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Bent Row Technique


Hi all. I have been doing barbell rows bent at nearly 90 degrees to the floor. While I have had good results from this technique (in terms of upper back recruitment as far as I can tell)my weights have stayed fairly low. While this in itself doesn't concern me, I seemed to get a better workout when i tried a 45 degree strict row with heavier weight.

The 90 degree angle seems to hit the rear delts more. I do romanians or conventional deads following bent rows so my upper back gets pretty beat up. So increasing weights on the bent row is not my prime concern. Please give your opinion on the most effective technique to do it.


I go about 90 degrees... what rep scheme are you doing? if you pull with low reps (1-5 reps), you should be able to get stronger pretty easily


I'm not an expert, but I think that keeping your elbows flared out, regardless of body angle, will increase the involvement of your rear delts. I used a 45 degree angle and pulled the bar to my mid-abs instead of my chest. I preferred this way because I felt like I could stay tighter in my lower back and not cheat as much when the set got hard.

To be honest, I dropped barbell rows in favor of dumbbell rows. There's a slightly larger ROM and less back strain.


I use about a 45 degree angle (torso not parallel to floor, or upright, but sort of in between the two). I make certain to keep a small tight arch in my lower back (for better contractions), and always pull into my hips/lower stomach area to really recruit the back muscles and minimize the arm involvement (think of an angled shrug if you will).

The last year or so, I've been making use of DBs for this movement as I find I get a better contraction as the 'bells can move slightly to my sides at the peak contraction point.



I have to agree with Enkiduu...the DB row OR a seated cable row will provide more ROM, less strain on the lower back while focusing on the movement, and when done properly (no yanking the weight up) I get better, fuller results than with the bar.

I don't mind using them for a warm-up, and yes, I prefer to do them at a 90. To me it seems to recruit more of the targeted area than the 45 (seems to be more bicep to me).

just my 2 cents


I do mine pretty much like Stu. I swap them in and out with the dumbell rows. When it gets heavier,
I like to utilize the ronnie swing. I feel this works better than strict DB rows, just my $0.02.


First off thanks everyone for the cool inputs. really appreciated. I usually do five or six 8-12 rep sets leading up to RDLs or conventional deadlifts. Using dumbbells is not really an option for me 'cause the shack I train in doesn't have anything beyond 80 pounders. (fortunately it has all the olympic plates I need)

I agree that with the 45 degree biceps involvement seems higher but it seems I can get a good contraction by using a sort of up and inward arc.(like a real row only not at all pronounced)I will have to check if i am keeping my elbows close to my torso during the later sets...I take a slightly wide grip for the last set.Maybe that cuts down on the effectiveness. I am thinking 2 or 3 sets of 90 degree rows followed by two sets of 45 degree with a bit more weight.


You look way too light in general. Perhaps food is the issue here.

Also, 5-6 8-12 rep sets? Even if you ramp up the weight on all of them, I doubt you
a) need that many yet to get warm
b) will ever go anywhere, weight-wise, following that kind of protocol...

Post an actual workout here, weights, reps and perhaps an estimation of your rest-times (might be very short and that would tire you out too much).

As far as technique goes, I'm not really flexible enough to safely do 90 deg rows, I do mine at either 45 or even at yates-angle...
Main thing is to retract your scapulae on the way up and all that stuff, it's kind of like you're trying to get into the bottom position of a PL bench setup (almost).
(that is, if you want to use rows as a backthickness exercise...)

I would counsel against very low reps on rows... If you have trouble with your rowing technique, then what's going to happen is that you'll be using mostly your arm flexors and rear delts and perhaps the lats to some degree, and you won't be able to retract your scapulae and use your backthickness musculature much.
Not good. Rows are not meant to become an arm exercise.


I've been wondering for a while if it is necessary to touch the barbell on ur abdominal area.


Depends, if you do them at like a 45 degree angle I would say yes. If you keep your torso pretty much parallel to the floor, and have decent back thickness, there is no way you can touch your abs/chest.


Hm. If I do a full scapular retraction, shoulders back, chest out etc and have my upper arms roughly parallel to the body, The bar hits me in the abs (where that happens depends on grip-width), but my arms are of different length/proportions than yours I suppose, and I'm a bit on the squishy side as it is... More belly, less ROM :wink:

The goal when doing rows is not to get your elbows as far behind the body as you can (that would require rounded shoulders and would not allow for retraction of the shoulder blades and all that...), so no, whether the bar hits your body or not isn't really the important thing in rowing either... If you have very long forearms and you're fairly lean or still very small, I suppose that you might end up with the bar in the air rather than at your abs despite having maxed out the ROM of your backthickness musculature...


I feel more stable and getter batter lat involvement if I'm nearly parallel to floor. Arched back, but pushed back, chin pushed out etc...


I presume you mean parallel to the floor! 90degrees is completely upright!
But to answer your question I do them at 45degrees to upright and have a medium (~24inch) grip and pull to my gut. this seems to target the lats and take some strain off the lumbar area. wider grip and closer to parallel to floor (90degrees to upright if you prefer.) hits higher on my back getting rear delts rhomboids etc


And just my $0.02. I think 45 degree is better, U can go much heavier in this angle. 90 degree is no good, strange, to high, back exercise, that's all.

I prefer DB rows, just because I can do it on bench (knee on bench) and that is much safer I think, and of course easier with progresing for me...


I do rows on low reps and as heavy as I can, then (when I feel that my arms are working too much) I simple back to little lighter weights and do them clear and on higher reps. Then, after 2 - 3 workouts with higher reps I'm starting all that things again...


It is one of those exercises that takes ages to 'get'.

I have done them for years.. but it was only very recently that i have managed to both pile on the weight AND still maintain my mind muscle connection for low reps.

I do the 45 degree angle, as i like to go heavy and 90 degrees restricts the ability to do that significantly.
I also like to use a little body english too, however this is only something i have just begun to allow myself to do - as i mentioned before i have only just managed to get so comfortable with the exercise that this is possible (and i have been including it in my sessions for many years now).

To a novice, my form would look sloppy - but it has taken fucking years to get to that point! Those who understand this will know where i am coming from - to a newb (this can be someone who has trained 5 years in certain cases as far as i am concerned) they will think that sloppy automatically = bad form, injury and less muscle activation.
Tell that to Jay Cutler.

As per the rear delt involvement - that is more to do with the angle under the armpit than the angle at the hip. But yes, as the 90 degree row does make you go lighter and favour the wide grip - you would be highly likely to involve a lot of rear delt (no bad thing IME).

In short, the 45 will allow you to go heavier and hit the back slightly differently so as to be exactly what you need i suspect :wink:

my 2p.


Thanks a lot people. Brook i know exactly what you mean though i don't think that i am at a stage (having started after a long hiatus) to incorporate the sort of technique you have achieved. Hell even my deadlifts lack necessary speed now. but i will just have to work at it. My last workout was

Bent row: 6 sets of 12,8,8,6,6,10 reps (2 45 pounders on each side for the heaviest sets ; i am pretty weak at present; the bar is not a standard olympic bar but weighs around 15 kilos)

RDLs: 4 sets of 12-10 reps: 100-120 kilos

I tried the 45 degree on my heaviest sets and tried to keep my elbows close and managed to keep the focus on my lats. so its probably working. my traps got fried from the RDLs surprisingly. Guess i have been away too long.


....my traps got fried from the RDLs surprisingly.

Maybe you're rounding your shoulders, letting them droop forward-an indicator of too much weight/sloppy form. Make sure you retract your scaps and keep your spinal alignment, that should help. IME


Same here, I'll pull the bar a few inches over my navel.


so i just read through this thread and have a question as well. I incorporate both barbell and db rows is that bad? ill usually do my barbell rows heavy weight low reps and my db rows as heavy as i can but with high reps, input?


I always incorporate both into my workouts. Why cut out either one? They're both fantastic exercises. Keep it up. As for rows for me, I always go to 90 degree angle. I used to actually go into a sumo stance when doing rows because I had an easier time supporting my torso steadily. I might actually start doing that again because it worked rather well.