Barbell row or bent-over barbell roll is one of the most excellent compound movements back muscles. However, not many guys perform this exercise properly and that’s very bad for your gains and importantly, your lower back. Therefore, today, I’ll show you how to do underhand barbell row with a step-by-step instruction.
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- What Muscle Does The Underhand Barbell Row Work?
- What Do You Need For A Barbell Row?
- How To Do It
- Things To Remember
What Muscle Does The Underhand Barbell Row Work?
Generally, when it comes to rows, you can work a lot of muscle groups such as back, lats, traps and arms. And the emphasis on these muscle groups shifts from one row to others because there are different kinds of rows out there.
If the overhand barbell row works your upper back, lats and traps, this underhand version mainly focus on your middle and lower back. In this exercise, you can eliminate as of of the traps as possible so for me, this is one of the best compound exercises for back. It also helps strengthen your core and lower body as you have to use your hamstrings and glutes to get the bar off the ground.
What Do You Need For A Barbell Row?
1. A weight-lifting Belt
First, as mentioned above, this exercise can be dangerous for your back, especially the lumbar spine, so a weight-lifting belt is absolutely necessary. It can help you keep your core tight and stable while you’re rowing heavy weights.
2. Weight-lifting Shoes
Remember that when it comes to weight lifting, besides the core, your feet need to create a stable and strong base. do not ever wear shoes with compressible soles. This is because they will cause ankle instability and uneven weight distribution. Therefore, just go for a pair of weightlifting shoes or if you don’t have them, lift with your bare feet.
3. Lifting Straps
For anyone who has a weak grip or want to row heavy weights, using a pair of lifting straps is not a good idea. However, don’t overuse these accessories or else you will depend too much on them and your hand grip will never be improved.
How To Do It
- Step 1: Approach The Bar – First, start with the bar on the floor or on the power rack. Set your feet shoulder-width apart under the bar and turn your toes out to the side a little bit. Grab it just outside of shoulder width using a supinated grip.
- Step 2: Do A Deadlift First – A lot of guys out there choose to jump into the exercise as they start rowing right after they approach the bar. However, in my opinion, it’ll be more comfortable and easier to row if you deadlift it from the ground and slowly lower your body to row.
My advice is to use the deadlift technique to lift the bar while keeping your back straight and neutral. This way, you can control your form and get ready for the row a lot better.
- Step 3: Lower Your Body – Now, you’re standing up fully with the bar against your legs. Start lowering your body as slowly as possible and make sure your body creates a 15-30 degree angle with the floor. For me, just try to bend over pretty much parallel to the floor.
Do not have straight legs the entire time or else it’ll totally throw off your center of balance, causing lumbar spine injury. Hence, just bend your knees a little bit when you set up correctly, you’ll feel tension in your hamstrings. However, do not bend your knees too much so that they are not standing in the way of the barbell by bending them too much.
- Step 4: Lift It Up – With your chest up and shoulder blades retracted, lift the barbell towards your body.
To focus on the middle and lower back and lats, lift the bar towards your hips while keeping your elbows close to your body the whole time. Remember to go all the way up for a full range of motion, all the way down just like that for 6-8 reps for maximum gains.
Actually, you can still pull the bar a little bit higher with the elbow flared a little bit. This will help you get more engagement throughout your traps and rear delts, but it’s not a good idea. Instead, the overhand version is the best choice.
Things To Remember
Now, you know how to underhand barbell row, however, there are still many other things to keep in mind if you want to do it perfectly. Here are some of them:
1. Do Not Use Momentum To Row
I’ve seen a lot of lifters using momentum to do this exercise. This doesn’t make any sense as they do not actually row. Honestly, if you do that, people won’t know what you’re doing. So, lift ego at the door and lighten the weight or if you’re a beginner, try to focus on the muscle worked by following the 4 steps above.
2. Try To Bend More But With A Tight Core
Most lifters are not bending enough just because they want to lift heavier and it’s like ego lifting. If your torso is too high, you’ll work more of the traps instead of the upper back. What you need to do is bend over close to parallel to the floor. Make sure your torso is not more than 30 degrees above horizontal but if you can, just go for 15 degree angle. You can also keep your torso horizontal but it’s the Pendlay row, not the bent over row anymore.
3. Do Not Slouch Or Arch Your Back
Both slouching and arching can cause lumbar spine injury and you’re strengthen your back, not destroying it, right? Maintain a neutral back and a tight core during the movement. In fact, you can arch a little bit by keeping your chest up in order to prevent your lower back from rounding.
4. Don’t Look Up
I know we’re all likely to look up in the mirror when rowing. Let’s just face it, we all like to see all the muscles moving and how we perform the exercises. But that will cause too much tension in your neck as well as spine and it’s not good at all in the long run. I know that it’s not comfortable but you have to keep your head in line with the torso. Don’t look at your feet either if you don’t to round your back. If you’re not sure about your form, just ask someone for help so they can help you check it.
5. Pull With Your Elbow
When you pull the bar, just pull with your elbows instead of simply lifting up the weights with your hands. This way, you can avoid overloading your forearms and activate more of your back and lats.
6. Keep Your Wrist Straight
It’s important to keep your wrist straight to avoid wrist pain. Just use a full grip and try to squeeze the bar as hard as possible. And if you can’t, then lighten the weight because it is too heavy for your hand grip and forearms. However, if you still want to challenge yourself, a pair of lifting straps will be a good option but do not overuse it.
There are so many different types of barbell rows for you to choose. Here is a short list of rows which are common among lifters:
- Pendlay row
- Overhand barbell row.
- Smith machine bent-over row
- T-Bar row
Basically, those variations work the same muscle groups but each one of them emphases the muscles differently from the others. Therefore, just try them all if you can to find out which one is most suitable and comfortable for you.