How to do Barbell Row: Variations, Proper Form, Techniques, Barbell

A barbell row is a weight training exercise and compound movement for building strength and muscle mass in the back. The workout primarily targets the back muscles, particularly the latissimus dorsi and the trapezius, with multiple benefits for your back, core, biceps, and hips. 

Keep the movement slow, controlled, and under a proper form by aligning your knees with a bench and a barbell rack at hip height, then grip the barbell resting on the ground, bend down with your spine in neutral alignment, and grab it with both hands and pull up until you feel a stretch in your back muscles. Finish by slowly lowering the weight back down to the starting position.

There are over nine variations of barbell rows, and the three main types of barbell rows are seated bent-over rows, standing bent-over rows, and one-arm dumbbell rows.

Some main mistakes people make are lifting with the arms and using too much weight, using the upper body to row instead of the back causes overexertion and fatigue, and lifting too much weight results in a slower pace and poor form. The most common mistakes are not having your feet planted and having your hips too high or low.

The result of these mistakes is an injury to the back or shoulders. If you don’t follow proper form while doing barbell rows, you can cause serious harm to the lumbar spine. 

It’s important to have proficient knowledge of these barbell row techniques for the proper execution of this exercise. This will help prevent injury to your back and ensure that you get maximum benefits from barbell rows, such as increased grip strength and muscle mass. 

How to Perform Barbell Row With Proper Form?  

To dominate barbell rows correctly, grab a barbell with both hands overhand and pull it towards your chest while keeping your elbows close to your body. If done correctly, barbell rows are an effective workout to include in your back exercise routine. Following this proper form will ensure you are ready to dominate a barbell row. 

Barbell Row

What Are the Phases of Barbell Row?

There are three phases of barbell row that one must first understand to get the maximum benefit from this workout. 

  1. Barbell Row Set-up Phase: The barbell row set-up phase is the beginning of the barbell row exercise. The set-up phase includes a proper bent-over row form. Not standing with feet shoulder-width apart will decrease efficiency.  Hold the barbell with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Bend the knees and hips so that the torso is at a 45-degree angle to the ground and keep the back straight, pull the shoulder blades together, and tuck the chin.
  2. Row Phase: The row phase is the actual barbell row. Consider using the 5×5 stronglifts routine. Keeping the back straight and shoulder blades together will increase efficiency. Row the barbell towards the chest, making sure that the elbows stay close to the body and pause for a moment at the top of the row. Then reverse the motion and lower the barbell back to the starting position. 
  3. Descent Phase: The descent phase of the barbell row is the final part of the barbell row. This phase is crucial because it’s the step to finish the barbell row and get back into position to do the set-up phase for the barbell row. To increase efficiency during the descent phase maintain control of the barbell. Maintaining a good barbell row form will ensure that the bar isn’t going to fall and or potentially cause injury or property damage. It is easiest to maintain control while keeping the shoulders down and elbows close to the body.  Achieve control during barbell rows by maintaining a straight bar path. Lower the barbell back down to the floor in the opposite direction of the barbell row.

What Are the Mistakes for Barbell Row Form?

There are a few mistakes made when doing barbell rows. These mistakes can lead to inefficient lifting and cause injuries when doing a conventional barbell row form. It’s crucial to be aware of these barbell row mistakes and avoid them to get the most out of your bent-over rows form. 

  1. The first mistake is bending the knees too much. It will take the tension off of the back and reduce the effectiveness of the lift. 
  2. The second mistake is arching the back significantly. It can lead to back injuries, making the lift less effective. 
  3. The third mistake is not keeping the head up. It can also lead to back injuries, as well as neck pain.

How to Determine Proper Weight for Barbell Row?

One of the main things to consider when learning how to do barbell rows is the proper weight for the barbell row, considering the strength. Make sure that the weight is not too heavy or too light. If the weight is too heavy, it can lead to injury, and if the weight is too light the desired results from the exercise won’t be achieved.

How to Determine Proper Weight for Barbell Row
How to Determine Proper Weight for Barbell Row

Another thing to take into consideration is experience level. Beginners might want to start with a lighter weight and work their way up. Experienced gym-goers can try a more challenging weight.

What is the importance of grip for Barbell row?  

Barbell rows are important for improving grip strength. The grip is a crucial aspect of the barbell row to maintain a strong grip throughout the entire set. Lifting the weight might prove too difficult and the exercise will be ineffective if the grip is weak. 

Barbell rows provide a workout for the forearms and fingers, increasing the grip strength. To improve grip strength use a weight that allows for a strong grip throughout the set. 

Have you tried the 5×5 training? The 5×5 workout is a weightlifting program that focuses on five main exercises: the squat, bench press, deadlift, power clean, and barbell row. 

Which muscles are involved while performing Barbell row?   

The barbell row is a heavy weightlifting exercise that can help to build muscle mass in the back. The primary muscles targeted are the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and teres major. 

The latissimus dorsi is one of the largest muscles in the back, and it’s responsible for pulling the arm straight out from the body.  To effectively strengthen this muscle and build its size do either a light or heavy row with proper form. Barbell rows are an ideal exercise for overall back development.

This exercise works by targeting the rhomboids and lats, which are the muscles responsible for pulling the shoulder blades together. As a result, the Barbell Row can help build a strong and defined upper back.

Teres major is a muscle located in the upper back, and it is responsible for the medial rotation of the shoulder joint and extension of the shoulder blade. The Barbell Row is a great exercise for developing this muscle, as it helps to strengthen and tone the upper back.

  1. Latissimus dorsi 
  2. Rhomboids 
  3. Teres major 

What Are the Barbell Row Variations?

The Barbell row Variations are a great way to increase strength and muscle mass. There are a few different variations of barbell row available to do.

What Are the Barbell Row Variations
Barbell Row Variations

A popular workout to consider is the 5×5 barbell row, included in the 5×5 workout program. This workout is a great way to increase strength and muscle mass no matter the variation you choose. Some of the variations to consider when following the routine are the following. 

  1. Pendlay Row: The Pendlay row variation differs from the barbell row in that you start from a static position on the floor, similar to a deadlift. It is a more explosive movement for the advanced lifter and can be ideal for those with back issues. 
  2. Yates Row (Underhand Bent-Over Row): A Yates row is performed with the back held at a 45-degree angle with the palms facing up instead of down as with a barbell row and is ideal for total back development.  
  3. Dumbbell Row: A dumbbell row is performed similarly to a barbell row but with dumbbells held vertically instead of a barbell that is held horizontally. Athletes performing the dumbbell row have the option to exercise one arm at a time, but the use of both dumbbells creates symmetry and stability.
  4. Seated Cable Row: The seated cable row is performed from a seated position on a cable rowing machine instead of in a standing position with a free-weight barbell. 
  1. T-Bar Row (or Barbell T-Bar Row): A T-bar row is performed on a t-bar row machine. Alternatively, it can be performed with a stabilized barbell and handle. The lifter straddles the barbell. The “bottom” end of the barbell is stabilized behind the lifter. The handle is underneath the “upper” part of the barbell. The lifter raises the upper end of the barbell using the handle. 
  2. Barbell Seal Row: Barbell seal rows are performed with the lifter lying stomach down on a bench with the barbell held perpendicularly to the bench. The lifter raises the barbell upwards towards the chest. The barbell seal row variation focuses on the mid-back muscles and lats as opposed to the lower back. 
  3. Helms Row: In the Helms row variation, the lifter is bent over at the waist with the chest supported by the edge of an incline bench, which is raised at a 45-degree angle. The performer lifts two dumbbells, one in each hand, backwards towards their hips. Variations of the Helms row can emphasize either the traps and biceps or the lats. 
  4. Chest-Supported Row: A chest-supported variation of the barbell row is performed as the lifter lies stomach-down on an incline bench, which is raised at a 45-degree angle. With a barbell in each hand, the performer lifts each hand upwards towards the chest. The chest-supported row is ideal for athletes who have trouble maintaining proper form with their backs parallel to the floor. 
  5. Machine Row: A machine row is performed in a seated position using a rowing machine. The lifter is seated upright and pulls the handles backwards towards themselves. The machine row is best suited to cardio workouts as opposed to bodybuilding. 
  6. Inverted Row: The inverted row variation targets the lats and upper back. It is performed using a Smith machine or a squat rack. The athlete starts in a horizontal position lying back-down with hands raised perpendicularly from the chest to grip the barbell. With the heels planted on the floor, the lifter raises their upper body by pulling their torso towards the barbell, which is stationary. The lifter lowers back down without coming to rest fully on the ground. 
  7. Barbell Dead Row: A deadlift or dead row is performed by lifting the hips, arms, and back, straightening the body, as opposed to the stationary back position of the barbell row. It utilizes muscles throughout the body, including the legs, abdomen, back, and arms. It is a good exercise for improving posture. 

What Are the Necessary Types of Equipment for the Barbell Row?

The barbell dead row is a barbell exercise that targets the muscles in the back, biceps, and forearms. It’s necessary to use the following items which come in different weights and sizes.  

Barbells are one of the more popular pieces of weightlifting equipment. They’re used for exercises, including barbell rows, barbell bench press, barbell squats, and barbell curls.

What Are the Necessary Types of Equipment for the Barbell Row
Necessary Types of Equipment for the Barbell Row

Barbell bumpers are weights used in barbell exercises. Barbell bumpers are made of metal but can also be found made of rubber for a safer use indoors experience that won’t damage your floor. 

Barbell collars are weight lifting accessories that are used to secure barbells in place. They attach to the barbell bar to keep the weights in place and are made with metal or plastic. 

  1. Barbells
  2. Barbell bumpers (weights)
  3. Barbell collars (weight lifting accessories) 

What Is the Origin of the Barbell Row?

The barbell row is a weightlifting exercise that has been around for centuries. Originally used by wrestlers and bodybuilders to strengthen the back muscles and improve performance. Today, the barbell row is one of the most popular weightlifting exercises used by people of all ages and fitness levels to target the lower back muscles.

There are many ways to explore, implement, and change the barbell row depending on the specific needs and goals. Try using different weights, varying your grip, or adding chains or resistance bands for an added challenge. 

Another way to change it up is by performing a barbell row with dumbbells, making it a versatile exercise that can be tailored to meet your specific needs.

The barbell row is a weightlifting exercise that primarily works the back muscles. The barbell row is an ideal exercise to add to any workout routine because it helps build muscle and improves strength and endurance. Here are some more barbell row-related facts!

  1. Improves strength and endurance while building muscle mass.
  2. The barbell row is a compound exercise that involves several muscle groups, including the back, biceps, and forearms.
  3. When performed correctly, the barbell row is a safe and effective way to strengthen your back muscles.
  4. Beginners to weightlifting or anyone with back problems, consult a fitness professional before beginning any new exercise program.
  5. A barbell row starts with a proper grip, stance, and hand placement.
  6. Make sure to maintain proper form throughout the exercise to avoid injury and get the most benefits from the workout.
  7. Do not round the back as you lift the weight, as this can cause injuries such as herniated discs.
  8. Make sure to breathe while performing a proper barbell row and exhale when returning to the starting position.

Does Barbell Row Affect the Hormones?

Yes, the barbell row can affect hormones both positively and negatively. The back muscles can increase natural steroid-like chemicals called androgens when exercised intensely. Androgens are responsible for developing male sex characteristics and promoting secondary features such as increased muscle mass, facial hair growth, deep voice pitch, etc.

Barbell back rows can increase the secretion of cortisol. A catabolic hormone that breaks down proteins and converts them to energy. Excessive production of cortisol can lead to suppressed testosterone levels and increased body fat storage.

Barbell back rows are an intense back workout that contracts the back muscles over 100% of their full range. This stretching and contracting of the back muscles can lead to increased muscle mass in this area over time, which can result in back pain if back muscles are not conditioned well enough.

Does Barbell Row Increase Testosterone?   

Yes, barbell row increases the hormone testosterone. Testosterone is often known as the male sex hormone, however, women also have it. Testosterone is an anabolic steroid that can help with muscle growth and bone density in both men and women. It helps control the sexual characteristics of both genders as well.

The benefits of weight training don’t end with increased muscle mass and strength. It can also lead to a higher testosterone level, which is essential for optimal health. That’s because the body produces more of the hormone in response to resistance training. 

Does Barbell Row Affect the Mood?

Yes, when doing a proper bent-over row, it will affect the mood! But why? This is due to nitric oxide (NO). The molecule affects the brain and nervous system and helps with blood pressure regulation.

Exercise is known to improve mood. Studies have shown that exercise can be a better treatment for depression than medication. It’s also known that eccentric muscle activity can cause muscle damage and inflammation. 

Most people agree that the best way to avoid any negative effects is to use proper weightlifting techniques and limit the amount of time per day spent lifting weights.

Is Barbell Row Practiced Within CrossFit?

Exercises such as the stronglift barbell row are rarely performed in CrossFit workouts, and since CrossFit doesn’t directly use this exercise in their routines, it can be said that CrossFit does not practice barbell rows.

Instead, CrossFit uses exercises that mimic the movement of a row. Instead of using a straight bar, CrossFitters use a wider grip on an EZ-curl bar or TRX suspension trainer if they perform the exercise.

Barbell rows are a very technical exercise. While it’s true that barbell rows can be done with a CrossFit program, they shouldn’t be. As stated before, the barbell row is a very technical lift and is best left to Olympic weightlifters or those more experienced who know the proper form. 

Is Barbell Row a Military Movement?

The barbell row is not a military exercises, even though it has been referred to as such for several decades. 

However, the barbell row is a military press variant. The barbell row is a functional movement that strengthens the muscles of the back, rear deltoids, and biceps. The movement requires a lot of back strength to be performed correctly and is generally considered an exercise for improving athletic performance and posture. 

Nonetheless, barbell rows are banned in many military establishments due to their potential for injury. The Navy SEALs website states that the barbell row is not recommended for use and to exclude the workout if there is any pain in the shoulders or back or any previous injuries.

Is Barbell Row Push or Pull?

The movement is a pulling exercise when doing a proper row form. It targets the muscles of the upper back and body. While Barbell Rows are primarily considered a back exercise, some trainers like to call them a pulling exercise. 

A push is defined as any exercise that works the chest or triceps. Since barbell rows focus on using the arms to pull the weight up, they do not count as a push exercise.

Is Barbell Row Essential?

This is an essential movement that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Everybody is familiar with the bent-over back row, but the standard barbell row is different. It hits your back muscles differently by placing more emphasis on your upper back and rear delts.

However, this classic exercise has been losing favor in recent years to other back exercises like deadlifts and bent-over one-arm rows. Some fitness experts even say that barbell rows are not as effective for building muscle as these other back exercises.

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