Why you should add barbell rows to your workouts


Kevin Mangelschots

Developing your postural muscles is of vital importance to prevent injuries. Even more so in modern times, because we’re often bend over and have poor posture due to looking at our cell phone, and sitting in front of our computer all day.

That’s why you should add barbell rows to your workouts in order to strengthen your postural muscles and to correct poor posture.




What is a barbell row

Barbell rows, also called Bent-over rows, are a weight lifting exercise which targets and works out the back muscles. More specifically, the latissimus dorsi muscle and the transverse extensors.

The synergistic muscles that are also being trained are the posterior Deltoid muscle, the Teres Minor and the Infraspinatus.

The name Barbell rows or bent over rows derives from the fact that the exercise is very similar to rowing. The only difference in this particular case is that it’s executed while standing up.

Multiple variations exist such as rowing with the palms up, or with the palms facing down. One arm dumbbell bent over rows are sometimes performed as wel.




Advantages of adding barbell rows in your workouts

Image of Arnold Schwarzenegger performing a bent over barbell row.

  • Improved strength

    Barbell rows are a great compound exercise because a lot of weight can be packed onto the bar.

    This ability to lift heavy weights combined with the low to medium range of repetitions makes it ideal for building back strength and size.

  • Improves your other lifts

    The bent over row is a great compound exercise for developing a strong back.

    The barbell row works out a variety of muscles at the same time, meaning it will carry over to your other lifts, improving them as well.

    Barbell rows have a great crossover ability to deadlifting because a lot of aspects of the barbell row are also found in the deadlift. Like hinging the hips, bending the knees, keeping the back straight, and so on.

    There’s a large variety of other excellent lifts that can help you get stronger and more bulky. These are in my opinion the 10 best compound exercises for muscle growth and strength.

  • Increased muscle mass

    It’s one of the essential compound exercises to become big and strong. A workout program should always consist mainly out of compound exercises for the best results.

    Big loads can be lifted with such exercises, which will lead to a bigger increase in muscle mass than isolation exercises will. Isolation exercises are better suited as accessory work.

  • Teaches you to hinge your hips

    In order to perform bend over rows correctly, you need to know how to and be able to hinge your hips.

    This means bending your hips (flexion) and maintaining this flexion. This is vital for every exercise or daily activity that includes bending over in order to safely and correctly perform the movement without placing unnecessary stress on the joints. This reduces the chance for injuries.

    Examples of exercises and activities where you need to hinge your hips are: Picking objects up from the ground or performing deadlifts.

  • Strengthens your bones

    Bone density and strength increases in people who lift weights.

    This makes resistance training and weightlifting excellent training tools for people, especially the elderly who often have age related diseases like osteoporosis in order to stabilize or even improve joint problems.

  • Boosts your testosterone levels

    bent over rows are compound exercises with free weights.

    Due to this, the body will release a lot of testosterone, which allows you to get stronger and build bigger muscles simultaneously! It will also help you to shed fat as well.

  • Losing weight

    Barbell row is a compound exercise. Exercising burns calories. Burning calories makes you lose weight. Simple yet effective.

  • Better posture

    In modern times, people frequently have bad posture due to sitting in front of a computer all day or because they are bent over from looking at their phone.

    Barbell rows can be performed in order to correct muscle imbalances. This will lead to improving your posture since it trains the upper/middle back and the posterior chain of the shoulder muscles.

    If you notice your shoulders are hunched forward from overactive chest/shoulder muscles, then you should consider adding bent over rows in your workouts.


Are barbell rows safe?

Picture of a woman performing bent over barbell rows in the gym.

Like with any exercise, it is generally considered a safe exercise as long as you lift with correct technique and your posture well aligned. So keep your back straight.

Be warned though. This is one of the harder exercises to execute with proper technique. And since large amounts of weight can be lifted with compound exercises, correct technique is necessary to prevent grave injuries.

However, this shouldn’t deter you from learning how to execute barbell rows properly.

There are some factors that can potentially increase the risk of injury. I will summarize them down below.

  • You have a weak back

    If your back is not strong enough when performing barbell rows, then you won’t be able to keep your back straight.

    Lifting with a rounded back will eventually lead to injuries. The solution to this is, ironically, to build a stronger back. Lower the weights if you notice not being able to keep your back straight, and perform regular form checks. Either through a friend with extensive lifting experience or due to filming yourself.

  • Incorrect technique

    Incorrect lifting technique often leads to injuries. Especially when lifting at home when there is nobody to spot or point out bad technique.

    In order to solve this, lift with lighter weights in the beginning in order to learn the correct technique. It’s also very useful to look up video’s of the exercise you are performing where the correct lifting technique is shown and explained.

  • Herniated disc

    Depending on the severity of your herniated disc, you can proceed to lift with light weights or just your body weight.

    Lift with caution and lighter weights if you have a herniated disc. Make sure to counsel your doctor for safety purposes.


How to barbell row with correct form

Let us explain how to barbell row with the proper technique:

  1. Stand with both of your feet at shoulder width

  2. Place both of your feet under the bar. The bar must be above your mid-feet

  3. Bend over with a straight back and grab the bar with a full palm medium grip. Make sure the palms of your hands are facing down

  4. Unlock your knees. This means slightly bending your knees

  5. Tense your abs in order to keep your back straight

  6. Pull the barbell upwards towards your lower chest

  7. Lower the bar again in a slow, controlled manner

    → Keep your back straight. You can accomplish this by tensing your abs.

    → Make sure your knees are unlocked in order to make it easier to lift the weight upwards. It’s also better for joint health and decreases the stretch being placed on the hamstrings, which could otherwise hamper your lift.

    → Lift in a slow, controlled manner in order to make sure your form is on point. This way, you’re also making sure that you’re not cheating on the exercise by using too much weight or improper form. Pulling the barbell towards your chest should be done faster than lowering the bar.

    → Incorrect form will often lead to lower back pain. Make sure to do a form check or lift with lighter weights if you have lower back pain while or after performing bent over rows.


Barbell rows alternatives

  • Single arm dumbbell row

    Image of a man performing one arm dumbbell rows.

    The advantage of a single arm dumbbell row compared to barbell rows is the longer range of motion.

    This allows us to keep muscle tension during a greater range of motion (ROM). A single arm dumbbell row, however, doesn’t allow the same heavy load to be lifted as with barbell rows. So it’s better suited as an assistance exercise.

  • T-Bar row

    T-Bar rows targets the lower part of the Latissimus Dorsi muscle more compared to bent over rows.

    This is because of the position of the elbows. Since they are closer to the body.


Barbell row different grips

  • Full palm grip

    Wrap your thumbs around the barbel. Fully and tightly close both hands.

    The barbell should be positioned around the middle of your hand palm.

  • Low full palm grip

    Use a full palm grip and position the bar lower down your hand palm.

    Make sure not to bend your wrist.

  • Wide grip

    Use a full palm grip around the barbell, but position your hands further apart than you do with the medium width grip.

    This wide grip will place more focus on the chest muscles and less on the triceps.

  • Close grip

    Use a full palm grip around the barbell, but position your hands closer to each other than you do with the medium width grip.

    This close grip will place more focus on the triceps muscles and less on the chest muscles.

    DON’T use the thumbless grip! It’s too dangerous since it’s a real possibility for the barbell to slip out of your hands. There’s also no added advantage from using a thumbless grip, so it’s not worth the risk.

    If you use the thumbless grip because your wrist hurts, then I would recommend switching to a different grip listed above.



Image of a magnifying glass hovering over the word “conclusion.”

Barbell rows are one of the staple exercises for back development. Especially if you want to focus on the Latissimus Dorsi muscle.

They’re one of the harder exercises to execute properly. Slight mistakes or misalignment in lifting technique will often lead to injuries over time since the weights lifted with this exercise are high and a slightly rounded back will start to hurt as the weights go up.

This means regular form checks and starting out with light weights is required in order to learn the proper technique.

However, investing time in learning the correct technique is definitely worth it since it’s one of the big mass building exercises for the back and overall body development.