3 Tricks to Get More Out of the Barbell Row

Hey there, Coach Chris of Team Critical Bench.

I want to go over…..

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I have chatted about the rowing exercise before  but I haven’t really taken the time to go over the different variations of the barbell row: closer grip, wider grip, pulling it into the belly button, or pulling it up closer to the chest.

Obviously, the lower you are pulling the bar the better we are at targeting the lower portion of the lats to the insertion point. This puts a lot of effect on our erectors while still activating our rhomboids. When we pull the bar closer to our chest area, we are targeting our mid upper back and traps.

And then you start to throw hand variations in: pronated, supinated, in-close, and out-wide. I will just go over a few of them.

#1 – Pronated Grip (Palms Down)

I will start with the typical or the most traditional row, the pronated grip pulling to the belly button.

Get your ring finger on the band of the bar, like a traditional bench press grip. Pick it up safely. Bend over so that your body is at about 45 degree angle and you are just super tight through your legs, through your gluteus maximus, through your low back and down loads, really bracing that’s why this becomes a great exercise just like a full body movement. Head is neutral. Doing this wrong often times leads to back pain.

Pronated Grip Pulling it in the Belly Button

Pronated Grip Pulling the Barbell in the Belly Button

In this position I would do 5 repetitions.

At the gym when you see this performed or when you have done this yourself, you’ve probably seen this as the most common bent over row.

#2 – Supinated (Palms Up)

What difference does this make?

What it does is it draws my elbows closer to my body. I would say it actually gives you an advantage, you feel a little bit stronger plus fundamentally here you are bringing the biceps more into the equation once you have supinated the hands. With the biceps more involved and those elbows are tighter to the body, you have more power and more strength.

Plus it is an excellent exercise if you have or are recovering from shoulder pain.

Maybe, this is the best grip to begin with if you have never done this exercise.

You can grip the bar a little bit closer as well or stay out wide. I will bring my grip a few inches away.

Supinated Grip Pulling it in the Belly Button

Supinated Open Handed Grip Pulling the Barbell in the Belly Button

I do notice maybe about 10 to 20% difference in my ability with this grip. It feels 10 to 20% easier than doing a pronated grip.

Typically what I do is a pronated grip because it is more demanding on your body, your grip strength, your forearms, your back, because it decreases the emphasis of the biceps from the exercise.

#3 – Pronated Grip Pulling Higher Towards the Chest

Now, what else can we do about this?

We can continue to hold the bar about the same position but pull the bar higher up on the body. We are now extending.

Remember your body is a lever and your hips are the start of the lever. The further you get away from the hips, the harder the exercise becomes.

As I pull the bar up higher on my body, it is going to become a harder exercise especially when I am pronated. When I am supinated, it almost has an awkward feeling when you start to pull it up really high. Pronated, this is not the case, but it is definitely harder. Try 5 reps out and see how it feels for you.

I am still going to grip the bar about the same width. Now we are going to pull higher towards the chest.

Pronated Grip Pulling Higher towards the Chest

Pronated Grip Pulling Higher towards the Chest

This is significantly harder, just like I had 25 to 50 lbs on the bar to do the same movement.

Hitting it up really high on your abdominal wall, just below the chest area, it almost feels natural but it forces your elbow out wider so now you are hitting more of your upper back, your deltoids, your rhomboids. With a lower back position, it does not hit these muscles as much.

Give that one a try. It is definitely worth doing, you just probably have to reduce the weight a little bit initially and you can probably build up from there.

Bend over row is one of the best ways to add real power, real strength, and mass to your back.

Keep doing your deadlifts and continue to do your pull ups but I would put this easily in the mix of those two. These three exercises: deadlifts, bend over rows, and pull ups, if I pick 3 back exercises, that would be the three.

Okay, that is it for today.

Again this is an exercise that I pull from the 14-Day Muscle Mass. It is an awesome product. Check it out here.

Coach Chris of Team Critical Bench.