Barbell rows are a fantastic exercise for building a strong back. Along with deadlifts and chin-ups they should form the core of a great back routine. Yet, many people avoid doing them and prefer to hit a variety of machine rows and cable rows. Why? Because honestly doing good barbell rows are very hard and a lot of people, unless very dedicated, avoid hard work. On top of that, most people do the exercise wrong and don’t get the maximum benefit that they should.
Many people incorporate a less than optimum angle when doing rows which is fine if your goal is to just work your traps. But if you want to get as complete as a workout possible with a single exercise you need to learn how to do it right. Why waste time when you are the gym? Every exercise should be as effective as possible.
Barbell Rows with Proper Form
Proper form means using a reasonable weight that you can control. Rep speed should be slow enough that momentum plays a limited role and muscle fibers are incorporated as much as possible in all three phases of the exercise: stretch, the body, and contraction.
- Start with a barbell on the floor at your feet.
- Use an overhand shoulder width grip. Keep your knees slight bent with your back flat and parallel to the ground.
- While doing rows keep the abs and lower back tight to support your body and the knees bent for balance.
- The bar is going to travel in an angle from just above your feet to your lower chest, not a straight up and down motion.
- When you pull the bar up imagine that your elbows are lifting the weight as they pull up and back, not the arms.
- Pull slowly and exhale as you approach contraction. Squeeze the shoulder blades as the barbell lightly touches the chest.
- The weight is almost impossible to hold at this angle so don’t. Instead make sure to control the weight for a light touch and then slowly lower the bar to gain benefit from the negative portion of the movement. Too many people just release the bar.
- Lower the weight all the way down until it touches the floor again to take advantage of maximum stretching of the lats.
- Keep your eyes on the floor looking at the spot directly below your forehead; this will prevent neck strain.
Doing rows in this manner should hit more areas of your back. The angle of the row ensures more of the lats are involved and using the elbows to pull the weight activated the upper and middle back muscles. Conversely people who focus on just lifting heavy weight end up making the exercise into something of a bicep workout where you try and jerk the weight up quickly before dropping it to the ground which doesn’t work much of anything except a potential injury.