The bent over row is an exercise that strengthens the muscles of your middle back. This lift also has the added benefit of working your latissimus dorsi, or lower back, and the muscles in your arms, such as your biceps. Incorporating this lift into your weekly exercise routines will strengthen your back and improve your posture.
Method One of Four:
Executing a Bent Over Row with a Barbell
1Assume the correct form. Place the desired weight on each end of the barbell. Stand in front of the barbell with your feet shoulder- or hip-width apart. While bending slightly at the knees, lean forward at the hips until your torso is at a 45° angle to the floor. Maintain the natural arch in your lower back.
- It is always better to underestimate rather than overestimate the amount of weight you can lift. Lifting too much weight can lead to injuries.
2Grab and lift the barbell. With your arms extend towards the floor, grip the top of the bar. Place your palms slightly more than shoulder width apart. As you lift the barbell off the ground, extend your knees slightly while maintaining the position of your torso. Pause just before the barbell reaches your knees. This is the starting position.
- Some lifters prefer to lift the barbell only slightly off the ground. Doing so may cause you to strain your back.
3Execute the row. Exhale as you pull the barbell towards your lower chest. Keep your elbows tight against your body and your torso stationary. At the top of the lift, pause and contract your back muscles. Inhale as you lower the bar to its initial position (slightly below your knees). Repeat.
4Experiment with different grips. Instead of executing a traditional bent over row with a barbell, try alter your grip to work a different muscle group or intensify your workout.
- Use an underhand grip. Instead of grabbing the bar from above, grip the barbell from below. When your palms are facing up, you take the strain off your back by forcing your biceps and lats to do more work.
- Use a snatch grip. A snatch grip is a double wide grip. This grip requires your back muscles to work harder.
Method Two of Four:
Executing a Bent Over Row with Dumbbells
1Complete a standing bent over row with dumbbells. Instead of using a barbell, you can execute a bent over row with two dumbbells.
- Grip a dumbbell in each hand.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in your knees.
- Lean forward at your hips, keeping your back straight, until your torso is at a 45° angle to the floor.
- As you pull the dumbbells up towards your chest, keep your elbows and upper arms close to your ribs.
- Lower the dumbbell.
- Repeat the lift 10 to 12 times.
2Complete a single arm dumbbell row. If you have a lower back injury, substitute single arm dumbbell rows for bent over barbell rows.
- Instead of relying on your body for balance and support, use a bench. Place your bent left knee on one end of a bench and your left palm on the other end of the bench. Position your right leg near the edge of the bench with your foot firmly planted on the floor. Allow your right arm to hang.
- Keep your back parallel to the ground.
- Grab the dumbbell with your right hand.
- Pull the weight up towards your chest—keep your elbow and upper arm near your ribs.
- Lower the dumbbell.
- Repeat 10 to 12 times.
- Place your right arm and knee on the bench and repeat this process using your left hand.
3Use alternative equipment at home. If you can’t make it to a gym, you can easily recreate this lift in the comfort of your home using items you already own.
- If you don’t own a dumbbell, create your own. Fill a 1-liter bottle with water, lentils, or pebbles. For a heavier substitute, fill a 1-gallon jug with the substance of your choice (make sure the jug has a handle). Fill a handled grocery bag with items.
- Instead of a workout bench, use a bed, couch, or table to support yourself.
Method Three of Four:
Executing a Bent Over Row with Weight-Lifting Machines
1Complete a bent over row on a Smith machine. Executing a bent over row on a Smith machine is extremely safe. The barbell moves along vertical rails mounted to the machine and there a safety locks to prevent the barbell from slipping. When using a Smith machine, execute the lift as you would with a barbell.
- Place your feet shoulder width apart.
- Bend at the knees and hinge forward at your hips until your torso is at a 45° angle to the floor.
- Grip the bar with your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
- Extend your knees slightly as you raise the bar to just below your knees. This is the starting position.
- Exhale as you pull the bar towards your chest. Keep your elbows and upper arms near your ribs and maintain the position of your back.
- Pause at the top and squeeze your back muscles together.
- Inhale as you lower the power back to its starting position.
2Complete a bent over row on a T-bar rowing machine. A T-bar rowing machine has two bars that intersect to form a lowercase “t.” The long bar, which runs parallel to your body, has a place for the weight plates at its top. The shorter bar, which perpendicularly intersects the long bar, is gripped by the lifter. To complete this lift:
- Straddle the T-bar rowing machine and place your feet on the foot supports.
- Hinge forward at the hips and bend slightly at the knees.
- Grip the T-bar and place your hands shoulder width apart.
- Raise the t-bar slightly off the ground. This is the starting position.
- Pull the bar up until it reaches your chest.
- Pause at the top and clench your shoulders together.
- Lower the bar until it reaches the starting position.
3Complete a row on a low-pulley machine. Instead of executing a standing row, beginning weightlifters may wish to incorporate seated rows into their workout. The seated row affords newcomers with the opportunity to correctly learn the mechanics of a row.
- After selecting the weight you will lift, sit down on the machine’s bench.
- Set your feet firmly on the foot supports.
- Bend your knees slightly.
- Hinge forward at the hips and grab the two handles. Your palms should be facing each other.
- Lean backwards so that your back is perpendicular to the ground and your arms are fully extended. This is the starting position.
- Pull the handles towards your stomach and lean back slightly.
- At the top of the lift (when the handles are nearest your stomach), squeeze your shoulder blades together to contract your muscles.
- Unbend your arms and return the handles to their starting position.
Method Four of Four:
Executing a Bent Over Row with Bands
1Situate the exercise band. Lay the exercise band on the floor. Stand on top of the band with your feet hip-width apart. Grab the right handle with your left hand and the left handle with your right hand—this will cause the band to cross.
2Assume the correct stance. Bend the knees slightly and hinge forward at the waist. Your back should remain flat and parallel to the ground. Extend your arms under your shoulders and face your palms towards your legs. The bands should be slack.
3Complete the row. Exhale as you pull, or row, the bands towards your chest. At the top of the row, pause and contract your back muscles. Inhale as you lower your arms. Repeat.Advertisement
- Using an E-Z curl barbell can make the positioning of the wrists more comfortable.
- When using a barbell, an underhand grip will place more focus on the biceps, a wider grip will place more emphasis on the lats, and a narrower grip will place more emphasis on the rhomboids.
Things You'll Need
- Weight plates (optional)
- Smith Machine
- T-Bar Rowing Machine
- Low Pulley Machine
- Exercise band