T Nation

Barbell Rows


I've haven't done too many barbell rows in my training experience due to the fact that I just don't like 'em. It's too easy to cheat and I don't enjoy holding that posture with my low back and hams. I usually just do T-bar rows...

But today when I decided to just man up and do them, I realized that by putting my head on the wall in front of me, the weight seemed to come off of my low back and hams, and there was no temptation to cheat. In other words, it was much easier to keep good form.

Has anyone ever tried this? Is there anything wrong with doing it?


I know that I have seen Pavel Tsatsouline do them this way. He actually put his head on a preacher curl bench (where your armpits would usually be). This way it is padded.

This won't take the stress completely off your lower back, but it helps. It also doesn't let you cheat. I like them.


its not really cool to have a pain free low back if you have a broken neck!


or you could use an adjustable incline bench (i find most preachers too low).
ofcourse you could always just control your lift


Not exactly the same, but if you are intent on taking weight off the lower back and hams (i.e. concentrating on working the lats, but in a horizontal plane) then can I suggest a variation I used to use when I trained with a rowing crew a few years ago?:

Take a regular sit-up board (you know, the ones you find on a multi-gym set up), and elevate the bottom end so it lies flat horizontal, with clear space underneath. You can place it on a bench, blocks, etc. Now as you lie on it prone you will be significantly elevated off the ground. Now perform lying barbell rows, bringing the bar under control up to the level of (and under) the board, and back down to arms length. You can initiate the exercise by lifting the bar off appropriately placed blocks or similar. This really fries the lats. Without momentum or low back/ham assistance you will be embarassed by the lack of weight you can handle.

I myself prefer to use the regular barbell row, as I consider the ham and low back component a useful and necessary part of the exercise.

Anyway, hope that might help.


I would suggest you don't necessarily perform it with your head against the wall. Instead I would look at performing it without cheating (many people cheat less with a reverse grip as well), holding your back in proper neutral position and strengthen the lower back as well. Let me know if you need more info and I will help.

In faith,

Coach Davies


What back angle is best?

close to 90 degrees from the ground?

45 degrees from the ground? (what I like, neutral position?)

180 degrees upright rows?


I agree with Coach Davies, if your form is breaking down and your cheating, there's too much weight on the bar. Lighten it up and keep your form tight!


with regards to the "best" angle, I would prefer to look at this as the "safest". The neutral position is roughly at 45 degree angle and don't round your back.

In faith,

Coach Davies


I suppose I do need to lighten the load and do them right. My lower back could use some extra work. Thanks for the replies.

I am trying do do them as bent over as possible (I usually end up around 45 degrees or a little lower), pronated, low reps for maximum bench press carryover (I alternate bench with rows).


Ahhh, the Bar Bell Rows, one of my old time/all time favs. Believe it or not, at a BW of 168lbs, I can Row 225 for 6 ultra-strict reps.

The keys:

1.) BALANCE!!!

You have to set up over the bar like a golfer sets up over a shot. Find your center and relax into your stance. You should not feel like you're falling forward! Another possible analogy - you should feel like a center taking a face off in hockey.)

My set-up:

Body weight set back on heels with hamstrings
and glutes supporting the movement

knees bent

Head up... eyes looking forward

Torso @ 45% angle

Shoulders behind bar - If shoulders are ahead of bar,
you will fall forward while handling big weights!

2.) Flexibility!

Hip-flexors MUST be stretched out beforehand. Tight hip-flexors will not let you get into the proper position.


Adjunct: Keeping the shoulders behind the bar was referring to the set-up. For the lift, the load should follow a direct line with the shoulders.

BTW - I also forgot keep LB back arched!


i used to do something like that (i guess you are just refering to prone rows) but when the weight gets up i feels like you ribs are going to break and the old blood pressure strats creeping too..
like you i have nothing against normal rows, just keep the form.


Joey Z,

Thanks for the in-depth description.

  1. Hip flexors? What do they have to do with it?

  2. What kind of stance do you use? Mine is usually fairly wide.

  3. What point on your body do you bring the bar to?


Patman: Here's a brief discript... I'm caught for time.

1.) Tight hip-flexors will not let you gain and maintain the proper posture needed for the length of a quality set of BR's. (You need to be able to relax into your stance.) As mentioned: Like a center about to take a face-off in hockey.

During a set of BR's, once the hip-flexors (and rotators for that matter) start to tighten, the LB won't be far behind!

2.) Medium - like doing a set of conventional- deads.

3.) Between navel and ribcage.