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Bent-Over Rows and Lower Back?


Hello all,

 My lower back is something I always keep an eye on. When I look at the form required for bent-over rows, it gives me shudders as I think about my back. Is this unwarranted? In other words, are bent over rows really ok for your back. And if so, any tips on form that keep them from becoming a strain on the lower back? Thanks!



Have you tried the chest supported rows? I think they are best for lower back pain.


Sorry.... newbie question here. What is a chest supported row? Thanks!



Err.. Rows where your chest is supported. :wink:

Seriously, it's a machine that has a padded bench inclined at around 40 degrees from the floor. You lie on it, face down, grab the...Oh what the hell, I'll go look for a photo of it! :slightly_smiling:


Set up an incline bench at maybe 30-45 degrees and lay face down on it. You can adjust the incline to whatever is comfortable to you if these parameters don't feel comfortable.

As far as original question. You do have to be sure you are in a good, stable, safe position for b-o-r's. It is easy to get sloppy in form, use too much weight or both. This could easily lead to some problems with the lower back.

Choose a lighter weight to get used to form. Foe upper back stress grab bar with overhand grip. Tighten abs and 'set' your back with slight arch in the bent over position. Look into a mirror and don't move throughout the ex.

Bring the bar to chest or just below. Here you want to think about lifting the bar with your elbows. Your hands are just hooks. Lift your elbows high and straight and hold at chest for a count. Feel this right in your middle back--between your shoulder blades. In your mind 'feel' your blades touching one another. Then reset.

As you go up in weight the pause at top is less important. The feel remains the same though. This is an exercise that too many want to lift too much. Go for form at the beginning and you'll get more bang for your buck.


On a personal note, I started doing bent over rows about 3 months ago (until then I'd always used the pulley machine), and now I'm hooked. It gives you a great pump, and although you will probably feel sore in your lower back at the begining, it's worth working on it. Start with an easy weight for the first weeks, and you will eventually end up with a stronger back.

The problem with protecting a body part that you consider weak, is that you will only make it weaker. Unless you have chronic back issues, bent over rows are a great exercise.


You can do the same thing bylieing prone on an inclined bench. It is a little awkward, but works.


Because of horrible back pain that i ge in the bent over row position, I have been doing chest supported rows for the last several years.

I just face backwards in my incline bench, and row like you would normally. it's worked great for me.

i tried doing some lightweight bentover rowing (135) the regular way the other day, and there is just something about holding that angle the kills my lower back. No other lift is affected by this pain. Just the B.O. rows.


You're a big pussy!!!!

LOL! It's okay. I understand your troubles. I'm training a guy whose lower back prevents him from doing these with more than 95lbs.

I love them and do them all the time. I haven't had any lower back problems.


Sasquatch and Miserere,
Thanks for all your input and time. Because of your detailed description of how to do them, and how to watch for your lower back, I think I will be giving these a try. I have been doing hyperextensions and Good mornings for the past 6 months in order to strenghten my lower back.

They KILlED when I first started them. I thought I had put out my back, but I sat down for about 10 miniutes and the pain went away. Since starting these, my lower back has only gone out once, and my recovery was incredibly quick.... I was doing deadlifts three days later (after a trip to the Chiro and some serious icing).

BTW Miserere, I know what you mean about getting hooked on a lift. I used to be scared that deadlifts would wreck my back, but after getting lots of advice and reading lots of articles here, I gave it a try. One of my favorites now!

Anyway, it is one of those compound exercises that seems like it works on a lot of muscles at once. Also, Working out at home all them time with limited equipment it is an easy exercise to add to my routine without having to buy something else.

Of course, if like rainkjack all I get is pain.... I'll just have to find something else :)



Have you tried different angles? Maybe if you start off by not bending over too much, and work yourself down to parallel back slowly, you'll be able to do it. By slowly, I mean over the course of weeks.


That sounds like a very good idea.

Slow and safe is always the best way to get into any new exercise.

Here's an idea for trying that -- do it with dumbbells and lean against a doorframe, squat rack, or the wall, either with your elbow or hand(more clearance for the dumbbell). Mix and match putting your hand higher or lower with standing back further. I suppose you could even mark a doorframe with a pencil to know where to lean your hand right away, and it would even give you a way to judge your progress as your back got stronger and more flexibile.

By the way, you can also do this with bands or stretch tubing alone. Just let go if you feel a twinge, no worry about dropping weight. Use a handle if you want, or just hold the bands in your hand. I deadlift holding four bands. Stand in a band or on some tubing and pull with one arm or two, and spread your feet wider to take up band slack to make it harder, if you like(of course you can also just add more bands). With bands or tubing, you can also do the exercise sitting down.


I am with you. I was spending too much time feeling like my lower back was the one doing the work instead of my lats.

I prefer chest-supported rows in one way or another - that way, my lats and upper back are doing the work, and nothing else. Since I deadlift on a different day than I do the rows, my lower back stays fresh and gets all the work I need on a seperate day.


You need to strengthen your lower back, keep doing them and do some deadlifts the pain will subside in a few months. I say this because I felt the same kinda pain you did when I started them but I stuck with it and as my lower back has gotten stronger the pain has gone too.


Try dynamic rows from floor. This is a bent row with the bar resting after each rep. This makes the exercise harder (kind of like touch and go deadlifts versus actual deadlifts) but its easier on the back.

I also find that these help prevent cheating (jerking the body).


I just got done with my week off and I am about to incorporate these into my work out.... I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks for all the advice!



Rule of thumb on bent-over-rows. Go as close to (or maybe slightly above) parallel to the floor as possible-to the extent that you can do it without it "aggravating" your low back. If near parallel bothers your back then elevate your torso up a few degrees until you find the right angle. The barbell row does affect and does strengthen the lower back when done correctly-so dont avoid traditional barbell rows just because "your back hurts" you have to ensure that you are (1) doing it correctly and (2) maybe that area of the back is weak and needs building up, in other words you must distinguish growth pain from injury pain.

My last barbell row tip is that the position you feel you are "strongest" in will probably be the best position angle to use in your training.

I hope that helps



If you don't want your rows to get in the way of your squat/GM workouts I find that Dbell Rows are very good...


It's probably common sense, but make sure you keep your lower back arched and your shoulders back when you do bent-over rows. If you allow your shoulders to roll forward, you WILL hurt your lower back.
Unless you have actual back problems, I think the effort invested in learning to do BORs is definitely worth it.


I did them for the first time this morning with 95lbs, 4x10. It seemed to go ok, except I couldn't wuite get the bar to my chest, probably a good 3-5 inches chort, and my body just seemed to get in the way. Is my grip wrong? Or something else?