Welcome to Bro Basics, a series that covers exercises that are popular and can be helpful, but are often performed improperly and purely for aesthetics and shows the broader function of exercises and how to perform them correctly.
In our latest edition of Bro Basics, we covered a popular back exercise performed with a machine: the lat pulldown. Today we’re tackling another popular back exercise – this one done with free weights: the row.
To find out how to perform the line, I turned to Dumbbell Logic strength coach, Nick Soleyn. Below, we’ll cover his advice on why and how to incorporate the row into your workouts.
Which muscles are solicited by the rank?
There are different variations of the row, and each targets different muscle groups a little differently. But each type of row works the same core muscles.
Similar to the lat pulldown, the primary muscle engaged by the row is the latissimus dorsi. It’s the wide, flat muscle that runs down the back of your torso and goes under your arms. Your lats stabilize your shoulders, help with posture, allow you to swim and climb, and even help with breathing.
Rowing also works the rhomboids, a muscle group responsible for maintaining good posture. Another back muscle group that the row strengthens is your spinal erectors, which run down your spine. You use your spinal erectors to maintain a strong torso while performing the squat and deadlift and to stand up straight during your day-to-day life. Strong spinal erectors = less back pain issues.
Rowing also indirectly works the muscles in your biceps, shoulders, and forearms.
Why make rows?
Strengthens a common human movement. You make row moves in your daily life. Pulling the lawnmower starter cord, lifting heavy objects off the ground, opening heavy doors and raking leaves are everyday tasks that can be endured by the row.
Contributes directly to the main dumbbell lifts. If you’re serious about your barbell lifts, you need to do rows. Building a strong, wide back gives you more “shelf” for the bar when you squat. A stronger back can help you create a more prominent arch when benching and have more stability when pressing the weight overhead.
Obviously, rows will help your deadlift. At some point, the deadlift isn’t enough to keep building your back. Rows can be done with relatively heavy weights while targeting the back more directly than the deadlift. The row also helps improve grip strength, which is vital for the deadlift.
Great alternative to pull-ups and lat pulldowns. Most strength training programs include pull-ups because they work a wide range of back and upper body muscles. But to reap the benefits of pull-ups, you need to be able to do at least five in a set. You’re not going to get stronger by just doing a smelly sweater.
When an athlete cannot perform multiple reps of pull-ups, a trainer often schedules side pull-ups because they work the same muscles as pull-ups. But many people don’t have access to a lat pull machine. What to do ?
You make rows. That’s what you should do.
You just need a bar or some dumbbells. Heck, as we’ll see, you don’t even need weights at all.
Aesthetics, well done! Want the ladies to swoon and the guys to respect you? Next, you want a V-shaped torso: big chest, shoulder, and back muscles that taper to a narrower waist. The row is a fantastic lift that can increase the size of your back (and even your shoulders), helping you develop that masculine V-shape.
How to do the line: line variations
The basic movement of the row is a pull up to your chest with good posture and a strong, stable core. The movement can be performed with a barbell, dumbbells or body weight. Below we highlight the most common varieties of rows for strength and sports.
Basic Dumbbell Rower
To perform the basic dumbbell rowposition yourself so that the bar is about an inch or two in front of the middle of your foot.
Bend over and grab the bar with a slightly wider grip than you would use for the deadlift.
Extend or straighten your back. Then, use your arms to pull the bar towards your upper abs. If you can’t hit your upper abs, the weight is too heavy.
Keeping your back straight, lower the barbell to the floor. He is a representative. Repeat keeping your back extended.
The Pendlay Row
Named after the late weightlifting trainer Glenn Pendlay, the Pendlay row differs from the basic barbell row in this way: while the latter has you extending your back before you start the elevator, the first you extend it while you perform the lift. It’s a small difference, but putting your back on as you pull up on the bar makes for a more explosive lift. Therefore, you will be able to pull more weight with the Pendlay row than with the basic dumbbell row. (The basic dumbbell row has its own advantage in that it targets the lats more than the Pendlay.)
To perform the Pendlay rowset up as in the basic barbell row, where the bar is about an inch or two in front of your mid-foot, and you grip it with a slightly wider grip than you would use on the deadlift .
Your back should be flexed, or rounded, before you begin the lift.
Extend or straighten your back to begin the lift. The back extension raises the bar upwards, creating momentum. As you extend your back, use your arms to explosively pull the bar toward your upper abs.
Lower the bar to the floor. He is a representative.
This is my favorite variation of the row. Its explosiveness makes it very satisfying to do.
Bodybuilder Barbell Row
If you’ve seen brothers doing barbell rows at the gym, you’ve probably seen them doing bodybuilder rows.
To get into the starting position of the bodybuilder row, lift a barbell or set of dumbbells until the weight(s) reach just below your knees. You can let the bar trail in front of you a few inches. Maintain a flat back. You should be leaning about 45 degrees from the hip.
Pull the bar towards your lower abs.
Lower the bar to just below your knee.
Maintaining the hanging position and pulling the bar towards the lower abs will work your lats more than the Pendlay and the basic dumbbell row. Because the movement does not start and end on the floor like it does on these other variations, however, you will need to lower the weight onto the bar when doing bodybuilder rows.
Basic One Arm Dumbbell Rower
When doing a one-arm dumbbell row, you need to call on more core stability as you resist the twisting pull of the weight. So not only are you working your lats, but you’re also working your core. After the Pendlay row, this is my next favorite row variation. You can get a nice “pump” with the one-arm dumbbell row.
Ideally, you will have a bench for this lift. If you’re holding the dumbbell in your right hand, place your left knee on the bench. Lean forward and brace yourself on the bench with your left hand. The right foot is placed firmly on the floor with the right leg straight. Let your right arm holding the dumbbell hang straight down. Hold the dumbbell in a neutral grip. This is the starting position.
To perform the one-arm dumbbell row, pull the bell as high as possible without twisting it towards the ceiling. Maintain an extended back throughout the lift. Lower the dumbbell in a steady and controlled manner. It should feel like pulling the starter cord of a lawn mower.
After completing the reps with your right arm, switch to your left arm.
Inverted body weight line
The inverted row is a great way to build pull-up strength if you can’t do many (none) pull-ups yet. It’s adjustable to any level, and if you don’t have access to a gym/lift rack, many public fitness ‘parks’ have a bar that can be used for this exercise.
To install in a lifting rack: Place a bar on the safeties where you can grab it while lying on your back with your arms fully extended. Lie down with your shoulders directly under the bar, legs straight, heels on the ground. Pull your collarbone or sternum toward the bar. Pause at the top for some extra work and slowly come back down.
To make it easier for you: put your feet flat on the floor and bend your knees. This allows you to use your legs to help you.
To make them harder: elevate your feet on a bench, stool, or box.
The Pendlay Row and Basic Dumbbell Row act as additional elevators to the deadlift. You can do rows immediately after the deadlift or even replace them with the deadlift on some days. The coaches at Dumbbell Logic like to schedule heavy rows on lower body days, alternating deadlift days with row days. They prescribe an initial regimen of rows of 3 sets of 8. Over time, as you get better at the lift, add weight and reduce reps until you perform 3 heavy sets of 5 repetitions each.
Other line versions should be used like accessory lifts where your program benefits from an extra back workout. Weight rows, barbell rows, and other accessory rows tend to fit well at the end of your upper body days, either on their own or as part of a circuit. Typically, you’ll perform these rows for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps. Strict form and higher reps will accentuate the back-strengthening effects of these incidental movements.
I’ve been doing single arm rows as part of a circuit lately after my upper body workouts (press and shoulder press). I did 10-12 reps for each set.
Read the rest of the episodes of the Bro Basics series: