The bent over row is one of the most basic and effective movements in the gym that you can do. It is widely recommended by many different training programs, and that gives you a clue as to how important it can be! Let’s see some reasons why this move is great, then we will go through the technique on the bent over row for beginners!
What is it?
Firstly let’s define the movement. We are talking about the barbell bent over row, this is where you lean forward, and “row” the weight toward you. Simple.
Check out this video of Ronnie Coleman doing barbell rows, it’s awesome:
Why is the Bent Over Row for Beginners?
Let’s take a look at some of the great reasons why adding this move to your regular training early on will help you.
Strength. This move is regarded as one of the staples of basic strength training. You are able to use decent amounts of weight, which builds a very strong back.
Hypertrophy. Obviously with the strength comes hypertrophy. When this move is performed correctly, your upper back is stimulated a huge amount. Depending on the angle you choose, you can focus more on your lats, or more on your upper back. There isn’t a muscle on the back that won’t grow with the addition of this movement.
Hamstrings. Whilst we have been talking about the benefits on your back, other muscles are strengthened too. Your hamstrings are forced to help stabilize your body during the move. This can help to build strength and size in them.
The benefit doesn’t stop there. The movement helps to increase your “hip hinge” capabilities. This will carry over to your squat and deadlift.
Good Form. Very important in many strength training movements is the ability to keep the spine straight. Whatever the move you are doing, slouching, or curving the spine is never going to help. The bent over row is a great exercise for practicing getting that spine to stay in a good position for the whole set. This will increase your ability to keep your form on other exercises.
Biceps and Grip. Depending on how you hold the bar, you will be getting some great bicep stimulation, or some decent grip strength. Either way, it makes you more awesome!
How to Bent Over Row
Let’s go step by step through the movement, and talk about some common mistakes.
Hands. Place your hands on the bar slightly wider than shoulder width, get a firm grip on the bar.
Underhand or overhand? This can vary. It would probably be best to get used to the overhand grip initially. After you are comfortable with this position, then you can throw in some sessions of underhand too. It is good be able to manage both grips. Start overhand, then go to underhand.
Angles. Bend forward around 45-65 degrees. You don’t need to be at a 90 degree bend.
Abs. Squeeze your abs. Take a breath in at the start of the move, exhale when you lower the weight.
Hamstrings. Tighten your legs, make sure you are well grounded, and get ready to start the move.
Back. With your back arched and nice and tight, you are going to bring the bar to your mid stomach (think bellybutton). At the top of the move, make sure you are squeezing your shoulder blades together.
Descent. Slowly lower the bar in a controlled manner. Do not let your back position change, the descent will also stimulate huge amounts of muscle.
Pointers to Improve the Move
Chest. During the move make sure your chest is up. This is a way of helping you keep your back in the right position. When the weight gets heavy and you start to get tired, just think “chest up” to make sure your form stays good.
Knee Bend. During the rep, you can have a little bend in the knees. Do not “jump” the weight up. The bend in your knee is minor, it is not for throwing the weight up.
Elbows. At the top of the move it can be tempted to bring your elbows as far back as is possible. This isn’t required, and can be risky for your shoulders. At the top of the move, focus instead on squeezing your back, your scapula should be retracted, and your shoulder blades squeezed together. Your elbows can be just past your body for you to engage your back properly.
That is the whole movement. Now, let’s look at variations of the move, and how to implement it.
Variations to Try
This move can be done with some small changes that can highlight different parts of your body, or help you out with other lifts. Let’s look.
- Yates Rows. These are performed with a much slighter bend in the hips. This is at most a 45 degree bend. These should be used with a huge focus on the squeeze at the top of the movement.
- Pendlay Rows. These include a deadlift from the floor to the rowing position. This can help you with any deadlift weaknesses you may have.
- 90 degree bend. These can be done with your torso parallel to the floor. This will be done with much less weight and a very strict form. If done properly you can get great stimulation in your whole back.
So now you know how to bent over row properly, be sure to add it to your training. Back training is extremely important for a great physique, and for general strength. Add it to the routine that you are currently doing, and you will start seeing the benefits very quickly.