3 Bent-Over Row Variations That Build a Strong Back

Expand your arsenal of back-strengthening exercises with these Bent-Over Row variations.

The Bent-Over Row is an effective back-training exercise for building strength and size. Many variations exist, from the classic Barbell Row to Dumbbell (DB), Kettlebell (KB), and Chest-Supported Row—the list goes on.

Let's explore the progression of the unilateral DB or KB Bent-Over Rows.

The muscles recruited during this exercise include:

  • Rotator cuff
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Rhomboid major and minor
  • Trapezius – upper, mid, lower
  • Posterior deltoid

Note: The core musculature has been purposefully omitted from this list, as techniques to challenge the core are explained in progressions of the row.

Since your current grip strength will have a profound effects on desired outcomes, consider incorporating grip strength into your program—using towels and rice, or training putty, or Captain of Crush grip trainers.

Classic Bench-Supported Bent-Over Row (BOR)

Classic Bench-Supported Bent-Over Row

Level: Beginner

This is probably the most common unilateral Bent-Over Row, and the one of the three here that has the least muscle-fiber recruitment.

This one uses a bench to support your contralateral side, stabilizing your body and minimally activating your core.

With this particular BOR variation, KBs assist in facilitating added grip work and are personally preferred; but if KBs are unavailable, DBs with Fat Gripz are great for forearm development on all BOR variations.

Semi-Supported Row

Semi-Supported Row

Level: Intermediate

This variation, performed with a more "ground-based approach," is a personal favorite. You will be in a straddle stance with only one hand on the bench for support.

In this position, the exercise becomes more functional and requires more core activation to maintain spinal alignment. Furthermore, with more muscles activated, caloric expenditure increases, thus more strength, more fat loss, more function.

Anti-Rotational Row

Anti-Rotational Row

Level: Advanced

This is the mother of all unilateral rows. Without external support, the core musculature will be at high activation to maintain proper spinal alignment.

With this exercise, the KB or DB must be heavy enough to create an anti-rotational effect. Increase the resistance to a challenging level to feel the full effect of the exercise.

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