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Not Feeling Kroc Rows in Back

Hi friends,

I’m doing a new program that has me doing Kroc rows for high reps (20-30). They humble me and I cant lift as heavy as I thought I could do or should be doing (90lbs for 20).

Thing is: I can’t feel them in my upper back or my lats.

Anybody have any cues, trips or tricks you can advise me to make these work better?
I have previously done dB rows on a bench, and I have always struggled to feel these in the target muscles as well, but did them because they were in the program.


try grabbing the weight with a pistol grip ( not using the middle or index) … i dont know why this works but it does work in helping you feel the back muscles


@tj55: one thing I learnt from the Kroc row attempt, is that I have the grip strength of a 10 year old girl. Not sure if eliminating fingers will help my cause, but I will give it a go.


yea i will make the grip struggle worse initial but will do your favors in future .

On a side note, the best single thing i added to help my grip strength (aside from farmers walks as i have a garage gym with no room for these) was order a pair of cheep fat grips , and i just do dead hangs using the fat grips . Over time i’ve increased the time and added weight. Great carry over to my grip for bent over rows and in BJJ


This advise is not about the Kroc row specifically but rows in general.

The lat activation move in this at the start is the feeling you need to be getting. Practice this movement and tensing until your lats cramp, practice it everywhere. Then when you do your row forget all about the weight in your hand or pulling with your arm but just focus on flexing the muscle exactly like you have practiced. Initiate the move with the back muscles then let the arm move not the other way around.


Dumbbell rows are one of the exercises I feel the most in my lats. I row in an arching motion and try to scrape the dumbbell up my thigh so my elbow ends up near my hip.


Safety first: The only time I have ever really hurt myself is doing jerky Kroc style rows, with too much weight and with straps, so keep any cheat sensible and smooth.

I think you need to decide if you want to hit lats primarily, or lats and upper back together.

For the former, I think of a row of the elbow “back and down” to the hip, elbow close to the body, with very little movement of the scapula. Think of pushing backwards very slightly with the triceps to keep the biceps out of it. This row will stop with the elbow at about the hip, not higher. A good ROM should come from starting with a good stretch in the lats.

If you want a more compound, full back movement, I think of all the above, but add in a movement of the scapula in “concert” (as Paul C would say) with the movement, so that the elbow, lats, scapula and mid traps all move in lovely unison, so that you finish with the elbow higher than the hip, and your upper back scrunched up.

In both cases I like to support the non-working hand as low as possible so that the back is near parallel to the ground. This helps get a good ROM and also to reduce the inclination to drive with the legs. Make sure also in both cases that the shoulder is not creeping up towards your ear. The triceps cue will help.


I’ve found sometimes that using straps allows my arms to relax a bit and my back will be “felt” more, but this also defeats the potential for grip building strength in Kroc rows, so it’s up to the user.

Not saying you shouldn’t feel Kroc rows in your back, but the intent behind them is to help in building the deadlift. They are a full body explosive movement with a rowing motion built in. It would be the equivalent to you saying “I don’t feel power cleans in my back” or something. You’ll get benefit, but it’s not meant as a back isolation movement per-say. High rep dumbbell rows you should feel in your back. The two are very different in nature and should be treated as such.

Also, to the straps comment, use them when you want. Kroc himself used straps on many occasions and there are no rules as to how you do your accessory work.


I would use straps. I basically NEVER do any dumbbell rows without straps. I see no point in it. Do your grip work elsewhere. rolling thunder, farmers/frame carries, pull up variations, etc. You can’t properly overload the back if grip is an issue.

As oldbean mentioned, the ‘kroc row’ (and by the way, this term is WAY overused. It’s like anyone who’s doing a 20 rep set with loose form is suddenly doing a ‘kroc row’), is a deadlift accessory at its heart, not the best back builder. If you want to build a strong, big back with dumbbells, more controlled rows, with a squeeze at the top to really feel the back, and FULL EXTENSION at the bottom, are better to me. I twist my body and really let my arm fully hang to get that stretch at the bottom, and then twist back up for a tight squeeze at the top. It has to be a weight that’s heavy enough to make that squeeze at the top difficult, but not impossible, for a good 8-12 reps to be effective. About 3 sets of this wears me out.


This. It’s not an isolation movement, so you won’t feel it like you would doing strict DB rows.


The only exercises I’ve used that I TRULY feel my back working is barbell rows, cable rows, chest supported rows, 3 point stance DB rows and neutral grip pull-ups.

Slow and controlled to really feel your back working. The only thing I’ve ever felt with kroc rows is my lungs and grip being on fire lol.


This has absolutely nothing to do with anything, and is asking for a torn tendon. I don’t mean to jump down your throat, but this is not just bad advice, it’s dangerous.

@theBird assuming “back” means “lats” and not your upper back, you need to do them with a neutral spine and not an arched one, and row to your lower abs/hip while bringing your elbow alongside your body.


How can this lead to a torn tendon? Which tendon?

I used it fine for a few months and had no injures untill i was able to get the same activation feel in my lats by grabbing with a full grip…

I got this advice from Seth Ferroce (might not be how you spell his name) professional BB.

I can’t answer this but, on the other hand, I assume that being only able to use 3 out of 5 fingers would severely limit the amount of weight you can use, which in turn wouldn’t be a good thing if you’re trying to stimulate your back.

yes in the long run . . but if stimulating your back is the goal , then you need to stimulate it properly . . .if your lats are lacking , then your biceps and upperback , will be doing ~90% of the work with those heavier loads anyway . . . im just giving the man a suggestion so he can feel his lats working, once he gets used to them activating , he can slowley increase the weight / move over to a full grip

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The ring finger is weaker than the other fingers. It would be a flexor tendon, Jersey finger. And yes, it’s absolutely possible. Maybe it’s a trick to help but not activating lats has nothing to do with finger placement and it won’t help him to avoid fixing it.

X2 with guys saying Kroc rows are not about ‘feel’. -Grip it and rip it is the name of the game.( as per below)
If want a tiny bit of feel with them just get a good stretch at the bottom maybe an extra split second of pausing also.

In the words of Wendler “these make me grow hair on my back and join the NRA”…


Try one arm cable rows…low pulley, maybe a mat under your feet for traction so you don’t slide, deep stretch at the bottom, squeeze at the top.
it’s gold, I’m telling you.
If you don’t feel this in your back just give up and take up tai chi in the Park.

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