How to Do a Bent-Over Row

The bent over row is highly regarded as one of the best exercises for working the back and shoulders. The trapezius, infraspinatus, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, teres major, teres minor and posterior deltoid are all targeted during the maneuver. Other muscles that are targeted are the biceps, forearms and traps. This exercise also employs the pectoralis major and shoulder rotators, making this an excellent compound exercise.  Some of the muscles used in the movement are responsible for everyday activities such as lifting heavy loads.

The exercise can be performed with two dumbbells or a barbell and should not be performed by a beginner or someone who is very new to weight training. The risk for back injury through improper use of form is quite high.

The bent over row is an excellent introductory movement for those looking to learn the proper form required for a deadlift.

How To

  • Select your weights. Either a barbell or free weights will work for this exercise. Free weights should be held at the side with palms facing in. A barbell should be held at shoulder width with palms facing the body.
  • Begin standing with feet at about shoulder width apart with a very slight bend in the knees.
  • Keeping the back straight, bend over until your upper body is at a 45 degree angle. Your body should never go further than 45 degrees during the exercise. Engage the abdominals and take a nice breath in.
  • As you exhale, pull the weights straight up until the arms are parallel with the shoulders or just slightly below. Do not raise the arms beyond the height of the shoulders.
  • Hold for a beat and then inhale as you slowly lower the weights back down. Hold your body in the bent over position until you are finished.


Your repetition count may be very low when first getting used to this movement.


The one-armed row: This variation is performed using the exact same posture but with only a single dumbbell. The other hand can rest on the thigh and help to train correct posture before moving to two dumbbells.

Reverse grip rows: Once you have mastered the traditional bent over row, you can start looking at switching your hand positions. This is performed using a barbell and helps to target the lower latissimus dorsi, or lats, which can be often overlooked.

Cautionary Notes

The exercise can be very hard on the lower back if you have not had previous weight training experience. Discontinue the exercise immediately if you feel any strain in your back.

Make sure not to round the back. A straight back is important to avoid injury. Discomfort in the back may indicate that further strengthening is needed before attempting this move.

Never bend over more than 45 degrees while performing this exercise; doing this, especially while using heavier weights, can easily strain the muscles in the back.

Do not move your legs or hips during this exercise. The lower body should remain still, and at no time should you perform a squat during this routine.

Take care not to excessively move the wrists. They should not be curled under or pressed to either side.

More Bent-Over Row Related Resources

Bent Over Barbell Row | Exercise Videos & Guides |
Bent-Over Row | Best Dumbbell Arm Exercises | POPSUGAR Fitness Photo 5
The Bent-Over Row Is Way More Than Just a Back Exercise
Barbell Bent-Over Row: Your Shortcut To A Bigger, Healthier Back | Coach
Bent-over barbell row exercise guide and video | Weight Training Guide
Barbell Bent-Over Row Video – Watch Proper Form, Get Tips & More | Muscle & Fitness
How to master the bent-over row

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