It is very beneficial to learn how to do barbell rows the right way if you want to get fit in 2020. By doing barbell rows – a.k.a. bent over rows – correctly, you can reap the benefits of this excellent compound exercise sooner: namely building big lats – the big muscles on your back that gives people that lovely V-shape. You can use it to get big arms as well – this exercise works your biceps – but mainly it is one of the best back exercises.
The bent over row can be performed with a barbell (opens in new tab), dumbbells (opens in new tab) or, if you have some laying around at home or in the gym, kettlebells (opens in new tab). Being a compound exercise, the barbell rows works a range of muscles and therefore burn more calories than just doing barbell curls or machine isolation exercises.
As for muscles worked, barbell rows mainly work your lats and your biceps, as well as your rear delt (the back of the shoulder) and upper back muscles (the muscles around your spine at the base of your neck). It also works the hamstrings and your core (you have to stabilise yourself, after all).
For being such an excellent compound exercise, we included barbell rows in the our ultimate full body workout (opens in new tab) routine: it's one of the Big 5s, five exercise that can give you a whole body blast and quick gains.
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You can't be careful enough
Although barbell rows are probably the only exercise among the BIG 5 that doesn't involve you potentially crushing yourself under immense amount of weights, it is still advised to be extra cautious when you perform them.
It you are using a barbell, secure the plates on both ends with fasteners and check your surrounding before you start pulling up the bar.
As always, probably the best way to avoid injury is to get a training buddy. They can keep an eye on you while you perform your sets. Not only that, but having someone to train with you is also a great way to keep you motivated and stay on track with your gym routine.
And always, always warm up before exercising and make sure you don't push your muscles too much. Rest is equally as important as the exercise itself.
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How to do barbell rows
To perform a standing barbell row, start off with your legs slightly more than shoulder width apart, barbell loaded (plates secured, surroundings checked) and resting on the floor in front of your legs. Bend over and pick the bar up using an underhand grip.
The starting position is you being bent over as far over as you can comfortably go without stretching your hamstrings too much. Bend your knees ever so slightly so your legs aren't locked. Your arms are extended and your shoulders are open, back straight and not arched. Core engaged.
When you pull the barbell, make sure you pull it towards your belly and not your chest. Keep your core engaged and try not to swing back and forth as perform the exercise. Your shoulders stay open, don't drop them even when the barbell is in the lowermost position.
If you are in the gym, it might help to do some reps with an unloaded barbell and watch your form in the mirror. There is no shame trying to perfect your form, you won't impress anyone performing exercises with a bad form and injuring yourself.
Barbell rows: variations and alternatives
We'll get around covering these soon.
- Dumbbell rows
- One-arm dumbbell row (great for beginners)
- Chest supported barbell row (you'll need a bench for this)
- T-bar rows (if you are a bit more experienced)
- Inverted row (bodyweight alternative)
On recovery and nutrition
To avoid any injuries and to help recovery, stretch after every strength training session (and after every cardio sessions as well). Foam rollers (opens in new tab) can be found in most gyms and you can buy them on Amazon too, a quick and inexpensive way to massage the tired muscles.
Resistance bands (opens in new tab) are not only great for workouts but they are also an effective way to stretch your hamstrings after you did your squats.
You might want to keep an eye out for your protein intake as well. If you are doing strength training, try taking in around 2 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight per day. So, if you weigh 70 kg, you'll need to eat 140 grams of protein per day. Humans haven't got protein reserves, so you have to continuously take protein in throughout the day.
And make sure you drink plenty of water as well. A decent gym water bottle doesn't cost all that much.