Woman performing / demenstarting a bent over barbell row

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What Is a Bent Over Row

The bent over row is a compound exercise (requires more than one joint to perform the lift) that focuses on the back muscles and will also help to shape your shoulders too. Being a compound exercise, it is well suited for progressive overload. The primary muscles used for the bent over barbell row is the middle back. Strengthening these muscles is shown to improve your posture and spine stability, lowering your chances of lower back injuries. Before loading a heavyweight ensure you have practiced and learned the proper form for this exercise. As you increase the weight watch for lower back rounding while pulling, since it can increase stress to the lumbar discs. If you suffer from back issues, you should not do this exercise an excellent alternative training activity for those with back problems is a Low Pulley Row.

Arnold performing the overhand bent over row

Bent Over Barbell Row Benefits

The bent-over barbell row is a great exercise for developing strength, thickness, and detail to your back. Most of our daily activities have are shoulders hunched like driving, working at a desk, watching t.v. Ect... By building the back with rows, you will help your body to pull your shoulders back naturally. Bent over barbell rows work the opposite muscles to the bench press; you should do a 2:1 training ratio to ensure you do not create muscle imbalances. This means for every bench press set you should be performing two sets of rows. The front of your shoulders strengthens and pulls the shoulders forward faster because people can lift heavier on bench press because of the support it gives you by being on a bench. When rowing you have to stiffen your core and support the weight with only your body limiting the weight you will be able to row with correct form.

Bent Over Barbell Row Muscles Used

Arnold performing the overhand bent over row
Arnold performing the overhand bent over row

Back Muscles Used

The bent over barbell row works a substantial amount of muscles within our back. The primary muscles targeted in the back are the trapezius and the rhomboids.

Shoulder and Trunk Muscles Used

The deltoids(responsible for the rounded look of your shoulders) and latissimus dorsi are the primary muscles in the shoulder used. Shoulder secondary muscles used are the infraspinatus in the rotator cuff, the teres major(supports the latissimus dorsi), and our pectoralis major(pecs). Your pectoralis major is the stabilizing muscle During the lowering of the barbell.

Arm Muscles Used

The arm muscles that bent over barbell rows work are primarily the biceps. The biceps control the flexion in our elbows while we are pulling the barbell to our body the biceps contract. When lowering the weight, the triceps act as stabilizing muscles.

Bent Over Barbell Row Technique How to Perform The Bent-over Barbell Row

If you have a history of back problems, talk to your doctor or find an alternative exercise.

  • man showing how to perform the overhand barbell bent over row
  • Your feet should be approximately shoulder-width apart, with your feet pointed out 30 degrees and kept in line with the knees.
  • The barbell should be over your mid-foot (same position as deadlift) to ensure you have maximal stability while lifting.
  • Hold the barbell with the palms of your hand facing down.
  • Bend the knees slightly while bending at your waist and bringing the torso forward.
  • While you lean focus on keeping your back as straight as possible, a traditional row has your back parallel to the floor where a Yates row is at 45 degrees.
  • Your head should be neutral and in line with your spine.
  • Have the barbell hang directly in front of the body with your arms perpendicular to the floor.
  • You are now in the starting position for the bent over barbell row.
  • Keep your torso fixed, breath out as you lift the barbell toward your body. There are two areas you can pull the weight to your body. The waist (higher focus on the lats) or chest (focuses mainly on the traps and posterior deltoids).
  • The elbows should be between 45 and 75 degrees the exact position will depending on your bodies build.
  • Pull the bar towards your body the elbows should end behind your torso. Make sure to use your elbows to pull the weight and not your biceps you need to focus on recruiting your back.
  • As pulling up concentrate on bringing your shoulder blades together and pushing the chest out.
  • At the top squeeze your back as hard as you can and hold for a brief pause then lower the weight in a controlled movement do not just drop the weight into the starting position.
  • The goal you are working toward will determine the recommended amount of repetitions you should do.

Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

How to Perform The Bent-over Barbell Row Video

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