The barbell bent over row is a great exercise to strengthen the musculature of the back and core. It also strengthens the shoulders, and to a lesser degree, the arms.
A barbell should be used for this exercise. A traditional barbell may be used, and to increase the resistance, lifters may add weight plates to each side. Some gyms have fixed weight barbells which are shorter than a traditional barbell and the resistance is not adjustable. These fixed weight barbells often increase in resistance by 5-10 pounds (50 lbs, 55 lbs, 60 lbs, 65 lbs, and so on). Also, some gyms have barbells that weigh 35 lbs, and occasionally less.
The barbell bent over row may be too advanced for women who are just beginning to strength train. Because most gyms commonly have traditional 45 pound barbells, unless you have access to a lighter barbell, beginners may prefer to start with a different row variation which allows them to start with a lighter resistance. Great row exercise options for beginners include inverted/modified rows (on rings, suspension training straps), inverted rows on a barbell that is set up in a squat rack or on a Smith Machine (use a pronated or supinated grip), single arm dumbell bent-over rows (half kneeling on bench, split stance, or tripod stance with one hand on a bench), seated or standing rows using a band, cable, or machine (can be done with one or both arms).
The barbell bent over row is a great option for lifters with an intermediate level of experience, who have mastered some of the rowing variations for beginners that are listed above. If an upper body pulling workout is being performed, lifters should place the barbell bent over row somewhere in the first half of their workout when their body is fresh. If a full-body workout is being performed, the barbell bent-over row can be paired with a lower body compound movement (but avoid pairing it with any deadlift variation as both require that your body is in a hinging position), or an upper body pressing movement. You can also make it part of a conditioning circuit. Intermediate lifters might perform 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps of the barbell bent over row.
Women who are comfortable with the barbell bent over row may choose to use this row variation as well as increase their weight/resistance for multiple sets (2-4+) of fewer repetitions (3-6). The barbell bent over row may also be used as part of a conditioning circuit or barbell complex. Women can also make this exercise more challenging by performing negative rows and lowering the bar in 3-5 seconds as this increases the eccentric component of the movement, or they can add band resistance to the barbell.
How a woman chooses to use a barbell bent over row is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, how much weight is being used, the set/rep scheme used, where it falls in the workout, what it’s paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general barbell bent over rows can be used to do any or all of the following:
Barbell bent over rows are a fantastic exercise to challenge your upper back and your core. Unfortunately, they’re an exercise that gets butchered a whole lot. So a few things to remember.
When you’re doing the barbell bent over row; your lower body is essentially doing a hinge when you’re rowing the weight. So you’re pushed back into your hips and your core is nice and braced as you row. You’re not bending at the waist and rounding the back, you’re pushed back into your hips and sitting back into your hips and glutes.
When you go to row the weight, it’s really important to pull your shoulder blades back and down. What you don’t want to happen is for the elbow to come back past the shoulder, as that’s a bad position for the shoulder to be in. So you want to think about keeping your elbows close to your body and pulling your shoulder blades back and down together, holding for a second, and then releasing.
So I’ll show you what that looks like. Make sure you pick up the weight properly, just like a deadlift, hinge back into your hips, brace your core, and row. One thing that you’ll see is people trying to row the weight all the way to their stomach. But the problem is that they can’t pull their shoulder blades back that far. They end up here, and then in order to pull the weight all the way to their stomach they rotate their shoulder forwards and pull their elbows back and again, that’s a poor positioning for their shoulder. So make sure you’re thinking: hinge position, pull back into your hips, shoulder blades, core braced, shoulder blades gliding over the rib cage, and squeezing your back together.