Bent-Over Row: Your Shortcut to a Bigger, Healthier Back

Pity the poor bent-over row. Often neglected in favour of saucier training variations – Pendlay rows, anyone? – it’s often done with terrible form, half-arsed at the end of a session or just ignored entirely. But for the gym-going gent, it’s a must. Not only will it balance out all the bench-pressing you’re doing – it’ll also help offset that office slump you’ve been cultivating and build you some T-shirt-filling back muscles. The secret, as with a lot of moves, is to stick to a weight you can handle with good form. Here’s how to nail it.

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Bent-Over Row Technique

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees and lean forward at the hips, not the waist. Your back should be straight and your neck in line with your spine.
  3. Grip the bar just wider than shoulder-width apart.
  4. Let the bar hang straight down at around knee level.
  5. Retract your shoulder blades and tense your core muscles to stabilise your body.
  6. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the bar into your sternum.
  7. Lower the barbell slowly to the start.

Hold your torso steady throughout the move.

Bent-Over Row Form Tips

Think Elbows

Once you’re set up for the move – leaning forward a bit, bar in hands – think about pulling your elbows behind you, not pulling the bar up. It’ll help to activate your lats and keep everything tight.

Pause at the Top

Most trainers will tell you that if you can’t stop at the top of each rep, you’ve picked a weight that’s too heavy. Touch the bar to your sternum, pause, and squeeze your shoulderblades together at the top of each rep. You’ll build better posture that way.

Bent-Over Row Variations

Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Row

By reversing the grip, you place more of a load on your lats and lower traps.

Dumbbell Bent-Over Row

This requires a bit more co-ordination than the barbell version and prevents the stronger side of your body doing all the work. Start with the barbells just below your knees and allow your wrists to turn naturally during the movement.

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Bent-Over Flye

This move uses lighter weights but produces a strong scapular retraction (the action of pulling your shoulder blades together). Keep a slight bend in your elbows, then raise the weights straight out to the sides until you reach chest height, without moving your upper body.

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