s how to perform one-arm dumbbells bent-over rows:
- Take a pair of dumbbells and find a flat bench.
- Place the left leg, bent at the knee, on top of the bench, and place your left hand at the front of the bench. The right leg should be planted firmly on the ground.
- Raise your chest to ensure your back is parallel to the floor.
- Grab a dumbbell with your right hand, palm facing towards your body.
- Check if your lower back is straight and correct it if needed. Keep it neutral all throughout the movement.
- As you exhale, pull through the elbow until the dumbbell reaches the side of your chest, right underneath your right armpit.
- At the top of the contraction pause for a second and give your lats a hard squeeze.
- As you inhale, slowly lower the weight to the starting position, focusing on the stretch.
- Keep your form strict and tight at all times.
- Perform 4 sets of 12-15 reps with each arm.
#2. Bent Over Barbell Row
The bent over barbell rows should be a staple in your back routine. Using a barbell enables you to handle more weight and target the middle area of your back more efficiently, as long as you perform it with perfect form. Avoid slouching your back at all costs as this can lead to back injury. With this variation you can use a pronated (palms facing down) or supinated (palms facing up) grip – the first one will provide a wider angle and place a stronger emphasis on your lats and rhombs, while the second will provide a greater bicep engagement and allow you to handle more weight. Make sure to include both grips in your routine for optimal results.
Here’s how to perform bent over barbell rows:
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- While holding a barbell with a pronated or supinated grip, slightly bend your knees and bring your torso forward by bending at the waist but keep the back straight until it’s almost parallel to the floor.
- As you exhale, pull through the elbows until the bar reaches your midsection. The torso should remain stationary.
- At the top of the contraction, pause for a second and squeeze your lats and rhombs.
- As you inhale, slowly bring the weight down, focusing on the stretch.
- Perform 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
These two rowing variations will help you work your lats, rhombs, rear delts, traps and even biceps in the most effective way. Adding them to your regular back routine is a surefire way to get the most of your back training!