How to do Pendlay/Barbell Rows Correctly and Safely

 
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INTRODUCTION: PENDLAY ROW VS BENT OVER BARBELL ROW

The Row is regarded as one of the best upper body exercises available, as it strengthens and develops a key muscle group that is often neglected- the back.

There are many different variations you can perform which uses your bodyweight, dumbbells, or barbells. In this tutorial, we will be discussing the Pendlay Barbell Row.

Often times, when people perform barbell rows, they do it with varying degrees of back angles, varying ranges of motion, and they may use a significant amount of momentum.  As such, there is no way to standardize the exercise and it is difficult to ensure that you are training the appropriate muscles.

Pendlay rows are different in that the barbell always starts on the floor, and they are meant to be strict, with your back flat. In doing so, the exercise is much harder and ensures that you are training the appropriate muscles.

We do not think it is necessary to perform the exercise completely strict, therefore we will teach a hybrid of the two exercises in this tutorial.

PENDLAY BARBELL ROW FORM VIDEO

 

BENEFITS OF THE PENDLAY BARBELL ROW

  • Strengthens the lower and upper back muscles including the rhomboids, the mid-trapezius, the posterior shoulders and the latissimus dorsi

  • Helps re-establish proper shoulder positioning that happens from poor posture

  • Strengthens the core and overall lower body strength as you need to lift the bar off the floor into the proper position for every repetition

 

MUSCLES WORKED DURING THE BARBELL ROW EXERCISE

  • Rhomboids

  • Posterior Deltoids

  • Mid-Low Trapezius

  • Latissimus Dorsi

  • Forearms/Grip

  • Core Stabilizers

  • Hamstrings

 

PERFORMING THE PENDLAY BARBELL ROW WITH CORRECT FORM

  • Load an olympic barbell with the desired weights

  • The bar should be positioned at the mid-shin level (you can place pads underneath your weight plates to get the barbell to the appropriate height)

  • Approach the bar and set your stance at shoulder width with your feet facing forward. Your shins should almost be touching the bar

  • Bend down and grab the bar at a distance that is slightly wider than your shoulder width

 
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  • Straighten your back, brace your core and ensure that your spine remains neutral throughout the entire exercise

  • When looking from the side, your back should almost be parallel to the floor

 
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  • Squeeze your lat muscles, take a breath and begin lifting the bar off the floor as if you are performing a deadlift

  • Once the bar has cleared the ground, begin rowing the barbell up towards your upper abdomen

  • You can initiate the row by driving your elbows up towards the ceiling and actively retracting your scapulae together

 
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  • Once the bar has made contact with your body, reverse the movement back down to the floor

  • Your spine should never change its alignment and your back angle should never go past 45 degrees

 

SUMMARY OF THE BARBELL ROW TECHNIQUE 

 

Click on each blue circle to view the key technical aspects of this exercise

 

COMMON MISTAKES

USING TOO MUCH MOMENTUM
 

It is important to use some degree of momentum to initiate the row, but it's easy to get carried away. If your back angle is changing more than 45 degrees from the start of the lift, then the weight is too heavy.

 

ALLOWING YOUR BACK ANGLE TO BECOME TOO VERTICAL

Again, if your back angle is changing more than 45 degrees from the start of the lift, then the weight is too heavy.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

DUMBBELL ROW VS BARBELL ROW: WHY NOT USE DUMBBELLS?

The dumbbell row is a great variation that you can perform, however, you are limited by the amount of weight that you can use on this exercise. Either way, it is important to cycle different rowing variation into your own program to benefit from the unique advantages that each variation provides.

 

WHY BARBELL ROW FROM THE FLOOR?

Starting from the floor helps standardize the barbell row, and ensures that your technique remains strict. It also saves your grip strength as you can let the bar rest on the floor in between each repetition. 

 

DO I NEED TO BARBELL ROW HEAVY?

Do not make the mistake of performing the barbell row too heavy. In order to properly train these powerful muscles, you need to ensure that your technique is great. In order to do so, focus on higher rep sets.

Aim to perform at least 6 reps per set. Anything less than 6 reps will probably be too heavy and your form may deteriorate.

 

WHY IS THE BARBELL ROW HITTING MY KNEES?

If the barbell is hitting your knees on the way up, then you need to work on your starting position. Simply stand slightly farther away from the barbell when setting up, and try to keep your shins as parallel as possible.  

Unlike a deadlift, you do not have to keep the barbell as close to your body to have proper joint mechanics.

 

SHOULD MY LOWER BACK BE SORE FROM BARBELL ROWS?

Your lower back should naturally get trained from this exercise, however, the primary focus should be in the upper and mid back.  If your low back is the sorest muscle group, then the weight might be too heavy.

Lower the weight and focus on pulling the weight with your upper body.

 

WHAT GRIP SHOULD I USE ON THE ROW? NARROW OR WIDE GRIP?

The wider your grip, the more your lat muscles will get activated. The narrower your grip, the more your biceps will get involved.  A good starting place is shoulder width.  Just bend down and grab the barbell with your arms directly at your sides.

 

WHAT ABOUT AN UNDERHAND OR OVERHAND GRIP ON ROWS?

Similar to a narrow grip, an underhand grip will train your biceps more than an overhand grip.  There is no right or wrong answer. Use the grip that feels the most natural, and alternate between the two from time to time.

 

HOW CAN I INTEGRATE THE BARBELL ROW INTO MY TRAINING?

Want to know how to use this exercise in your workout? Check out The Best Workout Template For Busy Individuals to learn how to integrate it into your training!

PENDLAY/BARBELL ROW ALTERNATIVES AND SIMILAR EXERCISES

 

Alex & Brittany Robles are the founders of The White Coat Trainer, a site dedicated to improving the health and wellness of busy individuals. Learn more about them here and connect with them on instagram and Twitter. Feel free to send them a message here