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how to do bent over barbell row

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Daniel Mesa

Bent Over Barbell Row: How To & Benefits

The Bent Over Barbell Row is a compound exercise that will dramatically improve your upper body strength and aesthetics. This exercise can help you unlock the potential of your back muscles. It strengthens and sculpts your back by working your lats, rhomboids, and traps, improving your posture and overall body. 

In this exercise guide, we’ll go over the mechanics of the bent-over barbell row, offering step-by-step guidance, expert tips, and alternatives to help you achieve unparalleled back strength and definition.

How To Do Bent Over Barbell Row

Setup and Stance

Position your feet shoulder-width apart. Then grasp the barbell using an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Hinge at your hips while maintaining a slight knee bend. And finally, lower your torso until it’s nearly parallel to the floor, ensuring your spine remains neutral.

Pulling Motion

Initiate the movement by pulling the barbell towards your lower rib cage, leading with your elbows. Focus on contracting your back muscles as you lift and squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the contraction.

Controlled Descent

Lower the barbell under control, maintaining a stable core and proper posture. Allow your arms to fully extend, ensuring the barbell hovers just above the ground.

Our Tips For The Barbell Bent Over Row

back barbell row

Prioritize Proper Form

Safeguard your lower back by maintaining a straight, neutral spine, preventing undue stress. A well-aligned back ensures optimal muscle engagement and minimizes the risk of injury.

Experiment with Grip

During the exercise, experiment with your grip width and hand placement to find the best stance that suits your body mechanics and feels the most natural.

Controlled Repetitions

Execute each repeat slowly, concentrating on the quality of the movement rather than depending on velocity. A controlled tempo guarantees maximum muscle activation and reduces the possibility of using improper form.

Common Bent Over Barbell Row Mistakes To Avoid

yates row

Mistake 1: Avoid Rounding Your Back

Keep your spine in a neutral position throughout the movement to prevent strain on your lower back. A rounded back increases the risk of injury and reduces the exercise’s effectiveness.

Mistake 2: Maintain Controlled Movement

Avoid swinging the weight or lifting it with momentum. To target the desired muscle areas properly, maintain complete control during both the lifting and lowering stages.

Mistake 3: Engage Your Back, Not Your Shoulders

Be mindful of your shoulder positioning. Ensure you engage your back muscles to lift the weight rather than unintentionally shrugging your shoulders. Proper engagement amplifies the exercise’s impact on your upper body.

Barbell Row Muscles Worked

During the bent-over barbell row, work the following muscles:

Latissimus Dorsi: The large muscles of your back, or lats, play a central role in pulling the weight toward your body. Strengthening these muscles enhances the width of your upper back.

Rhomboids: Located between your shoulder blades, the rhomboids assist in retracting your scapulae, contributing to proper posture and a strong upper back.

Trapezius: This muscle spans from the base of your neck to the middle of your back, aiding in the upward movement of your shoulder blades and supporting your neck and shoulders.

Biceps: While not the primary focus, your biceps assist in bending your elbows as you lift the weight, contributing to the overall pulling motion.

Forearms: Your forearms work to maintain your grip on the barbell, especially during the lifting and lowering phases of the exercise.

The Bent Over Barbell Row promotes upper body strength, stability, and muscle balance, enhancing your overall physique and functional performance.

Bent Over Row Benefits

Here are the benefits of doing the Bent Over Row exercise:

Benefit 1: Improved Back Strength

The bent over barbell row is a powerhouse exercise that engages multiple muscle groups in your upper back and lats. This activation leads to a well-developed and strong back, providing a solid foundation for a wide range of functional movements. Whether you’re lifting groceries or engaging in sports, a robust upper back is key to optimal performance.

Benefit 2: Good Posture

The bent over barbell row plays a pivotal role in strengthening your back muscles, which, in turn, helps counteract the effects of poor posture. By cultivating a strong upper back, you’re not only enhancing your aesthetic appearance but also promoting an upright and confident stance in both everyday activities and your workout routines.

Benefit 3: Muscle Growth Activation

While the exercise primarily targets your upper back, the synergistic involvement of supporting muscles creates a domino effect of growth stimulation. This results in a well-rounded and sculpted physique, further boosting your overall strength and aesthetic appeal.

Alternatives To Bent Over Barbell Rows

If you want to offer your shoulder workout more depth and balance than the bent over barbell row provides, think about switching exercises. All of these exercises can improve your fitness journey in unique ways.

Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

The Single-Arm Dumbbell Row is a versatile exercise that offers a targeted approach to addressing muscle imbalances and enhancing unilateral strength. You can discover and address any differences in strength or muscle activation by isolating each side of your body. 

This exercise works your core muscles to keep you stable during the movement and promotes balanced muscular growth. It’s a beneficial addition to your workout regimen because it unilaterally challenges your body, increasing coordination and general functional strength.

Cable Rows

Cable Rows stand out as a potent alternative to the Bent Over Barbell Row due to their unique ability to maintain constant tension on your muscles throughout the entire range of motion. Constant resistance makes every stage of the workout more difficult, which encourages a higher level of muscular engagement. 

Cable rows give your upper back a stimulus for muscular growth and strength development since they emphasize maintaining tension. By including this exercise in your routine, you may build your back in all directions and improve your functional performance.

T-Bar Rows

T-Bar Rows add an engaging variation to your back training regimen that focuses on different parts of your back. By promoting a thorough approach to muscular engagement, this exercise makes sure that no portion of your back is overlooked. 

Your back muscles will become stronger overall as you work them in different directions, which will help you build a balanced and proportionate body. T-Bar Rows are a potent exercise for building a solid, well-balanced back that not only looks remarkable but also excels in everyday tasks and sports.

Bottom Line On Barbell Rows

Including the bent over barbell row in your practice is a critical step toward developing a strong, well-defined back. Prioritize form, moderate growth, and consistency to fully reap the advantages of the exercise. Your dedication and determination will propel your upper body strength to new heights as you embark on this journey.


Can the bent over barbell row lead to lower back strain?

When executed with proper form, the exercise is generally safe. If you experience discomfort, seek guidance from a fitness professional.

Is the bent over barbell row suitable for beginners?

Beginners should initially focus on mastering correct form before incorporating weights to prevent unnecessary strain.

Can I perform the bent over barbell row with an underhand grip?

Yes, an underhand grip shifts emphasis to your biceps, but ensure your back maintains a neutral position to avoid strain.

How often should I change the width of my grip during the bent over barbell row?

Experimenting with grip width can offer different muscle engagement, but make gradual adjustments to avoid overloading specific areas.


McAllister, M. J., et al. (2013). Effect of grip width on electromyographic activity during the upright row. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 27(1), 181-187. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31824f23ad

Clement, D. B., & Penman, D. J. (2017). The bent-over barbell row: A review of the literature and implications for clinical practice. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 47(5), 316-327. doi:10.2519/jospt.2017.7202