Move of the Week: Barbell Row

Happy Monday! Here’s a Move of the Week to properly kick off the week to follow. Enjoy!

THE MOVE: Barbell Row

MOVEMENT PATTERN AND MUSCLES WORKED: Horizontal pull: lats, upper and mid back.

WHY DO IT: I’ll be the first to say that there is nothing fancy or complicated about today’s edition of Move of the Week at all. The barbell row shown above is one of the most basic and important exercises that everybody should use in their training. If not the barbell row, some other sort of row or horizontal pulling should be utilized regularly in its place. This movement pattern builds strength that bulletproofs the back and balances push with pull, which makes it excellent as a counter for all the benching and shoulder pressing we’re all guilty of doing.

A stronger back will help buffer the spine against undue stress, and contribute favorably to pretty much all barbell movements whether you are training in a powerlifting or weightlifting style. It will also help with that tug-of-war you and your friends will be doing on July 4th, so there’s that!

Another way that this exercise helps build back strength is through the isometric hold of the torso position necessary to perform the row properly. You don’t want to be so upright that you’re basically shrugging your shoulders into your ears. For those unaccustomed to it, this hip hinge is a challenging position that can really light up the hamstrings.

HOW TO DO IT: As a barbell exercise, the barbell row has great loading potential. However your ability to hold the inclined torso position necessary will dictate how much you can actually row with good form, so this exercise may be challenging with relatively light loads for some people. This exercise is best in the middle of a workout, after the heavy and most important exercises are out of the way, and we would recommend 3-4 sets of 8 reps here.

The set-up is important here in order to establish the proper torso position with neutral spine. Start with the barbell in a tall, standing position that mimics the top of the deadlift. Brace your core, unlock the knees slightly, and push your hips back while maintaining a neutral spine and keeping your shins straight. With your arms hanging straight in front of you, the barbell should be at your knee or below. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Hold this torso position throughout the set. From this position, row the bar towards your mid-torso, but don’t sacrifice technique by letting the elbows flare out.  Think about rowing with your shoulder blades and keeping the elbows close to your torso. At the top, you should feel your upper-mid back pinching together at the spine.

The barbell row is one of the most important exercises everyone should do. Let us know what you think on Twitter or Instagram @halevylife !

by Jeremy Lau

Jeremy Lau

Jeremy Lau Halevy Life Staff CoachJeremy Lau is a Staff Coach at Halevy Life.

Jeremy graduated cum laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BSc. in Biomedical Engineering and is currently pursuing his M.Ed. in Exercise Physiology at Columbia University. In addition to his academic accolades, Jeremy is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).

Prior to joining the team at Halevy Life, Jeremy completed a coaching internship at Cressey Sports Performance, where he coached both amateur and professional athletes, among whom were many professional MLB baseball players.

As an athlete, Jeremy has played baseball competitively for most of his life.