How to Do Bent Over Rows: Complete Exercise Guide

Need another exercise to help strengthen your back, improve pulling power, and increase the size of your back? Add bent over rows into your programming as another compound movement to build your back, lats, and arms. 

Bent over rows are a variable exercise that can be used with any equipment like barebells, dumbbells, bands, or anything that you can pick up and pull to your body. 

By including bent over rows into your workout, you can improve weak points in your back and other muscle groups by modifying the movement into one of the many variations. 

In this guide, we will teach you how to do overhand, underhand, and dumbbell bent over rows.

Table of Contents

How to Do Bent Over Rows

Bent Over Rows with Dumbbells

Common Mistakes

Technique Summary

How to Do Bent Over Rows

With bent over rows, athletes will often start with a barbell bent over row. Having the right grip and positioning will determine which muscles you are targeting throughout the exercise. 

Let’s check some of the specifics:

Overhand Bent Over Rows

To set up for bent over rows, you need to establish a grip. You can use both an overhand or underhand grip.

If you are starting with an overhand grip, we recommend placing your hands at the same width you would hold the bar for a clean. Grip width will differ between athletes, but a good rule to follow is to keep your pinky on or just inside the innermost ring on your barbell. 

Once your grip is set, hinge at the hips by pushing your butt back with a slight bend in the knees. As you push the hips back, keep your arms straight and stop once the bar is right at the top of your knees. This will be your starting position. 

From here, you are ready to start rowing. Before pulling the bar toward you, make sure you are braced properly. 

Think about rolling your elbows back toward your pockets so that they don’t flare out to the side. Also think about keeping your lats and entire back tight by squeezing your lats around your spine. 

As you brace, pull the bar to the top of your belly button. Squeeze your lats and scaps together at the top of the movement then control the bar back to the top of your knees.

Underhand Bent Over Rows

If you choose to use an underhand grip, the same principles apply. Except this time, for the grip width, you will keep your index finger on or just inside the innermost ring of the barbell. 

The underhand bent over row will work your biceps a little more than doing overhand rows. Although, the positioning will be the same throughout the movement. 

Stay hinged at the hips, keep your chest high, and control the bar with your back to isolate the focused muscle groups. 

Dumbbell Bent Over Rows

If you do not have access to a barbell or are working to correct imbalances, you can use dumbbell rows as a substitute. 

All positions and cues will remain the same except for your hand position. Since you are using dumbbells, we recommend having your palms facing the sides of your knees so that you can maintain a neutral grip throughout the exercise. 

Common Mistakes

As with any exercise, there are some mistakes that we see athletes make when performing the bent over row:

Legs locked out: make sure to keep a slight bend in the knee to have a stable hinge position and keep unnecessary pressure off of the lower back.

Rounded back: remember to squeeze your lats, shoulders, and scapulas back, tight around your spine so you don’t lose tension and collapse the chest. 

Hitching the weight: as you fatigue, you might notice yourself bouncing or hitching to complete reps with the help of momentum. Use a light to medium weight that can be done for 4-6 sets of 5-20 reps, so you can isolate the target muscle groups. 

Technique Summary

Bent over rows are a great way to build power and strength in your pull for any sport. They can translate to your clean, snatch, and other sport-specific movements. 

Some key cues to remember as you continue using bent over rows in your workouts are to: 

1. Keep a slight bend in your knees as you hinge at the hips.

2. Keep your elbows turned in toward your pockets so they don’t flare.

3. Squeeze your lats, shoulders, and scaps around your spine to maintain tension.

You can superset your bent over rows with bench press, military press, or any kind of pressing motion. We often program this as the third exercise after an athlete’s sport-specific movements. 

You can learn more about our world-class programming and get affordable programming for yourself by signing up for the Peak Strength app available now for IOS and Android. 


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