Weight-training exercises not only elevate fitness levels and increase strength, they also contribute to improved health. By providing resistance for muscles to overcome, strength training yields benefits such as increased muscle mass and bone health. Specific exercises, such as bent-over rows, work several muscle groups, leading to improved muscular strength and endurance. When combined with cardio training and proper nutrition, a leaner, more toned physique is the result. Increased strength means a decreased risk of injury and illness.
Key Benefits of Barbell Rows
1. Build a strong back
The barbell row is one of the best movements for maximizing upper body pulling strength. It allows you to add strength quickly and work multiple muscles.
As a compound exercise using free weights, the bent-over row works many muscle groups. The main muscle group targeted is your back, the lats and rhomboids. Pulling the weight higher to your chest works your upper-back muscles, while pulling the weight closer to your waist works your mid-back muscles. Assisting muscles are your biceps as well as muscles in your shoulders and forearms. Additionally, your legs and core — the abdominal and lower back muscles — contract to stabilize, or keep your body in place, while performing the exercise. Increased strength in these muscles improves your posture and spine stability, reducing the risk for lower-back injuries.
2. Train for your goals
When weight training, muscles exert force to overcome resistance with or without movement. Resistance can be in the form of free weights, weight machines, bodyweight or gravity. Bent-over rows utilize free weights and gravity as resistance with movement. With your body bent forward, you pull a weighted barbell toward your torso while keeping your elbows close to your body, think about brushing your rib cage and keeping a straight spine.
No matter what level you are at currently, the bent row an be used to help you gain strength. Vary your reps and weight by using a lighter weight for two to four sets of 10 to 25 repetitions — results in smaller strength gains but greater muscle endurance and definition. Using heavier weights for one to three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions leads to larger strength gains.
3. Improve stability
With all of the upper body benefits it’s easy to overlook the full body stabilization effect of the barbell row. The bent over barbell row requires strength from the hands all the way down to the feet. The feet, legs, hips and core have to work just to maintain a stable position throughout the exercise. Of course, more muscles working means more calories burned, so by activating an array of muscles the barbell row turns into a fat-burning exercise as well.
You can train explosively by lifting fast, in proper form or you can focus on lifting with tempo to increase time under tension (TUT).
Why use tempo? Everyone should use tempo training at some point during their workouts.
All athletes can benefit from slower TUT’s that focus on the eccentric as this will develop body control, connective tissue strength and, of course, hypertrophy.
There are many reasons to use tempo training. Here’s a few:
- Improved body awareness.
- Improved control of lifts.
- Development of connective tissue strength.
- Improved stability.
- Focus on muscular elements versus tendinous elements (a slow, controlled motion is going to place more stress on the muscles, whereas a bouncy or ballistic motion will place more stress on the tendons, etc.).
The bent over row teaches you how to bend at the hips (as opposed to the waist) and maintain proper hip flexion. This is necessary to be able to safely and effectively execute proper form on any exercise that involves bending over. It also helps you with day to day task that require bending and pulling.
5. Improve other lifts
As you get stronger on the barbell row, you gain strength to complete other major compound movements.
Specifically, you get stronger on the bench press, deadlift and power clean – Here’s why:
- For the bench press: The barbell row trains the exact opposite muscles as the bench press, with an exactly opposite movement pattern. The stronger your back, rear delts and biceps get on rows, the stronger your pecs, front delts and triceps are able to get on the bench press.
- For the deadlift and power clean: As alluded to in benefit #4 (above), the barbell row teaches you how to bend at the hips properly. Also, it teaches you how to build tension in the posterior chain before explosively lifting the bar of the floor; something that’s essential to both the deadlift and power clean.