Bent over Rows Exercise for Big, Muscular Back Muscles

A Muscular back is every muscle builders dream. But what can you do to build a muscular upper back which is as thick as it is wide?

Nothing beats sexy, muscular, back on the beach!

Enter Bent Over Rows.

Bent over rows, also called bent rows is the best exercise to build a wide upper back with dense looking muscles.

But what about pull ups and deadlifts? You need them too.

Essentially you need all 3 moves as they work your back differently.

So pull ups + Bent rows =  Muscular upper back

and Deadlifts = Muscular lower back muscles.

Lets build a strong, muscular back with bent over rows.

Inside This Article:

The Importance of Rows for Back Muscle Building

Your upper back muscles have two functions - 

  1. Pull weights from above and 
  2. Pull weights to the body from front of you.

Pull ups do an excellent job for the first function.

The second function, called the row, is best targeted by rowing exercises like bent over rows, seated rows and T-bar rows. Deadlifts work them too.

Bent over rows is the best exercise in these as it allows heavy weights but there is a caveat. They fatigue your lower back muscles faster, especially in 3rd and 4th set of your exercise and might lead to premature giving up. For this reason, supported rows are a great variation.

What sexy upper back muscles means to you: Upper back muscle building gives your body the much needed balance. We tend to work on mirror muscles like chest and shoulders and neglect the unseen back muscles. But everyone see these muscles, especially when your shirt just falls off your back area. Don’t let this happen.

Also back muscle building creates balance between front and back side of your body and prevents any injuries that might happen due to strength imbalances.

How to perform bent over rows with perfect from

Barbell Rows Exercise Demonstration

The Rowing Mindset: Any back exercise demands excellent mind-muscle connection. So feel the muscles, not just the weight.

Imagine your arms as levers holding the weight and pull with your powerful back muscles.

Muscles worked in bent over rows: Latissimus dorsi, lower trapezius and rhomboids

The Rowing Mindset

The Proper Technique

The Prep: Load a bar with large plates so that your stretched arms reach the bar without excessive bending.

Stance: A Narrow stance is optimal.

Grip: Overhand with thumbs wrapped around the bar - called closed grip.

Step One: The Bar Grab

Bend your knees slightly and Grab the barbell or dumbbell by maintaining your upper back parallel to the floor. Keep the bar close to your shins as even 2 inch far off will reduce leverage and might cause stress on the lumbar vertebrae {disc and ligament injury}. 

Keep your head straight, tighten your abs and clench your body. Hold the bar very tightly to maximise power generation.

Take a deep breathe in and hold your breathe. Its called power breathing.

Now it gets interesting...

Step Two: The Row

Using the muscles of your upper back, pull the barbell towards you and touch your lower chest and abdomen junction.

Imagine your arms only as levers connecting your back muscles to the barbell or dumbbell. Also do not push with your feet/legs as you do in deadlifts. Deadlifts work your legs too and hence your thrust off your feet.

Reach the top of the movement and squeeze your upper back muscles for full contraction. Exhale fully now not during the lift. a whoosh at the top creates power breathing pattern.

Step Three: The Descent

Lower the bar, not just by controlled descent but by actively pushing the bar away from you as you learn in pull ups exercise.

This ensures better upper back muscle contraction in subsequent reps. Inhale on the way down.


  • Initiate from the working muscles
  • Feel the muscles, not only the weight
  • Keep your natural arch in the back, no rounding
  • Keep yourself steady and keep stress on upper back or else lower back fatigues earlier

Supported Bent Over Rows

As you have learnt, there are two problems with conventional bent over rows:

1. Its easy to cheat and use arms,legs or lower back muscles

2. Lower back muscles which are stabilisers in this move, fatigue faster and you might confuse this with upper back fatigues and give up.

I have a found a simple technique which will target your upper back more while minimising work of biceps, legs and especially the lower back musculature.

Its the supported bent over rows

1. One arm supported rows: They reduce the fatigue of lower back muscles while maintaining good rowing form.

2. Chest supported row off the bench: Th limit the role of arms and leg muscles, hence excellent for back muscle isolation.

Rowing Variations

Bent over rows are a good exercise provided you already do deadlifts and pull ups. Conventional BOR {bent over rows} are great back builder. Arnold Schwarzenneger mentions they add thickness to your upper back.

But if you are the experimental type or want to add variety, then cable seated rows and T-bar rows provide just that.

In seated rows, make sure your knees are slightly bent and you don’t overstretch the back when releasing the weights during the negative portion of the exercise. Do not go beyond the vertical back position.

In T-bar rows, try variety of grips. Wide grip works the rhomboids more, and the narrow grip works the lats and biceps more.

How to add Rows to your back muscle workouts

Your main goal it o do heavy deadlifts and quality pull ups {even weighted ones} for your total back development.

You have not worked your back muscles to their potential until you deadlift 1-2 times your bodyweight. Your whole back muscles will be smoked.

Bent over rows are a good addition as a finisher move.

If you got gas in the tank after heavy dead and pulls, then add 1-2 sets of BORs for complete muscle exhaustion.

If heavy squats and deadlifts are being rotated in your workout, then on non-deadlift weeks add pulls + BORs for excellent back workouts.

1. NNMB Muscle Building Program: is a complete 26 week Muscle building Program which I highly recommend for a perfect muscular physique.

2. MI40 Muscle Building Program: is a 40 day muscle building challenge which not only teaches the best way to train but also promises twice the muscle in half the time.

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