Barbell rows help with your back, your biceps, and most importantly, building better posture. But how do you properly do one?
Perform a barbell row incorrectly, and you can injure your back for a long time—it’s important to know just what you’re doing right from the start.
This walkthrough guide will help you perform your barbell properly and effectively, so you won’t have to worry about those injuries springing up.
Just remember that form is infinitely more important than the results because until your form is down, you won’t build muscle the right way and you risk those injuries.
Let’s get on the good foot with proper posture, and you’ll be shredding your way to a better, bulkier back in no time at all.
Why is a Barbell Row Important?
Barbell rows are actually one of the most important things that you can do for your back.
It may not seem like it now, but the dynamic way that barbell rows integrate different muscle groups into a single workout can seriously help your posture, spinal alignment, and muscle stabilization while taking pressure off of your sensitive joints.
These are all the reasons why barbell rows are fantastic for you:
Better Posture: You may see a phrase like “Keep your neck and spine neutral” often in our tutorials, in YouTube videos, or online articles referencing proper form when exercising. This is because one of the worst ways you can get hurt is in your spine or lower back, which can cause lifelong posture problems. Good posture is good for your entire body and great for alleviating pressure from joints. Barbell rows work out your traps, your glutes, and other muscle groups that aid in balance, posture, and muscle stabilization.
Learning Control: Perhaps one of the most difficult parts about exercising is learning how to control your muscles. Yes, you know how to use them, but having control over the weights you’re holding, having control over the way they react, is an entirely different story.
Endurance: Your endurance refers to how much energy you’re able to output when you exercise, and what the return will be. Think of endurance as a hidden level of your muscle’s efficiency. Better efficiency, or a higher level, means you use less energy to perform tasks. You’ve trained the muscles, so they help by not depleting your energy as quickly. You want a higher endurance level, and the way that barbell rows demand more from you will surely help you build up endurance.
Dangers of Improper Form
Improper form is something you’re going to hear a lot from not only our guides and tutorials but also from medical journals and any serious website or article that talks about exercise.
If your form is off, you do not only risk slight muscle tears, but you open up the possibility of having lifelong injuries that could prevent you from exercising in the future.
Upper and Lower Back Pain: Needless to say, this isn’t something that you want. Excessive pressure in improper positions can lead to muscles developing in the wrong way, or cartilage damage to your spinal column, and that’s not exactly something you just take some Advil for and lay down. It can be serious.
Tearing Your Trap Muscles: Your trap muscles control your ability to turn your head left and right, and play a major role in how you lift in the first place. These two muscles border the spine and extend from it, and are prone to damage from improper form. This can lead to neck pain, muscle tearing, permanent muscle damage, and headaches if you aren’t careful.
Craned Neck: Your neck muscles develop the wrong way, and you end up with a hunch at the top of your neck. It’s not helpful to your posture, and it’s certainly an eyesore that none of us want to get out of intense exercise.
Rounded Shoulders: Regardless of whether you’re a male or female reading this, we all want bigger shoulders, not rounder shoulders. This improves our posture and stature, shows confidence, promotes positive body language, and damn if they don’t look amazing at the same time. Now, this is something that happens more from just having bad posture in general, but if you can’t even use the right form in the gym, we hardly think you’re using it outside of the gym.
Delayed Muscle Strength: You’re working out all of these muscles, but they’re not growing. Or at least you think you were working out all of those muscles. You’re more likely to evade working out if you aren’t getting the results that you want out of it, which is just another reason that posture is important for the long game.
How to Perform a Barbell Row Properly
Now it’s time to actually learn how to perform a barbell row. Proper posture, safety, and of course maximum gains are all being taken into account.
All you have to do is follow the instructions, and put in the hard work.
#1 Grip the Barbell
Quite simple, lean down and hold your arms out about three to six inches further than your shoulders are set.
We don’t want to set them too far apart, otherwise, the strain comes down at an incorrect angle on your shoulders, and your arms can’t properly bear the weight.
#2 Set Your Back Properly
Your back should be straight, meaning your knees and hip should be bent (that’s the job, anyway). Align your neck so it’s as straight as possible with your shoulders; you don’t want it to be hunched over.
Proper form is great for preventing injuries, but it’s also critical to actually get the results that you want out of this.
#3 Squeeze the Core
Engage your core. Squeeze your abdominal muscles as you begin mentally bracing for the raising of the bar. Inhale deeply (not sharply) and hold that breath deep in your lungs. The oxygen influx will help steady your muscles for your row.
#4 Begin the Row
Pull the bar upward, keeping that neck and back neutral and aligned. Pull your elbows back as you feel your shoulders engage, and pull the bar up to your belly button area. Hold it for a few seconds, and then continue to the next step.
#5 Cautiously Set the Bar Down
You’re going to set the bar down only after flexing your back. You want to engage as many muscles in your back as possible, but just don’t squeeze too tight. After you feel that engagement and release it, begin to lower the bar down.
Be cautious, and understand that setting it down requires its own level of muscle control, so you’re basically working out to both raise and lower it.
#6 Assess and Repeat
Did you properly raise and lower the bar? Assess how you feel after one barbell row, and if your form was what it should be.
Begin small, and if you’re focusing but can’t hit that perfect posture, that’s okay—you’ll have time to try again later. For now, just focus on getting your posture right and you will improve those muscles over time. Don’t give up.
Other Row Variants to Know About
Barbell rows don’t have to be so cut-and-dry. You can use other types of rows to achieve excellent results, and in some cases, you’ll find some exercises that work out even better for you and your unique exercise style.
Underhanded Row: Simply put, you’ll follow the same steps that we outlined above, but you’ll have your hands coming from underneath instead of going over the bar. That’s where the underhand comes from. This requires considerable muscle control and will put more strain on your forearms, which is great for training them.
Pendlay Row: Follow the same steps that we’ve outlined above, but bend over to a full 90° so you’re basically looking straight at the floor. This means that you’re still bending your hips and knees, but you don’t rely on them as much for stabilization. Instead, you’re relying on your core muscles and arm muscles to help.
Corner Row: This is when you stand over one end of the barbell while it lays on the floor, and grab just beneath the weights on one end. You still want to keep your neck straight and bend at the hips and knees, but you’ll be lifting it up to your lower core with the other end remaining on the floor. This is a great way to start working with barbells and work out your back to help you down the line.
Barbell Rowing the Right Way
Five main steps, tons of power—adding barbell rows can absolutely change your entire workout game.
They’re amazing for your strength training, help build lung capacity, and show you just what you can actually do. You never know what you’re capable of until you successfully destroy your rep goal with barbell rowing.
Among these, there are other types of amazing exercises, such as battle ropes, squatting with bars, and plenty more.
Find more of our guides right here on DSW Fitness to build your knowledge of the best training practices, find the best strength training gear, and dominate your workouts.
Justin Rodriguez has spent most of his adult life inspiring people to take their fitness more seriously. He is not new to the business of providing practical solutions for those looking to set and smash their fitness goals. From sharing professional tips and tricks to recommending awesome products, Justin Rodriguez helps just about anyone who wants to get the best out of their workout routines.Having gathered a lot of experience both in and outside the gym, Justin Rodriguez uses DSW Fitness as a medium to show you exactly how to get that great-looking body with toned muscles you’ve always wanted.