How To Perform An Underhand Barbell Row

How To Perform An Underhand Barbell Row


January 22, 2022

The bent-over row is a must for any fitness enthusiast looking to build strength and gain muscle mass.

The move is primarily performed with a barbell and has a few different variations. These variations involve different body positions and hand grips. The goal is to target multiple muscle groups from different angles to produce diverse results.

One of the most popular variations is the underhand barbell row.

How do you perform this exercise? What are the benefits and potential dangers?

These and more will be the focus of this article. Read on and get all the answers you seek!

What is Underhand Barbell Row?

What is Underhand Barbell Row?

As mentioned earlier, the underhand barbell row is a variation of the bent-over barbell row. Other variations of the bent-over row include:

  • The T-bar row
  • The Yates row
  • The Pendlay row

But our focus will be on the underhand barbell row.

This exercise was created with one main purpose: to focus on the lats, lower back, and traps. This is because the underhand grip obstructs a flaring of the elbow.

And because your elbow is forced to stay very close to your sides as you perform the move, the row works the lat and other muscles harder.

This amazing movement performed with a barbell focuses on good stabilization. In addition, it also works the hamstrings and glutes, rear deltoids, and core muscles.

Benefits of Underhand Barbell Row

How To Perform An Underhand Barbell Row

Like most other weight training, the underhand barbell row has some incredible benefits. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the advantages you can get from doing the exercise regularly:

  • Posture: It targets and strengthens your lower-back muscles and at the same time straightens your overall posture.
  • Strength: The move builds your overall strength so you can lift heavier weights.
  • Reduces back pain: Performing this exercise can effectively deal with back pains. This is because it helps you develop a strong back. Of course, having a strong back reduces the chances of developing back pains.
  • Simplicity: Even though this is a very powerful workout, there are no sophisticated training machines or pieces of equipment involved here. The movement is a very simple exercise and requires only a barbell and some weights.
  • Fat burn: Doing this exercise regularly can help you burn excess fat. That is because it is a compound movement that involves several muscles at the same time.
  • Hypertrophy: This move can help you develop a thicker and stronger back in addition to increasing your muscles mass. These are the natural results of consistently lifting heavier weights in a bent-over position.
  • Improves lower back stability: Performing this variation of the bent-over exercise can help stabilize your muscles and strengthen your lower back. This gives you the ability to do other exercises such as chest presses, deadlifts, and squats.
  • Aesthetic: Like other compound exercises, this movement can produce an overall impressive body with well-defined muscles. Its aesthetic value doesn’t end at your upper body. It also sculpts your lower body, including the glutes and legs.

How to Perform Underhand Barbell Row Properly

How To Perform An Underhand Barbell Row

To perform this move properly, you need to maintain proper form. This will help you avoid injury and get the most out of the exercise.

Follow these steps to nail your underhand barbell row workouts.

  • Hold your barbell using a shoulder-width underhand grip. 
  • Maintain a slight bend in your knees as you bend forward at the waist so your torso is parallel with the floor.
  • Extend your shoulders at the bottom of the move. Keep in mind that this should not be at the cost of having a round back. Protracting your shoulder is to stretch the back muscles so it gets recruited.
  • Using your belly button as a reference point, pull up the barbell to your mid-section. Do this without swaying upward. You want to avoid generating momentum as much as possible.
  • Lower the barbell to the starting position and repeat.

Here are a few useful tips for beginners:

  1. It might be helpful to hold briefly at the top of the movement before lowering the bar.
  2. Holding the barbell very tight against your body at the top position is a good idea. This will help you understand the feeling of the movement. However, doing so can also tire out your forearms and biceps. And this can reduce your performance.

Dangers of Improper Form

Dangers of Improper Form

Like many other weight training moves, it is easy to make mistakes when performing the underhand barbell row.

Some of the common mistakes bothering around improper form include:

  • Squatting down too far, making it harder to maintain your body position throughout the move because your hips are too low.
  • Locking out your knees, resulting in too much stress on your lower back.
  • Rounding your lower back instead of keeping it in a neutral position.
  • Forcing your biceps to take on the load by curling the weight.
  • Turning the bent-over barbell row into a deadlift or a clean by standing up as you pull.

Best Time to Perform the Underhand Barbell Row

Best Time to Perform the Underhand Barbell Row

While this movement can offer plenty of benefits, you might not get the most out of the workout if you use it at the wrong time.

The best time to perform this exercise is early in a workout. This is especially the case for beginners.

You are less likely to do this move effectively if you are already tired from other exercises before performing this variation of the bent-over row.

But that’s not all.

It might not be safe to do this exercise when you are already tired. The move requires plenty of stability from your core and lower back if you must do it well.

And as you probably already guessed, your chances of injury go up when you are already fatigued before lifting weight

Of course, all of these might not be too much of a concern if you are already experienced.

Tips to Perform the Underhand Barbell Row

Tips to Perform the Underhand Barbell Row

You want to avoid all of these common mistakes of improper form, as they can lead to injury. Keep the following in mind when performing this row variation performed with a barbell:

Don’t lock out your legs or keep them straight during this exercise. Instead, your knees should be slightly bent.

This allows your hips to push back and create a strong base to keep you in position. It will also help you lift more weight. 

When you do this movement with your legs straight, you increase your chances of bending forward and this can lead to a lower back injury.

It’s not difficult to see why this is so: you are putting too much load on your lower back! 

Plus, you will limit yourself from lifting enough weight.

Another possible danger of improper form is that at some point, your muscle strength on the lower back can become problematic.

This happens mostly when you have done exercises like deadlifts or squats before this bent-over row move.

When doing the underhand barbell row, make sure to keep your spine in a natural position.

Overarching or rounding your back compresses your spinal disc. On the other hand, failing to hold a slight arch is also not safe. Both improper forms can cause back pain.

The spinal erectors are a set of muscles that run the whole length of your spine.

These muscles are what keep your spine in its position.

Spinal erectors can get fatigued quicker than other back muscles, especially when you have previously done some other exercises. 

For this reason, it is best to cut your set short if you start to feel pain in your back. Ignoring the discomfort could make you start to round your spine, and this can result in injury.

  • Don’t try jerking up very heavy weights all of a sudden. This might cause a loss of balance. A steady slow movement will be more beneficial.
  • Lastly, avoid standing up when pulling up the weight. This is a common mistake, especially when the weight is too heavy.

Standing almost upright is an attempt to generate momentum with your hips. This will limit your range of motion and cancel out the main benefits of doing this exercise.


Learning how to perform an underhand barbell row is not too difficult once you know what to do. Thankfully, you’ve read this quick guide and should have a fair idea of how to go about it.

Instead of focusing on lifting heavier weights, it is best to learn the mechanics and improve your form first.

Performing this compound exercise with improper form can be hazardous, and that’s not what you want.

Get your form right first, so you can get the most out of this amazing workout!



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.