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Bent Over Rows and Big Back


What is the proper technique for this exercise? I have had one trainer tell me keep my back at a 45 degree angle and use a reverse grip, and I have had others tell me to bend parallel to the ground and use an overhand hooking grip, I use very light weight and still have tightness in my back does anybody have any suggestion about form or any exercises that will loosen up my lower back or make it stronger?

My back routine is now:

3 sets of 12 assisted wide grip chins
2 sets of 10 Uni Lateral Rowing Machine
1 Drop Set on same machine
3 sets of 12, 10, 10 Reverse Grip Pulldowns
3 Sets of Seated Unilateral Cable Rows
3 sets of 10 Dumbell Shrugs, slight bend in knees, slight angle in back pulling shoulders together and up in modified rowing motion

I'm trying to make sure Bent Over Rows are in my routine and I'm still trying to learn how to properly deadlift, does any body have any suggestions on workouts that will really scorch my lats. If you could post your own back program that would help alot. I'm not lifting or working out for a six pack or for girls, or for big biceps, I'm working out simply to get bigger and enjoy the lifestyle so if you can help I appreciate it.



The degree that you bend over will be in relation to your hamstring flexibility and the bend in your knees.

If you're hamstrings are "tight" then slightly more bend to the knees will allow you to bend over more while keeping your back neutral.

Hand grip will be a preference and what you're trying to accomplish.

A supinated grip (palms up) will involve more of the biceps as opposed to the pronated grip (palms down) taking less emphasis off the biceps and more on the muscles of the forearms. (of course as assisting muscles to the back)



Back is one of my top bodyparts, whether that's through genetics or my training is up to debate, but as requested, here's the back workout that has yielded the best results in size and strength: (this doesn't include any form of deadlift, which I do on my lower body day, and which I find essential for back development, so do them)

Bent over Barbell Row 4sets X 6 (bent at around 60 degrees at waist, focusing on pushing chest out towards the floor in order to keep back flat. My lower back does feel "tight" after doing these, but that's expected considering it's basically a static hold of a romanian deadlift throughout the duration of the movement.)

Weight wide-grip chin-up 4sets x 8

Underhand Lat Pulldown 4sets x 8

Chest Supported Row 4sets x 8

Standing Cable Pullover 4sets x 10

That's a lot of volume, so keep that in mind, but that's what I respond best to. Hope that helps a little bit...


I do something close to this form...


Things to remember:
1) Stick your chest out
2) Tighten your Back and Mid section
3) Row to your belly button/just under and squeeze your upper back/shoulders together

Hope that helps.


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I use a 45 degree angle with the underhand grip. The workout I will be doing this afternoon is as follows:

weighted chins 8x3
Bent over rows 6x6
Face Pulls 3x15
Weighted back extensions 5x8
Grip work.

It feels good and the weights keep going up, so I guess it's working.


It's perfectly fine to use a light weight on this exercise while you are getting your form down. The bent over row is as much about form as any other advanced lift. Bad form is a sure prescription for injury on this lift.

Use a lighter weight while you establish a perfect form over a few sessions, and build up slowly. Just like any new lift you're learning, you can't expect to go with maximum weight right off the bat. When you train, it's not any different than swinging a golf club or a baseball bat... you need to have perfect form and basically do the lift the same way every time (establishing the neuro-muscular pathways, as the real trainers might say). Cut yourself a little slack and work up to a heavier weight slowly. The bent row is one of the harder lifts to perform correctly, with heavy weights. Be patient.

One tip that I found useful... think about how your hips and glutes are your base (not your lower back). Try to position your feet, knees, hips, back angle, and path of the bar so that your hips play the main role in support (base).

Also, keep the path of the bar close to your legs. The further in front of you the bar travels, the more extreme the shearing forces will be on your lower back (and the less weight you can use). If you are using heavy weights and the path of the bar starts drifting forward, it can a problem.

It's easy to injure yourself on this exercise, if you have bad form. You are better off using a little less weight and having perfect form, especially in the beginning. Injuries can cause you to miss workouts, or even affect your entire training career.


I've seen both variations. I prefer the parallel back one, but it is harder on the lower back.

The 45 degree is 'safer' and you can handle more weight, but there's more traps involvement.

I use both grips, i alternate between sets.

I reckon use both, or use the one that feels the best to you.


I don't see much for your lower back. Lower back combined with upper legs (glutes & hams) makes the posterior chain. Train it with deadlifts (several variations) and/or hyperextensions. You need a strong lower back for the BOR to be effective.
In the mean time, you can use the seated row.


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To be honest, I have never gotten into good mornings and don't like them.

Bad angle. Potential for injury is too high I reckon. Go down low enough and the bar will be trying to rip the back of your head off on the way down as well.

Stiff Legs are better. Bigger range and if you run into trouble you can simply drop the bar.


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Concerning Good Mornings, this exercise has raised my lower back from the dead. My lower back gave me problems for at least 1 year and since I started doing good mornings about 1 month ago, my lower back has gotten much stronger and the pain in my lower back is almost gone. I can actually squat again ...


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


I used to do bent over rows parrellel to the floor and rowed to my chest. Now i do them with a 45 and row to just below my pecs. It feels like it is doing a lot more that way.


Great tip. It really does work. Think of your lower arms as "hooks" and pull with your elbows.



Very informative post! This is the kind of stuff I like to see, not guys ragging on newbies because their strength numbers aren't big.


Nothing to me feels better, and I think keeps my lower back "healthy" like GM's and Reverse Hypers. I don't go too heavy, but the stretch and getting the blood flow goin in these areas after a heavy squat or dead workout is wonderful.


I recently started doin these. I feel like a big wuss. Can't go too heavy. I thought there would be more carryover from deading, cable rowing and lat pulldowns. Guess I was way wrong. I'm doing the Starr 5x5 and he recommends a 90 degree bend. Does anyone else do these? I feel it in my lower back after I set the bar down at the end of the set. I don't care for that too much. Anyone have a good link to a video of these being done with super form? The ones I found are kinda crappy.


Just posted too late to see Keith's post first. Great post Keith. I might move to a 45 degree and take your stuff into account. I especially liked the part about using the cambered bar. My wrists start to hurt a little too. Hurt may be a wrong term, its like they hurt and go numb. Not good. Thanks.