How to Do a Bent-Over Row

The bent-over barbell row is a highly effective compound exercise that targets the muscles of the upper back, including the rhomboids, rear deltoids, and latissimus dorsi. It also engages the biceps and forearms as secondary muscles. This exercise not only helps improve posture and upper body strength but also enhances overall functional fitness. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the correct form, benefits, and various variations of the bent-over barbell row to help you maximize your results and achieve a strong, well-developed back.

Bent Over Row Form and Technique

Bent Over Row
  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell with an overhand grip. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees slightly and hinge forward at the hips, keeping your back straight and maintaining a neutral spine.
  3. Engage your core muscles for stability and ensure that your neck is in line with your spine. Avoid rounding your back or looking up.
  4. With your arms fully extended, pull the barbell up towards your lower chest by driving your elbows back and squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  5. Pause for a moment when the barbell reaches your lower chest, then slowly lower it back down to the starting position in a controlled manner.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, focusing on maintaining proper form and control throughout the exercise.

What does Bent Over Row Work?

What does Bent Over Row Work

The bent-over row is a compound exercise that works several major muscle groups, primarily:

Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)

As a horizontal pulling movement, the bent-over row heavily targets the lats, which are the largest back muscles. This exercise builds terrific lat width and thickness.

Trapezius (Traps)

Both the upper and lower traps are engaged isometrically to support the shoulders and upper back during the rowing motion.


The rhomboids between your shoulder blades contract to pull the shoulders back during each rep.

Rear Delts

The rear heads of the deltoids assist in keeping the shoulders retracted and stabilized throughout the bent-over row.


The biceps work as a synergist to support the back muscles, especially when using an underhand (supinated) grip.

In addition to the back musculature, the bent-over row also engages some other secondary movers:


Gripping and controlling the weight requires significant isometric forearm strength.


Your entire core complex must brace powerfully to maintain a neutral, rigid spine during the bent-over position.

The bent-over row qualifies as a fantastic compound pull exercise for overall back development and functional strength when performed with proper form. It is a staple in most well-rounded weight training programs.

Benefits of Bent-Over Barbell Rows

Bent-Over Barbell Rows

Increased Back Strength: The bent-over barbell row targets the muscles of the upper back, helping to strengthen and develop the rhomboids, rear deltoids, and latissimus dorsi. This leads to improved posture and a more defined back.

Improved Posture: By targeting the muscles responsible for maintaining proper posture, the bent-over barbell row can help correct rounded shoulders and promote a more upright and balanced posture.

Enhanced Upper Body Strength: This exercise engages multiple muscle groups in the upper body, including the back, biceps, and forearms, leading to overall strength gains.

Functional Fitness: The bent-over barbell row mimics pulling movements used in various daily activities and sports, making it a valuable exercise for improving functional fitness and performance.

Variations of Bent-Over Barbell Rows

1.Wide-Grip Bent-Over Row

  1. Grab a barbell with a shoulder-width overhand grip or wider
  2. Hinge at the hips to bend over until torso is nearly parallel to floor
  3. Keep back flat and core braced, looking slightly ahead
  4. Row the barbell straight up toward your lower abdomen
  5. Squeeze back and lats at the top of the movement
  6. Control the barbell back down by straightening arms

2.Reverse Grip Bent Over Row

  1. Use an underhand/reverse grip on the barbell
  2. Hinge over from the hips with flat back
  3. Pull the barbell straight up to the bottom of your rib cage
  4. Focus on squeezing the back and keeping shoulders retracted
  5. Don't let biceps take over the movement
  6. Control the eccentric back down

3.Single-Arm Bent-Over Barbell Row

  1. Hold a barbell in one hand using an overhand grip
  2. Support your weight on one leg and hinge over at the hips
  3. Row the barbell up to your side by driving your elbow straight back
  4. Squeeze your lats and back at the top
  5. Switch arms every set

4.inverted Barbell Row

  1. Set a barbell on a rack around waist height
  2. Hinge over with an overhand grip on the bar
  3. Pull your body up toward the bar by rowing your shoulders back
  4. Focus on squeezing the back at the top
  5. Control back down until arms are extended

5.T-Bar Row

  1. Load a barbell into a landmine or T-bar row machine
  2. Grab the ends of the barbell with a shoulder-width grip
  3. Maintaining a neutral back, row the weight straight toward your midsection
  4. Squeeze your lats and back hard at the peak contraction
  5. Resist the weight back down

6.Upright Barbell Row

  1. Hold a barbell with an overhand, shoulder-width grip
  2. Keep your back flat and core braced
  3. Row the barbell straight up to the bottom of your chest
  4. Lead by driving your elbows up and back
  5. Squeeze your traps and upper back at the top
  6. Control the eccentric back down 

Common Mistakes

While performing bent-over barbell rows, it's important to be aware of common mistakes that can compromise your form and effectiveness. Here are a few to watch out for:

Rounding the Back

Maintaining a flat back is crucial during the exercise. Avoid rounding your back, as it places excessive stress on the spine and reduces the engagement of the targeted muscles. Focus on keeping a neutral spine throughout the movement.

Using Excessive Momentum

It's essential to perform the exercise with controlled movements and avoid using momentum to lift the weight. Using momentum can diminish the effectiveness of the exercise and increase the risk of injury. Instead, focus on a controlled and deliberate contraction of the back muscles.

Lifting Too Heavy

While it's important to challenge yourself, using excessively heavy weights can compromise your form and increase the risk of injury. Start with a weight that allows you to maintain proper form and gradually increase the load as you become stronger and more comfortable with the exercise.

Neglecting Full Range of Motion

Ensure that you lower the barbell to a point where your arms are fully extended, and you feel a stretch in the targeted muscles. This full range of motion maximizes muscle activation and enhances the benefits of the exercise.

Safety Precautions


Before starting the exercise, warm up your body with dynamic stretches and movements to increase blood flow and prepare the muscles for the workout.

Proper Equipment

Use a sturdy barbell and weight plates that are securely fastened to prevent accidents or equipment failures during the exercise.

Spotter or Trainer

If you're new to bent-over barbell rows or lifting heavier weights, consider working with a spotter or a qualified trainer who can guide you on proper form, provide feedback, and assist if needed.

Listen to Your Body

Pay attention to any discomfort or pain during the exercise. If you experience sharp or severe pain, stop immediately and seek medical advice if necessary. It's important to prioritize safety and avoid pushing through any pain that could indicate an injury.

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