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Are barbell rows safe? [Article, Free download]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Apr 11, 2019 9:30:00 AM

Are barbell rows safe

Are barbell rows safe


Barbell rows are safer than most team sports. Ease in gradually and keep your movements controlled. Leave the inner gorilla at home and you are fine. 

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What is your why 


Before we go into the details of whether barbell rows are safe, let me ask you a couple of questions: 


  • Why do you want to barbell row? 
  • Why do you want to get stronger? 
  • Why do you want to build muscle? 
  • What happens when you do? 
  • What happens if you don’t? 


While these five questions seem pretty basic they are essential for your long term success. Let me get to the point straight, if you do not know why you are doing something you won’t do it. People fail because they stop trying, not because they failed once. Most people go through their lives like this: 


  • What do I want 
  • How do I get it 
  • Why do I want it 


With this approach, you will get stuck in a vicious circle. You will follow what you want on a daily basis. This changes hundreds of times a day. Depending on whom you meet, what you see and what season it is it already changes considerably. This is only based on three variables. There are a lot more out there. Based on your changing needs you will never feel fulfilled or happy. If you want to change these habits flip your thinking to:


  • Why do you want something 
  • How do you get it 
  • What do you need to do to get it 


With this, your innermost feelings and desires take Centre stage. All your actions and thoughts will be connected to your passion. This will create a new you that stops sabotaging your goals. On top of that others will also be more likely to help you as they know you do great things which make perfect sense. If you want to know how this works on a psychological level read Daniel Kahneman's thinking fast and slow. Simon Sinek has a great TED talk on this topic. He will convince you, telling the story of the Wright brothers. 


The barbell row 


The barbell row is a movement that helps to develop your back. It starts from the ground are somewhere below the hips. Based on which variation you do either set up with the bar on the ground or bring it to the hips. If you start from the hips lower the bar to your desired starting point, then row from there. Interesting variations of the barbell row are the pendulum and Yates row. 


Try to keep a straight back while rowing. This is where most of the unsafety comes from. You want to avoid to have a heavy weight hanging uncontrollably from your arms while your spine is in a fluid motion. That might spell trouble. 


This also brings us to a second point. Use less weight for the row. Many people overestimate what they can row based on what they can bench press. Usually, you undertrain the pulling motions in favor of the pushing motions. 


The wide grip for the barbell row


The closer the grip on the barbell the safer it gets. You just have to stay outside your legs. The reason is that you can activate more muscle groups with an about shoulder wide grip on the row. If you want to shift the focus of the movement to your lats, grip wider. 


The wide grip can be beneficial to training your lats and grip. The snatch grip deadlift is very popular to do just these things. 


Body English 


The less body English you use the safer the barbell row becomes. Body English is a term for how much you move the rest of the body during a lift. Going at it like a savage trying to break the barbell is a lot of body English. Staying controlled and focused would be not a lot of body English. The more you go savage, the higher the injury risk. 


Are barbell rows safe 


Barbell rows are safe when you gradually improve and pay attention to form. The more weight you use uncontrollably, the riskier it becomes. Playing any kind of team sport is less safe because there are other people involved who might injure you. 

Further reading

Topics: Lift stronger, Fitness, Strength