Skip to content Skip to footer

Share Us

Daniel Mesa

Pendlay Rows: How To & Benefits

pendlay rows

Pendlay Rows, named after the famous gymnastics coach Glenn Pendlay, has become a standard part of strength training programs. Their reputation comes from the fact that they help build a strong, well-balanced back. This compound exercise works the upper back muscles the most, which makes it an important part of any fitness routine. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll go over the right way to do Pendlay Rows, give you helpful tips for improving your form, point out common mistakes to avoid, look at the muscle groups used during this exercise, and talk about its many benefits. We will also give you different exercises to try if you want to change your workout routines.

How To Do Pendlay Rows

Before we talk about the benefits, let’s make sure we know how to do Pendlay Rows right. Here’s how to do this exercise correctly, step by step:

Starting Position

Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place a barbell in front of you on the ground and bend at your hips and knees to lower your torso. Keep your back straight, chest up, and grab the barbell with a slightly wider than shoulder-width overhand grip.

Grip and Stance

Your grip should be firm, and your hands should be positioned just outside your knees. Make sure your arms are fully extended.


Inhale, engage your core and lift the barbell by extending your hips and knees. Maintain a straight back as you lift the bar off the ground. Your back should be nearly parallel to the floor at this point.


Exhale and pull the barbell towards your lower ribcage by retracting your shoulder blades. During this phase, ensure that your elbows move straight up and back, close to your body.


Lower the barbell back to the ground in a controlled manner while keeping your back straight. This is one repetition.


Perform the desired number of repetitions, typically in sets of 8-12

Our Tips For Pendlay Row Form

To maximize the benefits of Pendlay Rows, it is necessary to perfect your form. Here are three important guidelines for maintaining appropriate form:

Tip 1: Maintain a Neutral Spine

When doing Pendlay Rows, keeping your spine in a neutral position is important. When your back is straight, the strain is distributed uniformly over all your back muscles, reducing the likelihood of muscle strain. When you round or arch your back, you put extra pressure on your spine, inhibiting the targeted muscles from operating to their full potential. To accomplish this, maintain a straight line from your head to your tailbone by lifting your chest, pulling your shoulders back, and keeping your head in a neutral position.

Tip 2: Focus on the Pull

Pendlay Rows are all about the pull, which works your upper back muscles. If you have to rely too heavily on your arms to lift the weight, you’re putting unnecessary strain on your elbow joints and reducing the exercise’s effectiveness. To start the pull, focus on the muscles in your upper back, particularly the lats and rhomboids. This focus guarantees that these muscles carry the bulk of the load, which is optimal for growth and strength gains.

Tip 3: Controlled Movement

Control is key when performing Pendlay Rows. Don’t try to power through the routine by making shaky, jerky motions. Moving too quickly raises the danger of injuring your back. Instead, maintain a slow, controlled motion over the action’s full range. Control the descent to the floor and move the bar up and down with grace. This minimizes the likelihood of damage and increases the time your muscles are under tension, which is essential for bulking up and getting stronger.

Common Barbell Pendlay Row Mistakes To Avoid

To prevent injury and maximize your results, be mindful of these common mistakes:

Mistake 1: Using Momentum

When doing Pendlay Rows, a common mistake that can slow you down is to use speed. When you count on momentum, you cheat on the exercise because you don’t let your muscles do the work. Instead, try to move with purpose and control. This ensures that your upper back muscles work the whole time you lift. This helps you build muscle more effectively and reduces your risk of injury.

Mistake 2: Rounded Back

During the lift, letting your back round is a dangerous mistake that puts too much stress on your lower back. When your back rounds, it throws off the position of your spine and makes you more likely to strain or get hurt. To keep this from happening, keep your spine straight and neutral throughout the whole range of action. This protects your lower back and gets the most out of the exercise by effectively working your upper back muscles.

Mistake 3: Incorrect Grip Width

Choosing the wrong grip width can greatly affect how well your Pendlay Rows work. If your grip is too small, it can limit your range of motion and make it harder for the exercise to work the right muscles. To fix this mistake, make sure your hands are farther apart than shoulder-width apart. This gives you the most range of motion, works your upper back muscles the best, and makes the exercise more effective.

Pendlay Row Muscles Worked

Pendlay Rows are a compound exercise that primarily targets the following muscles:

Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)

The latissimus dorsi muscles, also called “lats,” are the wide, fan-shaped muscles in your back that give you that desirable V-shape. Using them in Pendlay Rows gives you the power you need to pull, which helps you get a well-defined upper body.


The rhomboid muscles are located between your shoulder blades. They are important for pulling your shoulder blades back when doing activities like Pendlay Rows. By strengthening these muscles, you improve your posture, make your shoulders more stable, and grow your upper back.


When you row with Pendlay Rows, your upper trapezius muscles are used, which helps build up your upper back. These triangular-shaped muscles help lift and support the shoulders. They are an important part of a strong, well-balanced upper body.

Erector Spinae

Running along your spine, the erector spinae muscles are activated during Pendlay Rows to stabilize your back throughout the exercise. Strengthening these muscles supports your spine and contributes to better posture and overall core stability.

Pendlay Row Benefits

how to do pendlay rows

Benefit 1: Improved Back Strength

The significant increase in total back strength is one of the most noticeable benefits of including Pendlay Rows in your workout routine. From the broad latissimus dorsi to the detailed erector spinae, all your back muscles will benefit from these rows. Regular practice of this movement strengthens your back muscles, which in turn improves your ability to do things like carry heavy objects, keep your balance, and sit or stand for long periods. 

Pendlay Rows are very helpful for better posture because they strengthen the back. When your back muscles are strong, your posture improves, and you’re less likely to slouch or hunch over. Because of this, you may avoid future back pain difficulties and experience relief from the pain associated with bad posture.

Benefit 2: Increased Muscle Mass

Pendlay Rows are a remarkable choice for those seeking to build lean muscle mass in their back region, ultimately leading to a more defined and sculpted appearance. By engaging multiple muscle groups concurrently during each repetition, including the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius, you stimulate substantial muscle growth. Over time, this can result in a broader and more developed upper back, creating the coveted V-shaped silhouette. 

Whether you’re aspiring to enhance your physique or simply aiming to add more muscle definition to your back, Pendlay Rows provides an effective means to achieve these goals. The added muscle mass contributes to aesthetic improvements and bolsters your back’s functional strength, which can be applied to a wide range of physical activities.

Benefit 3: Enhanced Posture

Pendlay Rows are an excellent way to strengthen your upper back and improve your posture. Good posture is important when it comes to avoiding back pain and other discomfort that might result from improper alignment. Strong, well-developed back muscles actively help maintain the spine’s normal s-curve. 

Prolonged sitting or poor posture practices might cause slouching or rounded shoulders, but this extra support can help you maintain an upright and correct posture. This helps you look more certain and put together and reduces the pressure on your back, which can help ward off musculoskeletal problems in the future. Therefore, Pendlay Rows provide a means to greater physical strength and a route to a less taxing, ache-free life.

Alternatives To Pendlay Rows

Variety is key to a well-rounded fitness routine. Here are three alternative exercises that provide similar benefits:

Exercise Option 1: Bent-Over Rows

Bent-over rows are a useful and effective workout that moves very similarly to Pendlay rows. You can use either dumbbells or a barbell instead of a barbell on the ground. This practice is great for working the lats, rhomboids, traps, and erector spinae simultaneously. The benefit of bent-over rows is that they give you a wider range of motion and can be changed to fit your needs by changing the weight and width of your grip. Using dumbbells can also help you even out any differences in strength between your left and right sides.

Exercise Option 2: T-Bar Rows

T-Bar rows introduce a unique twist to back training using a T-Bar machine or a landmine attachment. Unlike Pendlay Rows, T-Bar rows emphasize the middle of the back, particularly the mid traps and rhomboids. This variation provides a different angle for muscle engagement and can benefit individuals looking to add variety to their routine or target specific areas of the back. The T-Bar row machine also offers stability, making it easier to focus on lifting heavier weights to stimulate muscle growth.

Exercise Option 3: Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows

Single-arm dumbbell rows are a great way to work each part of your back on its own. This helps fix any muscle imbalances between your left and right sides while also generally making your back bigger and stronger. You successfully work your lats, traps, and rhomboids by holding yourself up with one hand and pulling a dumbbell with the other. Single-arm rows also make you more stable and can help you build core strength while trying to keep your balance. This exercise is especially good for people who want a stronger back.

Bottom Line On Barbell Pendlay Rows

Incorporating Pendlay Rows into your workout routine can be a game-changer for your back development and overall strength. By mastering the correct form, avoiding common mistakes, and understanding the muscle groups involved, you can unlock this exercise’s numerous benefits. Remember to maintain consistency and gradually increase the weight as your strength improves to continue seeing progress.


How often should I include Pendlay Rows in my workout routine?

You can perform Pendlay Rows 1-3 times weekly, depending on your overall training volume and goals. It’s important to allow your muscles to recover between sessions.

Can beginners do Pendlay Rows?

Yes, beginners can incorporate Pendlay Rows into their routine. However, starting with light weights is essential to master the form and gradually increase the weight as you become more experienced.

Are Pendlay Rows suitable for women?

Absolutely! Pendlay Rows are a beneficial exercise for both men and women. They can help women build a strong and sculpted upper back.

Can I perform Pendlay Rows without a barbell and use dumbbells instead?

While Pendlay Rows are traditionally done with a barbell, you can certainly adapt the exercise by using dumbbells. This modification can be useful for individuals with limited access to barbells or those who prefer the versatility of dumbbells.

Are Pendlay Rows safe for individuals with lower back issues?

Pendlay Rows can put stress on the lower back, so individuals with lower back issues should exercise caution. It’s advisable to consult with a healthcare or fitness professional to determine if this exercise is appropriate and to receive guidance on proper form and technique.


  1. Guardado, I. M., Ureña, B. S., Cardenosa, A. C., Cardenosa, M. C., Camacho, G. O., & Andrada, R. T. (2020). Effects of strength training under hypoxic conditions on muscle performance, body composition and haematological variables. Biology of sport, 37(2), 121–129.
  1. Tjøsvoll, S. O., Mork, P. J., Iversen, V. M., Rise, M. B., & Fimland, M. S. (2020). Periodized resistance training for persistent non-specific low back pain: a mixed methods feasibility study. BMC sports science, medicine & rehabilitation, 12, 30.