Bent-over rows are a brilliant exercise for increasing the thickness of your back; the muscles they target mostly are the lats and the rhomboids, however the exercises are assisted by the biceps, traps and deltoids.
The bent-over row can be performed with both a dumbbell or a barbell; the barbell variation will allow you to handle more weight and is more of a compound exercise which targets the middle back; while the dumbbell variation will allow you to isolate one side of the lats at a time.
When using the barbell to perform bent-over rows you can either have your hands pronated (palms facing down) or supinated (palms facing up).
By using a supinated grip you’ll incorporate more of the biceps and will be able to hold the bar at a narrower angle, meaning you’ll be able to handle more weight.
Alternately, by pronating your wrists you’ll give the rhomboids and lats more work to do and you’ll also be able to use a wider angle to place further emphasis on the lats. The variation you choose to use is entirely up to you; you should choose the method most comfortable and suitable to your goals.
Dumbbell Technique (Bent-Over Rows)
When using dumbbells you can either use one or two at the same time. When using two dumbbell’s the movement is very similar to the barbell bent-over row technique, so for the sake of variety I will explain the technique of using one dumbbell to row at a time.
1) Set yourself up with your dumbbells and a flat bench to support your row.
2) Place one leg on top of the bench with your knee bent, and your hand on the same side of your body at the front of the bench.
3) Raise your chest so that your back is parallel to the ground.
4) Your opposite leg should be on the ground providing support.
5) Use the opposite hand to take hold of one of your dumbbells with your palms facing towards your body.
6) Take a deep breathe when you’re in the starting position .
7) Maintain a straight lower back.
8) Exhale and pull through the elbow (not the biceps) until the dumbbell reaches the side of your chest, underneath your arm pit while maintaining a tight posture and now allowing your back to bend.
9) At the top of the contraction be sure to squeeze your lats, breathe in and then slowly return the weight eccentrically.
10) Allow a full stretch of the lats on the eccentric contraction but do not allow your posture to break or your shoulder to become disengaged from the movement.
Perform your desired amount of repetitions and switch arms for the next set!
Barbell Technique (Bent-Over Rows)
1) Holding a barbell, either with a pronated or supinated grip (depending on your goals and comfort) create a slight bend in your knees.
2) Bend the waist to let your torso come forward slightly (almost parallel to the ground; see images for correct angle).
3) Keep your back straight and your head neutral.
4) Take a deep breath.
5) Exhale and pull through the elbows until the bar reaches your midsection.
6) Once you have reached a full contraction, squeeze your rhomboids and lats, then slowly begin the eccentric part of the movement.
7) Inhale on the eccentric.
8) When the barbell reaches the starting position continue with the rest of the set.
Bent-Over Row Exercise | Example Routine
By incorporating both the dumbbell and barbell variations of this exercise into your routine you’ll be able to target your middle back, rhomboids, lats and traps effectively.
|Exercise||Sets & Reps|
|Dumbbell Bent-Over Row||4 x 12-15|
|Barbell Bent-Over Row||4 x 8-12|
Add these exercises alongside 1-2 vertical pulling motions and some assistance work to create a strong back workout!
Take home message
Incorporate these exercises into your routine to build a thicker back!