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How to barbell row [Article, Free Download]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

May 9, 2019 9:30:00 AM

How to barbell row

How to barbell row 

Start off the floor or slightly below the hips. Move the barbell from there to the chest. Rinse and repeat to make your back thicker and stronger. 

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What is your why 


Before we go into the details of how to barbell row, 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 if you do 
  • What happens if you don’t 


These questions are important for your long term success. Taking the time to sit down and think about it will pay dividends. Most people do not reach their fitness goals because they drop out too early. Keeping your body in check is a lifelong commitment. You also cannot undo in a year what you did in ten years to your body. This is why long term commitment is important. 


So how can you make sure that you keep training? Most people go about their lives in this fashion: 


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


This is a pretty straight road to misery. What you want changes hundreds of times a day. If this is your guiding star you will get confused, water down your actions and spread yourself too thin. The result is feeling like you have a hole in your heart and that it does not hatter what you do to fill it. If you flip these questions on their head, something interesting happens:


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


This way you will first focus on establishing what your desire is. What is it that connects all the dots? This way all your actions and thoughts will get connected to a cause and your world will become more coherent. The rewards are results, greater happiness, and peace of mind. If you want to know how this works on a psychological level read Daniel Kahneman's thinking fast and slow. Simon Sinek makes a very compelling case in his TED Talk on the golden circle. He tells the story of Wright brothers how this works. Check it out. 


The barbell row 


The barbell row mainly makes your muscles in your back stronger and bigger. Based on how you execute it you can put the emphasis on different parts of the body. 


You start the barbell row either from the ground or somewhere below your hips. The basic idea is to keep a straight back and move the barbell to your chest with your arms. 


Interesting variations are the pendlay, Yates and reverse grip row. Look them up to get an idea of what kind of training you need and how to improve. 


Based on where you start you can influence whether the hamstrings or more or less involved in the row. If you start from the ground you usually have less activation of the hamstrings. If you start somewhere between the floor and your hips you will get more hamstring activation. The downside is that will use less weight and activate the back less. 


Hand placement 


Hand placement can shift the focus of the row away from the arms to the back. The wider your grip the less leverage your biceps, triceps, and traps have for the row. Therefore the lat has to do more work. This comes at the expense of having to use smaller weights as you incorporate fewer muscle groups in the movement. 


If you want to maximize strength grip the bar part shoulder wide apart. Usually, the grip that you go for intuitively is the strongest. 


Body English 


Body English determines refers to how much you move your body during the row. The more body English you incorporate the higher the weight will be that you move. The downside is that the more you gain momentum from your body, the higher the injury risk and the lower the focus of the exercise on specific muscle groups. 


Strength development 


To use the row for strength development can be done by using it as an accessory on your deadlift days. The Yates row yields good results. Go heavy, be careful and use a lot of body English to get better. 


Muscle development 


If you want to mainly focus on muscle development start the row from the floor. Use as little body English as possible. Keep your back straight. Move the weight slowly and keep your body under tension. 


Pros of the barbell row


The barbell row is a great exercise to bring your deadlift up and strengthen your grip. It will with your lats and make a good accessory movement to a powerlifting program. 


Cons of the barbell row


For bodybuilding purposes there are more secure options to train your back than a barbell row. You can use rowing machines and lay pull down where you do not have to bend over and risk a back injury. 


Alternatives to the barbell row


Alternatives to the barbell row are:



With these exercises you will also be able to train your back without using a barbell


How to barbell row 


Decide whether you want to start from the ground or somewhere below the hips. Decide whether you mainly want to focus on muscle or strength development. Go from there and row to your hearts contempt. 

Topics: Lift stronger, Fitness, Strength, Barbell