The Bent-Over Barbell Row is Overrated!
If you took 15 exercisers and instructed them to go to do one set to muscular failure of bent-over rows at a weight they normally, I guarantee you that 13 of them would lose posture before they got to the end of their set.
The problem is they get to the point that they can’t lift it anymore with their arms and back, you’ll notice their torso dropping to meet the bar, their lower back will start rounding, and they will experience fatigue in their hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
Most people performing barbell bent over row are doing them like the photo above. As you increase the amount of weight, repetitions, or both they start using leg drive, dropping their torsos to meet the bar. These things I consider a compromise in technique and not effective at all.
That's not to say that bent-over barbell rows should never be done, but I feel that there are better ways of structuring this exercise in your workout routine to yield better results and lessen the risk of injury
DMP Fitness's Guidelines for Better Bent-Over Barbell Rows
- Perform bent-over barbell rows at the beginning of a workout when your core muscles are not fatigued from an entire workout.
- Instead of performing hypertrophy sets (i.e. 4-5 sets of 8-15 reps), structure your sets like a max strength workout (5-6 sets of 5 reps). Add other exercises to your back routine if hypertrophy is the goal and perform them in that traditional style
- Perform work set schemes like: deadstart, rest/pause, and cluster set bent-over barbell rows to ensure proper form on every set and lessen the fatigue on supporting muscle group (low back, glutes, hamstrings)
Better Alternative to Bent-Over Barbell Rows
There's so many other exercises that work the back just as good for better than the bent-over barbell row, I can't even count!! But here are a few:
1. Bent-over rows with cables
2. 1-arm bent-over db rows
3. chest-supported incline db row
4. Inverted horizontal row
5. TRX or strap rows
These alternatives are better in the sense that you can push harder, to the point of failure in your back muscles, without having any risk of losing posture or technique.
As an extra tip – to work your back maximally, I recommend pausing at the top of the movement for 1 or 2 full seconds. This is going to fully stimulate the rhomboids and the trapezius and prevent you from cheating and just going through the motions.
With this, there is no compromise in technique.
You can push yourself as hard as possible, and the only thing that’s going to get tired and fail, are going to be the target muscles rather than other supporting muscles.
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