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Bent-Over barbell 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 Form
  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.

Benefits of 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.

What Does Bent Over Row Work?

The bent-over row is a compound exercise that primarily targets the muscles of the upper back, but it also engages several other muscle groups, making it an effective and efficient full-body exercise. Here are the muscles worked during the bent-over row

What Does Bent Over Row Work


Rhomboids: The rhomboids are located between the shoulder blades and play a crucial role in retracting and stabilizing the scapulae (shoulder blades) during the rowing movement.

Trapezius: The trapezius muscles, commonly known as traps, are large muscles that run from the base of the neck to the middle of the back. They are responsible for scapular elevation and retraction during the row.

Latissimus Dorsi: The lats, located on the sides of the back, are heavily engaged during the bent-over row. They are responsible for the pulling motion and play a significant role in overall back strength and width.

Erector Spinae: The erector spinae muscles run along the length of the spine and are activated to stabilize the lower back during the bent-over row.

Rear Deltoids: The rear deltoids, or posterior deltoids, are the muscles located at the back of the shoulders. They are involved in scapular retraction and shoulder extension during the row.

Biceps: The biceps act as synergists during the bent-over row, assisting in elbow flexion as you pull the weight towards your body.

Forearm Muscles: The muscles of the forearms are engaged to hold and stabilize the barbell or dumbbells during the rowing movement.

Core Muscles: The core muscles, including the transverse abdominis and obliques, play a stabilizing role to maintain a neutral spine position during the bent-over row.

Variations of Bent-Over Barbell Rows

1.Wide-Grip Bent-Over Row


Perform the exercise with a wider grip on the barbell to target the outer back muscles and emphasize the lats.

2.Reverse Grip Bent Over Row


Switch your grip to an underhand (supinated) position to shift the focus to the biceps and upper back muscles.

3.Single-Arm Bent-Over Barbell Row 


Instead of using both arms simultaneously, perform the exercise with one arm at a time to improve unilateral strength and balance.

4.Inverted Barbell Row


Use a bar or suspension trainer to perform inverted rows, which allow you to adjust the angle and work different parts of the back.

5.T-Bar Row


Utilize a T-bar row machine or set up a barbell in a corner to perform T-bar rows, which provide a slightly different range of motion and target the back muscles from a different angle.

6.Upright Barbell Row


Incorporating these variations can add variety to your routine, target specific muscle groups, and help you break through plateaus.

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

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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