Barbell Row: Benefits and How to Do It Correctly

Barbell row is one of the most effective exercises to build your back muscles. This particular exercise will aid in improving your posture as well as building larger back muscles. Barbell rows are an essential exercise for individuals at all levels of fitness.

The Barbell Row: Working Muscles

Primary Muscle Group

The barbell row works muscles in your upper and mid-back, including the rhomboids, lats, and hips.

Beginning in the mid and lower back and mid-back muscle, the latissimus doers, are the biggest back muscle. The lats play an important part in many “pulling” exercises like the pulldowns of your lats and pull-ups, and other rowing workouts.

Your rhomboids are located within your back’s upper. When you contract your rhomboids at the top of each rep in this barbell row, they’re responsible for bringing your shoulder blades in.

Secondary Muscle Group

The barbell row also involves the forearms, biceps, rear deltoids, abs, traps, and other smaller back muscles. Your forearms and biceps contract to lift the weight up in the exercise motion. Many other muscles are also used to stabilize the upper body.

The barbell exercise is a compound workout that targets your entire upper body.

The Barbell Row: Benefits

The Barbell Row Benefits

#1 Bigger And Stronger Back

The barbell exercise puts an immense strain on the back muscles. This causes muscles to respond by growing in size; this is known as hypertrophy. This can help you to build a bigger and strong back.

A strong and sturdy back is attractive; it’s also vital for enhancing your athletic performance, compound lifts, and other everyday routines.

#2 Full-Body Activation

For other back exercises, such as the dumbbell rows or pulldown lat, there are cables or a bench to stabilize the motion. When you do the barbell row, your body will rely on itself to stabilize.

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The lack of stability causes the body harder to maintain the proper posture during the workout. Although the barbell is principally an exercise that is back-focused, it also recruits muscles across the body to improve stability and balance.

#3 Improved Posture

The long hours you spend in chairs, whether at work or driving, may cause you to overuse your back lats and other muscles. This could lead to slouching, tension, and pain in your back and shoulders.

Barbells can be used to strengthen these under-used muscles and help reduce back pain and discomfort. If you exercise regularly, you’ll be standing straight and in a good posture within minutes.

The Barbell Row: Instructions


For this workout, you’ll require an exercise bar and some weights.


  • Set up an exercise bar on the ground using a weight ranging from light to moderate.
  • Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure that you step forward to ensure that the barbell is in the middle of your feet.
  • Take the bar in an overhand grip, keeping your hands just outside of your knees.
  • Engage your abs and back, then raise the barbell off the floor until you’re standing and your spine is straight.
  • Keep your back and abs in place, and bend your hips inwards to ensure your spine is equal to the floor. Keep your arms straight and keep your focus on a few feet in front of you.


  1. Keeping your elbows in a tucked position and your elbows straight, push them up and back down, bringing the barbell towards the belly button.
  2. Squeeze your lats to the top, stop for a few seconds, then slowly return to your starting position.
  3. Maintain your tightness in your back and core, and repeat!


The goal is to complete three sets of 10-12 reps on this barbell row. Once you are more comfortable with your form, you can change your rep intervals to test yourself.

The Barbell Row: Mistakes

The Barbell Row Mistakes

#1 Flaring Out The Elbows

I often observe lifters flare their elbows while they barbell row. The elbows flared out, shifting the tension in your lower back and shoulders. It’s not just a risk for injuries to these muscles. However, it also reduces the potential gains due to removing the tension in your upper back and mid-section.

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To remedy this issue, try to keep your elbows at an angle of 45 degrees to your body.

#2 Doing A Sway With Your Arms

Many lifters bow their wrists while using their arms to raise the weight. This is most commonly seen when they attempt to lift the excessive weight. In the end, they use their arms to increase the speed and “bounce” towards the end of every exercise.

It’s not just unsafe for your back and wrists and wrists, but it also doesn’t achieve the purpose of not overstressing the back muscles. Instead, opt for light weights and focus on the correct form.

#3 Rounding The Back

Another frequent error in the barbell row is rounding backward. This error is typical because of a poor setup position. It can occur if you cannot maintain your back in between sets.

The act of rounding your back can put your body in a vulnerable posture and result in injuries. While doing barbell row, keep your chest elevated and your back in a neutral, flat posture.

This can increase the safety and efficiency of the barbell row.

The Barbell Row: Variations

#1 Underhand Barbell Row

The underhand variant of the barbell row stimulates your biceps much more than the overhand barbell row. Turn your body at 45 degrees, then grasp the barbell using a neutral grip.

Use your lats to push the barbell toward your belly button on each repetition. Repeat!

#2 Alternating Overhand Barbell Row

You can also utilize the barbell row to strengthen your back unidirectionally. Instead of rowing using both hands, you can keep your one hand stationary while rowing with the other elbow, then move it up and backward to stretch the back on one side.

The overhand barbell row in an alternating fashion helps decrease back pain and enhance your mind-muscle connection.

#3 Overhand Close Grip Barbell Row

Instead of placing them directly beyond your knees, consider bringing your hands to the same level as your knees. The close-grip version that you can do with the barbell row creates more stress on your back’s mid-lower back than the standard grip variation.

The close grip can increase the range of motion you can perform. You may need to reduce the weight of this variation!

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The Barbell Row: Alternatives

If you’ve enjoyed the barbell row, you should check the back workouts that will help improve the strength of your upper body:

#1 Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown

Hold the bar by placing your palms away from you and your hands at least two inches apart to begin to set up. Then, push the bar until it’s at the highest point of your chest.

Take note that because your arms will be slouched back with this variant, You may need to reduce the weight!

#2 Straight Arm Pullover

Relax on your back and bend your knees and feet firmly on the floor. Take a pair of dumbbells with an overhand grip. Then lift your arms straight over your chest.

Slowly return your arms until the dumbbells are on the floor. After that, you squeeze your lats until they return to their starting position. Repeat!

#3 Alternating Lat Pulldown (With Handles)

The alternate lat pulldown is also an excellent way to work your lats unilaterally with two handles that you pull one at each time.

The alternate lat pulldown is an excellent method to correct any muscle imbalances on your back’s left and right sides.


  • Timothy P. Carnes

    Timothy P. Carnes is a certified personal trainer with a Bachelor's degree in Exercise Science from the University of Florida. With over 8 years of experience in the fitness industry, Timothy is an expert in strength and conditioning, body composition, and overall health and wellness. He also holds certifications in strength and conditioning through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and corrective exercise through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). As an author at FitGAG, he shares his knowledge and expertise on a variety of topics, including strength training, body composition, and overall health and wellness tips. Timothy believes that consistency and discipline are the keys to achieving fitness goals, and he strives to inspire his readers to prioritize their fitness and wellness journey. Through his articles, Timothy aims to empower his readers to take control of their health, enhance their performance, and live their best lives.

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