Barbell Row Exercise: Tips, How-To, Common Mistakes + FAQ

One of the most well-known back exercises for building mass and getting stronger is the barbell row. This exercise can hardly be missed in a diverse training schedule aimed at muscle mass. A muscular back is also visible in a shirt or maybe even a sweater, making it high on the wish list for many men and women.

On this page you will find useful explanations about the barbell row, you will discover the most frequently made mistakes and you will find frequently asked questions.

Which muscles do you train with the barbell row?

The barbell row is of course known as an exercise for the back muscles. However, you train even more muscle groups with this. For example, it is important that you grip the barbell firmly with both hands.

To do this, you have to squeeze the bar firmly, which puts your forearms to work. If you haven't done the exercise often, you will notice that your forearms can get sour pretty quickly. This will decrease automatically since you also train it with the barbell row.

In addition to your back muscles and your forearms, your biceps are also used a lot during the performance of the barbell row. Because you move the bar towards your body, you automatically tighten your biceps.

This ensures that you will also train them with this exercise. Your shoulder muscles (especially the back) are also used to perform the exercise correctly.

All in all, the barbell row is a great exercise if you want more mass on your upper body since your back, forearms, and biceps will be well stimulated.

Barbell Row Exercise

Correct execution of the barbell row

Because it is very important to perform the barbell row correctly, we have written a clear step-by-step explanation here. Follow the steps as closely as possible to ensure that you perform the exercise as efficiently as possible.

  1. Stand in the starting position

    Place a barbell with the desired weight on the floor. Stand in front of the barbell with your feet about shoulder-width apart and grasp the barbell shoulder-width apart with your palms down. Bend your knees slightly and lift the barbell off the floor. Bend your upper body forward so that it is almost horizontal.

  2. Lift the weight

    Now pull the barbell up in a controlled manner until it touches your belly button. Keep your back completely straight throughout the movement. Try to visualize pulling from your elbows and pushing your shoulder blades in, activating the back muscles as much as possible.

  3. Drop the weight

    Once the bar touches your navel, you can lower it back to the starting position in a controlled manner. Try to focus on tightening your back here too.

  4. Repeat

    Repeat the above steps for the desired number of reps.

If you perform the barbell row properly, you will automatically feel it in your back muscles. Do you feel that you are not quite successful? Ask an instructor at your gym to check your technique. In addition, you can also film yourself to assess where possible points for improvement in your technique lie.

Common mistakes

To ensure that you do not make one (or more) of the most common mistakes, it is advisable to read the mistakes below carefully.

  1. Not pulling in
    shoulder blades Perhaps the biggest mistake people make when performing barbell rows is not moving their shoulder blades inward. If you don't do this, you don't tighten your back muscles enough. Are you not able to push your shoulder blades in enough during the upward movement? Then try lowering the weight. Chances are you're doing the exercise with too much weight.
  2. Wrong Grip Width
    Another common barbell row mistake is gripping the bar too wide or too narrow. It then becomes difficult to maintain a correct technique. In addition, there will be extra tension on your forearms. So just try to hold the bar at shoulder width.

  3. Not keeping their backs straight Another big mistake people often make is not keeping their backs straight. With a back that is not straight, it becomes quite difficult to move your shoulder blades inward. So make sure that your back remains well tensioned throughout the exercise.
  4. Not bending over far enough
    The last mistake we'll cover is not bending over enough. Some people stand quite upright during the barbell row, which prevents them from making a full movement. So make sure you stay bent over to stimulate your back muscles sufficiently.

Frequently asked questions about barbell rows

To complete this information about the barbell row, here are some frequently asked questions. If you are still unsure after reading these questions, please leave a message and we may add your question to this overview.

Barbell row vs dumbbell row, which one is better?

Neither exercise is really better than the other. Both the barbell row and the dumbbell row are very good exercises for your back muscles. So feel free to alternate them or just add them both to your schedule. After that, you can also try other exercises, such as the lat pulldown.

Barbell rows with underhand or overhand grip?

Both variants are good, but of course, there is a difference. When you do the barbell row with an overhand grip, you will notice that your biceps also have to work hard. This is of course not wrong, but with an underhand grip, they are stimulated just a little less. If you want to focus on your back, it is, therefore, useful to opt for the underhand grip.

How heavy should you do barbell rows?

Make sure you can continue to perform the exercise correctly. It is therefore not advisable to immediately hang a lot of weight on the barbell, simply because this is often at the expense of the technique. So just start your barbell rows with a lightweight and then work your way up until you can do the desired number of reps with good execution.

How many reps should I do?

Do you just want to master the exercise and build muscle mass? Then try to get about 8 to 12 repetitions with the exercise. If your goal is more to build strength, then you can do fewer repetitions with heavier weight. Of course, you don't have to do 12 repetitions specifically, but just see what you like.

Do you want to do other exercises for your back besides the barbell row? View all back exercises here.

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