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Back Problems With Barbell Rows?


I've added barbell rows to my rotation. I'm still dialing in my form so I'm not going heavy yet, but I am concerned with potential back problems. I have tried a thing or two and what seems to work is wraping a towel around a rack pin and proping my forehead on it for support. Is this a disaster waiting to happen?


Yeah, that seems like a bad idea. Your lower back endurance will catch up if you keep doing them the normal way, which is a good thing.


What I would recommend is to, if possible, position yourself in the gym so that when you do barbell rows, you're able to look at your profile view and see that your back is flat and not rounded. As well, be careful that you don't lower your head and back too much during the exercise. Always keep your head up, and that will help you keep a flat back and good form.


In agreement here. You also may wish to do them on the smith machine to get conditioned to the form. Still keep the weight relatively low and focus on the squeese on the muscles. You can move the weight up later.


What good would a smith machine do?
I suggest hyperextensions, goodmornings and Romanian deadlifts to strengthen the lower back.


I find when my back is sore during a set that my form is fucked. I started doing plenty barbell rows months ago and my constant shoulder pain went away quickly. Once your lower back strengthens you will be all good. For this I found a lot of heavy squats and deadlifts of all variations increased my lower back strength significantly in a few months.

Don't avoid your weak points. If your lower back is weak then prioritize it.


No way, don't use the smith machine, there isn't one way of doing rows, every 3 weeks change something, your grip and where you pull the bar to.

"Smith machines are a waste of space that can be occupied by a squat rack...for squatting"


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Posterior chain is a must. I had my floor bar loaded for straight leg dl's and decided to load my curl bar for rows. What a difference a little grip angle makes. I still do rows with the Oly bar, but every now and then I do them with the curl bar. Always try different things, IMO.


doing bent barbell rowing JUST for you lats is a mistake. Poliquin said that you W@ILL not get full activation of the upper back muscles, because your bodies nervous system is also concentrating on keeping you posterior chain stable. i get much more of a upper back "pump" when i do chest supported rows.

the bent over barbell row is still a good exercise, but you need to think of it as a near total body back/posterior chain exercise, not just a back exercise.

i do them the way Glenn Pendaley teaches them to his athletes. dubbed "the Pendaley row", hard to describe in text, but think of it as sort of like an olympic type high pull to the chest while bent over the bar. be explosive and keep the reps relatively low(3-5 or so?).

it builds your entire body and gets your heart rate up.



I've recently re-introduced BB Rows (after 6 years off due to low back trouble). I used to rest my head on an adjustable bench. NOT a good idea. It places tremendous stress on the neck. This stress would be similar to supporting heavy weight on you forehead while doing ab crunches (I did this with ~75lb for months: also NOT a good idea. I got problems with pinched nerves that led to severe weakening of my right tricep.) So I dont do either of these now.

What I did do was strengthen my low back using hypers, gently progressing; first reps then increase weight with lower reps then increase reps again.

Once I felt I'd gained reasonable strength (35kg for 3sets of 12 on a 45degree back raise) I did a couple of months heavy DB rows and then started BB rows. Strict style: real tight arch knees unlocked body at 45degrees NO jerking. I may not be as strong as I like but last progression went to 100kg for 3 sets of 6reps.

Following week dropped weight (8kg) and upped reps to 12's. Hopefully I can make continued steady progresion like this, as could you.
It should be faster for you, if you dont have to get around pre-existing injuries / stupidity !

Always remember this:
2. Everyone is different.



True. You can do a one-arm dumbell row and hit a very similar motion. (BTW, keep both feet on the floor if you do 1-arm row)

I just injured myself doing bent barbell rows, a minor injury but annoying. I let my form deteriorate in order to get a couple more reps... a really bad mistake. When you lose your perfect form, end the set immediately... even if your upper back still feels like it has more reps available. Lucky for me it's not a permanent injury. But I've had to miss workouts, just so I could get 2 more reps... very dumb on my part.

I think the bent row is one of the harder moves to excel in, as it does require more finesse than some other moves. Build up your loads carefully and patiently, and develop textbook form.


I injured my lower back doing Barbell Rows about a year ago and I still don't feel right.

Know how I did it? When I was getting into position for Barbell Rows. I picked up the bar off a set of pins, walked back a few steps and, with my back straight, leaned down to start rowing. I guess I did this last part a little too fast because it hurt!


I can't imagine being comfortable with both feet on the floor. I always put a knee on a bench (the opposite knee to the lat I'm training) and concentrate on keeping my back in a normal alignment.


Anyone tried to do bent over row with two dumbells instead of a bar?

Works great! I highly recommend that one.



I couldn't agree more.


I have found that if I try to remain rigid (bend 90 degrees, straight back, no movement other than hands up and down) that my back "freezes up" and really hurts. I now keep a little "cheat" in the movement. I start out lower than 90 degrees (plates almost touching the ground, like a stiff-leg deadlift) then explode up back to the 90 degree position simultaniously pulling with the hands to bring the bar up to my chest or stomach. Just feels natural and my lower back doesn't wear out. I'm also almost at 2X's bodyweight on deadlifts. THAT alone has made a HUGE difference in my former back problems.


T-Bar Rows and Two-arm Dumbbell rows are a much better alternative to assist in the development of form for Barbell Rows than performing rows in the Smith machine. If you are in the process of building a foundation of strength, I would recommend that you stay far, far away from Smith Machines. Romanian Deadlifts help in their own way as well.

Having said that, my recommendation is to perform the Barbell row the traditional way: overhand grip and pulling to abs with no body english. Christian Thibaudeau (I think) explained somewhere why various trainees have a tendency to use an underhand as opposed to the overhand grip in this movement...if you are wondering about grip style as well.