Must-Do Move: Barbell Bent-Over Row

Oct 15, 2020

By Joe Wuebben
Building a big, strong, well-proportioned upper back requires more or less three types of exercises of any and all variations: pull-ups, pulldowns and rows. When it comes to the latter of the three, no variation does its job better than the classic barbell bent-over row. All types of rows (ie, cable rows, dumbbell rows, machine rows and barbell rows) are great for building thickness in the back – whereas a lat pulldown, for example, is more astute at increasing width in the lats.
This barbell version of the row truly hits the back from top to bottom. Most popular back exercises hit primarily the upper back (lats, middle traps, rhomboids, to name a few muscles). Bent-over rows, however, hit all of these as well as the lower back muscles due to the fact that the spinal erectors have to stay contracted to hold your torso in the bent-over position.
For pure mass-gaining, strength-building back exercises, pull-ups and barbell bent-over rows probably rank as numbers 1a and 1b. We could all argue about which should get the 1a distinction, but we'd all be better off just doing both on a regular basis and calling it a day.

How To Do It:

Stand holding a barbell in front of your legs with an overhand grip and your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend over at the waist until your torso is close to parallel with the floor. Begin with the bar hanging straight down toward the floor, your knees bent and your back flat. Maintaining this torso position, contract your back muscles and bend your arms (leading with the elbows) to pull the bar up to your midsection. When it touches, squeeze your shoulder blades together to achieve peak contraction, then slowly lower the bar back to the start position.

Sample Workout:

From Jim Stoppani's Down and Up Mass program (Weeks 1-4, Day 2):
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle Group
Deadlift 2 9,-11 Whole Body
Bent Over Barbell Row 2 9,-11 Back
Seated Cable Row (Close) 2 9,-11 Back
Wide-Grip Lat Pulldowns 2 9,-11 Back
Reverse-Grip Lat Pulldown 2 9,-11 Back
Straight-Arm Pulldown 2 9,-11 Back
Standing Barbell Curl 2 9,-11 Arms
Incline Dumbbell Curl 2 9,-11 Arms
High Cable Curl 2 9,-11 Arms
Prone Incline Dumbbell Curl 2 9,-11 Arms
Hammer Curl 2 9,-11 Arms
Barbell Wrist Curl 2 9,-11 Forearms
Barbell Reverse Wrist Curl 2 9,-11 Forearms
Standing Calf Raise 2 9,-11 Legs
Seated Calf Raise 2 9,-11 Legs
Cable Toe Raise 2 9,-11 Calves
To access Jim Stoppani's entire Down and Up Mass program, as well as all of his other featured workouts, become a member of

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