Exercise Profile
  • Target Muscle Group
  • Exercise TypeStrength
  • Equipment RequiredBarbell
  • MechanicsCompound
  • Force TypePull (Bilateral)
  • Experience LevelBeginner
  • Secondary Muscles
    Abs, Biceps, Lats, Lower Back, Shoulders
Target Muscle Group

Upper Back

Upper Back Muscle Anatomy Diagram

Bent Over Row Overview

The bent over row is a back day staple exercise and is considered one of the best muscle building back building exercises you can do.

Sometimes referred to as the barbell row, the bent over row is a staple movement in most muscle building workouts. Those looking to build muscle utilize the bent over row to target their back, bicep and core muscle. Those in powerlifting and strength circles perform bent over rows to increase their strength on the big 3 movements.

The bent over row is typically used to build and strengthen the muscles of the upper back (latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius). However, it requires assistance from muscles of the low back, core, and arms to perform a bent over row correctly.

There are several variations of the bent over row one can and should perform.

Bent over row variations include:

The back is a tricky muscle group to build and strengthen. Sometimes it can help to vary the degree in which you perform the bent over row and well as the hand placement on the bar. Regardless, the bent over row is a great exercise to include in your back workout.

Bent Over Row Instructions

  1. Assume a standing position while holding the bar using a double overhand grip.
  2. Hinge forward until your torso is roughly parallel with the floor (or slightly above) and then begin the movement by driving the elbows behind the body while retracting the shoulder blades.
  3. Pull the bar towards your belly button until it touches your body and then slowly lower the bar back to the starting position under control.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Bent Over Row Tips

  1. Experiment with head position and see which option (looking forward vs. packing the neck) works better for you.
  2. Keep some tone through your abdominals as you pull the bar into your body to ensure you don’t arch excessively through your spine.
  3. Don’t allow momentum to dictate the movement, control the bar throughout the entirety of each rep.
  4. Don’t allow the head to jut forward as you pull.
  5. Similarly, ensure the shoulder blade moves on the rib cage. Don’t lock the shoulder blade down and just move through the glenohumeral joint.
Posted on: Fri, 09/29/2023 - 10:05

Can this exercise be substituted for Low Rows? Ask because this exercise hurts my wrists.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 10/18/2023 - 11:03

It can, or you can try using lifting straps to support your grip so it is less of a toll on the wrists.

william van scyoc
Posted on: Wed, 07/14/2021 - 13:22

I never see anyone mention that these need to get heavy fast for real results. Of course form needs to stay intact but get them heavy to get thick and back off if not touching at top of movement...that's when too heavy. Explode bar up and slowly lower it.

Posted on: Mon, 01/11/2021 - 16:12

When doing this exercise i feel it way more in my lower back than in my upper back/ shoulders. Any tips or is this normal?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 01/12/2021 - 10:55

Hey Seamus - this a form/strength issue. You need to really brace your core to support your lower back during this exercise. You may also be using a weight that is too heavy. Start light and really focus on your mind-muscle connection with your lats.

Posted on: Mon, 06/19/2017 - 04:17

Hello again everyone,

Do we need to keep our shoulder blades retracted during the WHOLE exercise after initiating the movement or do we relax them each time we start another repetition?

Thank you.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 06/19/2017 - 09:21

Hi Benjamin,

Begin each rep by retracting the shoulder blades.

Hope this helps!

Posted on: Wed, 01/11/2017 - 10:43

This excerise seems terrible for the lower back.

Posted on: Fri, 02/17/2017 - 11:58

Like so many strength exercises, it's really not - when done properly! This is why it's important to keep your back straight the entire time - if you allow it to bend either forward or backwards, it could lead to over-strain or injury. But much like dead-lifts, a properly performed bent-over row will do a lot to strengthen your spinal muscles!

Posted on: Fri, 01/01/2016 - 21:53

If i dont have a barbell for a lot of the exercises like the bent over row can i use 2 dumbells?

Posted on: Tue, 08/23/2016 - 15:57

For sure! simular idea with this exercise. Google bent over dumbell row, lots of videos and articals on it.

Posted on: Sun, 11/22/2015 - 19:04

How much of a bend in your back affect the exercises? whats ideal

Posted on: Mon, 04/03/2017 - 13:30

Bend forward until there is just enough room for the bar to clear your knees for a full-range workout. You should have a slight bend at the knees, and your butt should be sticking out a bit like you're about to sit down, and keep the back as straight up on the bend angle as possible (Don't arch the back down). Don't use too much weight to where your form gets bad or if you can't hold it at the top briefly. I usually do a grip with my palms facing away, it's an awesome upper back and tricept workout!

Posted on: Thu, 08/29/2019 - 17:37

The more you bend, the more you shift the focus from the upper back to the lats.

Posted on: Thu, 07/30/2015 - 03:32

very good

Posted on: Mon, 07/27/2015 - 21:46

Can I use t-bar instead?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 07/28/2015 - 10:26

The T-bar is a solid choice as well but just keep in mind that different exercises aren't exactly the same, so telling someone they could switch the mechanism of movement entirely would be false on my part.

Stig Johnny Hansen
Posted on: Tue, 02/10/2015 - 10:57

when i'm doing this exercise, when i pul the bar up, should i keep my elbows pointing out of/from my body or having them close to my body when i pul it up?

Posted on: Thu, 11/20/2014 - 15:53

Do not flare out your elbows. Doing so puts emphasis on the rear delts.

Posted on: Sat, 11/08/2014 - 04:58

Hi Steve!

Is there any alternative for bent over row?

stig johnny hansen
Posted on: Mon, 02/20/2017 - 10:57

One Arm Dumbell Row

Posted on: Mon, 07/07/2014 - 10:07

i was wondering is there any other alternative exercise i can do instead of bent over barbell ?

Posted on: Wed, 07/02/2014 - 05:44

Everyone needs to stop rating exercises. No exercises are bad, but it is your form that is.

Zoe McMurtrie
Posted on: Wed, 06/25/2014 - 00:40

This guy is pulling the bar towards his stomach. Is this correct?

Posted on: Tue, 10/22/2013 - 17:35

No free weight barbells at my gym sadly, what is a good replacement I could do with dumbbells possibly?

Posted on: Tue, 10/22/2013 - 17:35

No free weight barbells at my gym sadly, what is a good replacement I could do with dumbbells possibly?

Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 05:01

Its better to stand with bar, then bend over (back straight) untill just above knee then pull bar up along thighs (not resting on thighs though)

Posted on: Wed, 06/19/2013 - 15:49

Would doing this with a supinated grip work different muscle groups?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 06/19/2013 - 17:37

There is a tendency to use biceps/shoulders when you approach this with and underhand grip. Just make sure you're focusing on your back, as you don't want arms to be doing the lifting in this movement.

Posted on: Fri, 05/10/2013 - 09:56

I do these on my dead lift day, up to 200 pounds now with no problems with my back, none!!, think of the opposite of a bench press, also I can now dumb bell row with 105 pounds 2 sets of 8, I'm 6 foot, I weigh 195, remember to keep your form and use control, very good exercise

Posted on: Thu, 12/19/2013 - 14:04

thanks for tip i am same stature so any time some sayssome tihng it help

rahul sen
Posted on: Thu, 04/18/2013 - 07:41

very good workout for back

Max Jabbour
Posted on: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 13:51

Guys, ignore thid stupid exercise. It's unnecessarily difficult and puts too much stress on your lower back and legs.
Do seated rows instead. They're easier to youse, you can do them safely no matter what, and they target the muscles better. Arnold did ROWS not this piece of crap exercise.

David B
Posted on: Fri, 04/26/2013 - 11:26

Arnold actually is shown doing some intense T Bar rows (called close grip standing rows on M&S) in "Pumping Iron".

Posted on: Sun, 04/28/2013 - 22:43

he did both pull rows and this apparently crap excercise ? this is effective dude

Posted on: Thu, 04/04/2013 - 18:51

Use a smith machine for easy control of movement and precise lift!!

Posted on: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 16:37

This seems hella dangerous if not done correctly

Posted on: Sun, 01/27/2013 - 09:27

Is there an alternative to this exercise. I dont want to encounter any injury.

Posted on: Sat, 10/27/2012 - 14:45

It seems he is not bringing up the bar bellow the chest, but to his stomach!!

Posted on: Wed, 09/19/2012 - 14:16

Pendaly? (not sure if thats the correct spelling) Rows are far more superior option

Posted on: Sun, 09/16/2012 - 16:39

Is there alternative to this?

Posted on: Sun, 09/09/2012 - 10:42

His back's not straight?!

Posted on: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 14:10

What angle should my back be to the ground? 45Degree? or more/less parallel with the ground?

Posted on: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 06:22

can a T-bar machine be used? will that help to keep my back straight?

Posted on: Tue, 04/03/2012 - 17:03

He's jerking the weight up at the top of the motion. Good way to get injured.

Posted on: Tue, 04/03/2012 - 05:15

I do wear one for all back workouts

andrew cotton
Posted on: Fri, 03/23/2012 - 22:36

do you wear a back brace ?