Bent Over Barbell Row Exercise Guide

The Bent Over Barbell Row is a compound exercise that primarily targets the muscles of the back, notably the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius. By hinging at the hips and holding a barbell with a pronated grip, the lifter pulls the weight towards the lower ribcage, ensuring the shoulder blades are drawn together at the peak of the movement. This exercise not only bolsters back strength and thickness but also reinforces a strong, stable posture. Variations can be explored by adjusting the grip width or using an underhand grip. It's essential to keep the back straight and avoid rounding the shoulders or using excessive body momentum, as this can compromise the targeted muscle activation and raise the risk of injury.

Target Muscle Group
Upper Back
Exercise Type
Strength, High-Intensity, Balance and Stability
Equipment Required
Force Type
Hinge, Pull
Experience Level
Secondary Muscles
Rhomboids, Traps, Latissimus Dorsi, Lats

Step by Step Guide

Setting Up the Barbell

Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart, close to the barbell. Hinge forward from your hips, maintaining a slight bend in your knees. Grip the barbell with an overhand grip (palms facing you), slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your back should be straight, almost parallel to the floor, and your neck should be neutral.

Rowing the Barbell

With a firm grip on the barbell and keeping your core engaged, pull the barbell towards your lower ribcage. Ensure you're squeezing your shoulder blades together at the peak of the movement, and your elbows are driving backward, staying close to your body. It's crucial to avoid using momentum or excessive movement from the lower back.

Returning to the Start

Control the weight as you lower the barbell back to the starting position, ensuring your movements are slow and deliberate. Your arms should fully extend, and your shoulder blades should spread apart slightly. Reset your posture if necessary, then repeat for the desired number of repetitions. Ensure your back remains straight and avoid rounding your shoulders throughout the exercise to maintain form and prevent injury.

Here are a Few Tips to Keep in Mind When Performing this Exercise.

  • Maintain a Neutral Spine: It's vital to keep a straight back throughout the exercise to protect your spine. Avoid rounding your shoulders or lower back, as this can lead to strain or injury. Think of creating a straight line from the top of your head to your tailbone. This position not only ensures safety but also maximizes muscle engagement in the upper back and lats.
  • Engage Your Core: A strong core will provide stability, allowing you to maintain the correct bent-over position. Before lifting the barbell, take a deep breath and brace your core, as if preparing for a punch to the stomach. This engagement will protect your lower back and provide a solid base for the rowing motion.
  • Avoid Using Momentum: To ensure the back muscles are working effectively, avoid the temptation to use momentum by jerking the weight up or swinging the body. Each repetition should be controlled and deliberate. Focus on using the strength of your back muscles to lift the barbell, and control its descent to engage the muscles optimally and prevent potential injury.

Exercise Benefits

  • Enhanced Upper Back Strength: The bent-over barbell row primarily targets the muscles in the upper back, including the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius. Regularly incorporating this exercise into your routine can help improve the strength and endurance of these muscles.
  • Improved Posture: The exercise engages the postural muscles, which, when strengthened, can aid in maintaining a straight and upright posture. This is especially beneficial for individuals who spend long hours seated, as it can counteract the tendency to hunch or slouch.
  • Comprehensive Core Engagement: While the primary focus is the upper back, the bent-over position of this exercise necessitates the activation of core muscles for stability. This means that, in addition to working your back, you're also giving your core a solid workout, thereby improving core strength and stability.
  • Enhanced Arm and Shoulder Development: The bent-over row also engages the biceps and rear deltoids. Over time, this can lead to better muscle definition in the arms and shoulders.
  • Decreased Injury Risk: By strengthening the back and core muscles, this exercise can help reduce the risk of injuries related to muscle imbalances or poor posture. A strong back is essential for protecting the spine and preventing back pain, especially if you're involved in activities that involve lifting or carrying.