While barbell rows are obviously a staple in most bodybuilders’ back workouts, barbell reverse grip bent over rows aren’t seen nearly as often. However, just because they’re not that popular, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing them. Below are some advantages of reverse grip barbell bent over rows, and why they belong in your routine.
Reverse Grip Barbell Bent Over Rows – How Yates built great lower lats
Six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates was known for his extreme back development, and barbell reverse grip bent over rows are one major reason why. Because you’re using a supinated grip, you’re able to rotate your upper arm around the shoulder socket. This is important because it’s the lower lats that do the bulk of the work.
As such, you can build much wider and thicker lower lats than you can with almost any other exercise. Dorian was known for his lower lat thickness – especially when he did his front lat spread pose. It was no secret that he credited reverse grip barbell bent over rows for this. In fact, he was such a fan and caused such a bump in popularity for this exercise in the 1990s that they’re now often associated with the nickname “Yates Rows”.
Improved Leverage Makes Your Stance more Stable
One issue some lifters have with standard barbell rows is making sure they’re stable. This is often because you have to strike a balance between keeping your feet just the right width, getting your knees out of the way (as your Legs will be slightly bent) so you don’t hit them with the bar, and keeping enough of your bodyweight back to stay balanced as you’re pulling the barbell up higher on your torso.
However, barbell reverse-grip bent-over rows solve most of these issues. Your stance is inherently more stable, and because you are using the aforementioned supinated grip, the barbell is kept nearer to your centerline. This means improved leverage and an increased ability to keep yourself planted. Because you’re so much more stable, most of the pressure is taken off your lower back, making injury less likely.
You can Use a Curl Bar
Older trainees with a lot of heavy lifting under their belt sometimes suffer from inflammation of the elbows and/or wrist. As such, any exercise that uses a straight barbell (be it with a supinated or pronated grip) can sometimes cause this to flare up. However, because of the movement pattern of supinated grip bent over rows, you could easily use a curl bar.
Grabbing it so that your hands are at a roughly 45-degree angle will put both your wrists and elbows in a much more ergonomic position, which will alleviate tension. Not only is this easier on your joints, but curl bars still give you enough room that you can load it up heavy enough to suit even the strongest of lifters.
Bent-over rows might not be as common as their barbell or dumbbell counterparts, but give them a shot. You’ll be able to use significantly more weight, get a greater stretch, and take the width of your lower lats to all-new levels.
3 Reasons To Add Bent Over Barbell Rows To Your Routine
Bent over barbell rows are one of the most old school back exercises you can do. While many lifters often opt for machine, cable, or dumbbell rowing movements, bent over barbell rows should not only not be overlooked, but are often preferable. Below are three reasons why.
No Special Equipment Needed
Unlike most other back exercises, bent over barbell rows need no special equipment, cables, or anything else. All you need is a barbell, plates, and a little bit of space. This means they can be done in any gym or weight room.
You can Train the Back Ultra-Heavy
While machines and dumbbells can still let you train heavy, it’s not totally uncommon to see these getting maxed out by stronger lifters. As a result, they have to either try to affix external weight plates to the apparatus, build their own custom dumbbells, or utilize sets of higher reps to Fatigue the back.
However, barbells can be loaded as heavy as you like. This means there’s no chance that you’ll get so strong that you won’t be able to train heavy. This is important because while higher volume can have its place, it’s the really heavy weights used for sets of 6-8 reps that build superior thickness throughout the rhomboids and upper back.
Near Endless Rowing Variations
Outside of the strength and extreme back thickness that heavy bent over barbell rows can build, perhaps the best reason to add them to your routine is that they can be done with near-endless variations. As such, you can target specific areas of the back and vastly improve overall development.
For instance, if you utilize a grip width just outside your torso and pull the bar to the middle of your abdomen, you’ll get quite complete development of both the rhomboids and lats, middle back and upper back. However, pulling the bar up closer to your nipples will shift almost all the emphasis to your upper back and lower traps. Spreading the hands out wider will also involve the rear delts much more.
If you wanted to emulate a famous pro bodybuilder, you could narrow your stance (more like a Romanian deadlift), and grab the bar with palms facing away / curl grip. This variation was a known favorite of six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates. He preferred it as it allowed him to rotate the upper arm around the shoulder socket more, almost mimicking a pullover. As a result, Dorian was able to build some of the best lower lats in all of Bodybuilding at the time.
However, if you wanted to go a little old school, stick one end of the bar in the corner, load up the other end, grab the bar in the “hand-over-hand” position just below the inside collar, and do t-bar rows. This was a favorite of seven-time Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger, who used to regularly do this exercise with 5, 6, and even 7 plates on the bar. He often credited his prominent back thickness to his liberal use of t-bar rows with a barbell.
If you do decide to try t-bar rows in this fashion, one tip to keep in mind is to not use 45-pound plates. This is because the plates bump into your chest and can restrict your range of motion. While many lifters have still gotten great results with the t-bar version of barbell rows, using 35 pounds or even 25-pound plates will let you pull higher and contract the muscles more. It’ll be more of a pain as you’ll need more plates, but the increased results are usually worth it.
Bent over barbell rows aren’t completely necessary to build a strong and muscular upper back. However, they can make building one happen much quicker. This is because they can be done in any gym atmosphere with as much weight as you can handle, and with virtually any variation you want to hit the back how you best need. Add heavy rows to your schedule, and you’ll see your rhomboids and lats getting thicker in pretty short order