The barbell row is a classic back exercise that’s responsible for many of those sculpted backs seen in muscle magazines over the years. Since it’s a compound lift, it’s an excellent addition to any workout routine, and it can help you gain in muscle mass and overall strength. After reading this guide to the barbell row, you’ll know everything you need to about it.
How to Perform a Barbell Row
The barbell should be resting on the floor and loaded with the desired weight. Stand by the barbell with the bar right over the middle of your foot. Your shins shouldn’t touch the bar, and your feet should be about shoulder-width apart.
Bend down with a slight knee bend, being careful to keep your back flat the entire time. Grab the barbell using a pronated grip, which means overhand or palms down. Your grip can be a bit wider than shoulder width. It will likely be a little wider than the grip on a deadlift, but a little narrower than the grip on a bench press.
Lift the bar up until the weight plates are an inch or two off the ground, keeping your arms straight the entire time. Maintain a tight core and a flat back. Bring the bar straight up into your body until it touches around the upper ribs, right underneath your chest. Your shoulders should be pulling back, which will bring your elbows up for this movement. Once you’ve touched the bar to your chest, you can lower it back to the starting position, keeping full control the whole time.
Your core needs to stay tight and your back flat throughout this exercise. Perform as many reps as you’d like. Like any lift, it’s good to start with lighter weights and work your way up.
What Muscles Do Barbell Rows Work?
The muscles that get the most work from barbell rows are the ones in your back, including those in the upper and lower back. Barbell rows are also great for the muscles in your arms, especially your biceps, and they work your hips.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Over the years, some have called the barbell row dangerous because of its potential to cause injury. This criticism doesn’t make much sense, as any exercise can cause injury if you perform it incorrectly. To make sure this doesn’t happen, watch out for these common barbell row mistakes.
Bouncing Up and Down
Many lifters bounce during barbell rows because they’re using too much weight and they need momentum to complete each rep. Now, with barbell rows, not all bouncing is bad.
Your biceps can keep you from lifting enough weight in this lift to really stimulate your back, and a very minor bounce can get you past that hurdle. The key is to keep your bounce small. To avoid going too heavy, gradually progress in weight with this lift.
When you flare your elbows out during a barbell row, it moves the barbell forward enough to cause extra pressure on your lower back. It’s obviously important to avoid unnecessary stress on your back, considering how frustrating back injuries are, and that’s why you should make sure the barbell is always traveling straight up and down and your elbows stay in a normal position.
Your back should be close to parallel with the ground when you’re performing a barbell row, not at a 45-degree angle and definitely not upright. Being in the correct position makes the exercise more difficult, and if you’re having trouble with it, you likely need to take off some weight. You could also need to strengthen your core.
A Rounded Back
This is by far the worst barbell row mistake, as it’s a one-way ticket to back pain. When you round your back, it puts more pressure on your spine, and this gets even worse when you start lifting a heavy barbell up and down. Stay cognizant of your back at all times during the exercise and make sure it stays flat. If you’re having trouble with this, reduce the weight you’re lifting.
It’s nearly impossible to keep your back flat without having your neck aligned. If you look up or down too much, it will affect the rest of your body. Make sure your neck is aligned with your back – it’s often simplest to focus your gaze at the ground a couple feet ahead of your body.
Adding Barbell Rows to Your Workout
Barbell rows are a fixture in many popular workout routines, including Strong Lifts 5×5. If you’ve set up your own program, you can add barbell rows to any workout that requires a back exercise or simply substitute it for another back exercise.