How To Barbell Row: 7 Tips To Master Proper Barbell Row Form

If you’re a guy who want to master perfect Barbell Row technique, this will be the most important article you will ever read.

Here’s why: almost everyone is dead wrong in how they do Barbell Rows. Most guys do Yates Rows, 50° shrugs with underhand grip named after the steroid bodybuilder Dorian Yates. And, guess what? Unlike Barbell Rows, Yates Rows don’t train your back – only your traps – and can rip your biceps tendon apart.

Left: StrongLifts Member Tom Doing Perfect Barbell Rows. Right: Bodybuilder Dorian Yates Doing Yates Rows

Left: StrongLifts Member Tom Doing Perfect Barbell Rows. Right: Bodybuilder Dorian Yates Doing Yates Rows

Look – if you’re one of those steroid meat heads who spends more time with his drug-supplier than on training, you’ll grow no matter how you Barbell Row. But if you’re a DRUG-FREE, 100% natural lifter like me, then you’ll have to do Barbell Rows with proper technique to gain upper-back strength and muscle.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the Barbell Row technique that I’m about to show you is superior to every single other Row variation you’ll ever see the curl monkeys do in your gym. In fact, Coach Glenn Pendlay MS USAW (who taught me this very Barbell Row technique years ago) has done EMG studies comparing every single possible variation of Barbell Rows. Guess what he discovered?

Barbell Rows Done With The Bar Returning To
The Floor On Each Rep Strengthen Your Back, Lats And
Traps More Than Any Other Barbell Row Variation!

Here’s what this means: you will strengthen your upper-back, lower-back, lats and traps with one single exercise if you do Barbell Rows the way I’ll show you. More: you’ll not only build a muscular back by Rowing like this, your Bench Press will also skyrocket (because a strong upper-back is key to a big Bench).

Listen: the guys who say Yates Row are better are confused by broscience and muscle magazines. This Barbell Row technique is backed up by EMG studies, REAL science. But don’t take my word for it, simply test-drive StrongLifts 5×5 for 12 weeks using the Barbell Row technique that I’m going to show you, and your own body will make you see the truth of what I’m saying.

Here’s how to do it: after studying Glenn Pendlay’s description of this superior Barbell Row technique, Rowing myself like this for several years and teaching this Row technique to hundreds of guys, I’ve come up with the seven most important tips to master perfect Barbell Row technique. Here are the 7 tips…


1. Row Each Rep From The Floor.
Because you’ll never train your upper-back fully if you let the bar hang in the air. Barbell Row like you Deadlift: with the bar starting and returning to the floor on each rep. The barbell should be above the middle of your feet when you start Rowing, same stance as on Deadlifts.


2. Grip The Bar Like You Bench Press.
For maximum carry-over to your Bench Press, your Barbell Row should be the exact opposite movement. This means no underhand grip but both palms facing you, using the same grip width as when you Bench. Thumbs around the bar and squeeze it hard for maximum strength.


3. Pull With Your Elbows.
This simple trick will help you use your upper-back maximally rather than turning your Rows into a biceps exercise. Pull your elbows towards the ceiling instead of merely pulling with your hands. If you don’t “get” it, briefly Barbell Row using the thumbless grip to get the feeling for it.


4. Row Against Your Chest.
If the bar doesn’t hit your chest, it’s like doing a partial Squat or half Bench: the rep isn’t completed and you’re not getting the most out of the exercise. So always Row the barbell against your chest. Where exactly? Same position as where you touch the bar on the Bench Press.


5. Keep Your Upper-back Parallel.
Don’t let yourself get carried away by your ego or you won’t get the most out of Barbell Rows. Be strict: your upper-back should be doing all the work. If your Barbell Rows turn into 50° shrugs or you’re cheating with your hips and knees, the weight is too heavy. Lower it.

Proper Barbell Row Technique: Barbell starts on the floor, pulling with the elbows, bar against chest, chest open, shoulder-blades squeezed together

Proper Barbell Row Technique: Barbell starts on the floor, pulling with the elbows, bar against chest, chest open, shoulder-blades squeezed together


6. Open Your Chest.
It’s – again – the same position as for the Bench Press: squeeze your shoulder-blades together at the top as hard as you can and open your chest up. Don’t try to hold the weight at the top, that’s all unnecessary nonsense because adding weight builds muscle. Simply pull the weight hard and fast against your chest, and then return it to the floor.


7. Keep Your Head Down.
Do not try looking at the mirror in front of you in your gym, or you’ll get neck pain. Don’t look at your feet either otherwise your lower back can round and hurt. Simply look at the floor below you and tape yourself from the side you want to check your Barbell Row technique.


Barbell Row Video.
Here’s a video of an ex private client of mine, StrongLifts Member Tom, showing the Barbell Row technique described in this article. Pay attention how the bar starts and returns to the floor on each rep, and how his torso remains parallel. The barbell could be a bit closer to his shins if he puts his legs straighter, but otherwise this is perfect technique…

StrongLifts Member Tom – Barbell Row Technique


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