Deadlift or barbell row
If you have time to pay attention to each muscle group separately do the row combined with other exercises. If you have little time the deadlift is your friend.
What is your why
Before we go until the details of whether you should deadlift or barbell row let me ask you a couple of questions:
- Why do you want to row or deadlift?
- 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?
These questions are important so that you will reach your goals in the long run. Answering them will give your fitness routine more meaning. Life will get in the way of your training and you will need good reasons to stay committed. Most people go through life structuring their days like this:
- What do I want
- How do I get it
- Why do I want it
With this mindset, you are sure to get into more trouble than necessary. What you want changes hundreds of times a day based on what you see, whom you talk to and what happens around you. If heat you want is the guiding principle of everything you are, you feel find it hard to be contempt and happy. If you flip this on its head, however, this happens:
- Why do you want something
- How do you get it
- What do you need to do to get it
This way all of your actions and thoughts will be connected to one purpose. It will make it more likely that you will reach your goals and move forward on them. 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 talk on the golden circle which explains how this way of thinking works. He makes a very compelling case telling the story of the Wright brothers.
The deadlift is one of the most complete compound lifts with a barbell. Other lifts of this category are:
- The squat
- The clean and jerk
- The Snatch
To name a few. The advantage of compound lifts is that you active most or all muscle groups during the lift. So you train your body harder in less amount of time. The disadvantage of compound lifts is usually that they are harder to master and hear a higher injury risk.
The deadlift is probably one of the easiest compound lifts to learn. Pick up the bar from the ground and bring it to your hips. That is it. This is enough for now, even though it is more intricate than this if you want to perfect it.
The deadlift is a feat of pure strength and will also help to make your back grow. The advantage is the strength the disadvantage is that you are not targeting specific muscle groups with focus. Bodybuilders probably would like more focus on a movement to make muscles grow.
The barbell row is movement that mainly focuses on your back. Compared to the deadlift you activate your legs, hamstrings and lower back to a much lesser extent. In exchange you get more focus on your back muscles.
The barbell row starts either from the ground or from somewhere below the hips. Interesting variations are the Pendlay and Yates row. The pendlay row starts from the ground while the Yates row start from slightly below the knees.
The barbell row is not a compound lift and is mostly used as accessory work on a deadlift day. Use it to develop your grip and back further.
Should you do the deadlift or barbell row
Solid programs will use both. The day will either start with the bench press or deadlift followed by barbell rows to either train symmetrically or the entire posterior chain. If you are trying to build muscle and have time you are better of doing rows than deadlifts and make each muscle grow with dedicated attention. If you don’t have time and want to train your entire body go for the deadlift.