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How to perform the bent over row: the best upper and middle back exercise ever!

How to perform the bent over row: the best upper and middle back exercise ever!

There is a simple compound exercise that is great at targeting pretty much every single muscle in your lower, middle, and upper back. The bent over row is a great exercise that works pretty much every muscle in your body. This lift is a must for upper body and back work and when combined with exercises like romanian deadlifts or squats it can really work your lower back and posterior chain.


The bent over row

The bent over row should be ideally performed with your back parallel to the ground and your core held firmly in place throughout the motion. Bent over rows can begin either from the floor in front of you, or (for beginners) you can get into proper rowing position by slowly lowering yourself into position from the top down.


Proper form tips

– Back should be straight and parallel with the ground

– Weight should be slightly back and planted in the middle of your foot

– Knees should be slightly bent and you should feel tension in your hamstrings

-Lower abs should be held tight to help keep your back straight

-You should be standing over the bar with the bar somewhere under your sternum area

-You should allow your arms to fully extend and your lats to release, while keeping your rhomboids tight

Proper starting position for the bent over row.

Proper starting position for the bent over row.


After you get your body into the right position for your row, you are now ready to begin the exercise. The exercise is performed by contracting your rhomboids and trying to squeeze your shoulder blades together while you lift the bar off of the ground and up into your chest area.

After holding your contraction, and while still keeping your shoulder blades squeezed together and your back even with the floor, you should slowly release the weight until your arms are fully extended and you have rested the bar back on the floor.

Proper contraction for the bent over row.

Proper contraction for the bent over row.

Common mistakes

Standing too high

Many people make the mistake of standing with their posture too upright, this turns the lift into more of a modified shrug or upright row rather than a row; it also prevents you from engaging your core properly throughout the lift.


Kipping (not being strict)

Doing a shrug/snatch type of motion to begin each rep often prevents you from getting a good contraction in your rhomboids and it also decreases the intensity of your muscle contraction.


Not allowing arms to fully straighten (and not returning the bar to the ground)

By not allowing your arms and back to fully relax in between your sets you miss out on a vital range of motion for your exercise and you also prevent yourself from getting that crucial initial engagement of your rhomboids and lats.


Rounding the lower back

Allowing the lower back to round puts added stress on the lumbar spine, takes away from your core stability, and is a great way to injure yourself. If you can’t keep your back straight with this lift then you need to either re examine the issues preventing you from keeping your back straight or you need to lower the weight a bit.

Rounded back bent over row

Incorrect rounding of the back during the bent over row.


Correct positioning of the lower back for the bent over row.

Correct positioning of the lower back for the bent over row.


Not keeping the lower abdominal muscles tight

By not keeping your lower abdominal muscles tight you increase the risk of the lower back rounding and you also add additional stress on the spine. The lower abs are meant to stabilize the spine along with the lower back, hips, glutes, and obliques, and by flexing the abdominal muscles you add stability to your spine and increase the amount of weight you can safely lift.


Bouncing the bar

Almost as bad as not lowering the bar the entire way to the floor, bouncing the bar makes the lift easier and lowers the initial contraction required to lift the bar off of the ground. Make sure to get a good contraction and maximal muscle recruitment by slowly lowering the bar to the floor and then lifting it all the way back up to your chest.


Check out the video for even more information on how to perform the lift correctly, and I have also included some visual cues that you can use to check your own form while performing the bent over row.

For all of you out there who don’t already know, I am in the process of getting my NASM personal trainer certification. I have a good amount of personal experience with fitness, and I have worked as a personal trainer in the past, but I want to increase my skills to be able to better serve my clients and help the people around me.

By bettering myself and my own knowledge of fitness I will be able to better help people with goals specific to their own fitness levels. Since I am in the process of getting my CPT, I will be creating more posts focused on fitness and specific exercises (for beginners and for people who are already fairly fit).

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