Bent over rowing is an excellent movement for the upper body. Work this movement hard and don't be surprised if you see increases in the squat, bench press and deadlift as well an increases in muscular development.
One of the great aspects of the bent-over row is that there is a wide variety of techniques and variations to chose from which means that just about anyone can find a method of performing this movement regardless of their body structure. The important thing is to ensure that your technique is fairly consistent so that increased poundages are the result of strength gains, not in favorable advantages in the biomechanics of the lift.
The width of your hand spacing should be slightly wider than your shoulders, but this will vary with each individual. Your hand spacing and grip should put you into a position where you can strictly row with the greatest amount of weight. You can use either a pronated or supinated grip.
The pronated or overhand grip tends to hit the upper back harder, while the supinated grip tends to work the lower lats a bit more. Experiment with both variations and see which one works best for you, or even use both grips in an alternating fashion.
I have found that the supinated grip works best when using an E-Z curl bar to take the strain off the wrists. Use plenty of chalk and or resin on your hands to ensure a firm grip. If you happen to train at a commercial gym that does not allow chalk (somebody should really invent flesh colored chalk) then purchase some resin bags and place them in a large colored sandwich zip-lock bag.
You can dip your hands into the bag and get plenty of resin and there will be no waste at all.
Take a good solid stance, with the feet about shoulder width. Lean forward and bend the knees just slightly so that you nearly settle your abdomen onto your thighs with the hips being the center of gravity.
If you have ever played football and had to get into the classic ?3-point stance?, as similar position will suffice for the barbell row-ie, you want to get into a stance where you can generate the most power.
The angle of your upper body can be anywhere from parallel to about 45 degrees though I believe that you should try and get as close to parallel as you can. People with a longer torso tend to do a bit better with a higher angle than an individual with a shorter torso.
Make sure the back is flat and stable keeping a slight arch in the lumbar region before the weight is pulled off the floor. There are numerous opinions on the exact part of the torso that you try to pull the bar into. This will vary from individual, but somewhere in the upper abdominal region, just below the sternum is a good reference point. If you are using a supinated grip, you might get want to pull just a bit lower into the abdominal region.
Because you are pulling a barbell from a position in which you are bent at the hips, considerable stress is placed on the lower back muscles. You should not attempt to add momentum to the lift by yanking or jerking upward with the lower back muscles and extending the body. Lack of proper form means the targeted area does not receive maximum stimulation and can often lead to lower back injury.
Heaving and cheating the weight up is very easy to do as the movement is not very natural to start with and the position makes it difficult to use a mirror to monitor and correct your form. There are a couple of things that you can do to eliminate the heaving aspect of the row.
First of all, many books and magazines advise that when the bar is lowered to get as much as stretch as possible-it sounds like good advice, but what happens is that once your arms are straightened, in an attempt to get even more of a stretch, you relax and begin dropping the upper body downwards which causes rounding of the back. This places the body into a weakened condition, so that when you attempt to pull the next repetition, you are forced into performing a body swing in order to compensate for the inadequate position. Just lower the body to arms length and pull it back up.
Another way to teach yourself to do the movement correctly is to have a training partner place their hands on your upper back along each side of the spine. Have them hold their hands steady and you will be able to gauge whether you are keeping your back stable or not.
I will throw another little tip in here that Marty Gallagher taught me, use straps, but DO NOT wrap your thumbs around the bar---the contraction in the back is incredible and it takes the arms/biceps out of the movement as much as possible. I do 1-2 sets without straps, and then 1-2 with the straps