Pendlay Rows vs. Conventional Barbell Rows? Which one is better for your back development?

There are two main barbell rows – the conventional “bodybuilding” row and the Pendlay row. The first one is more popular and often seen in the gym. The lifter bends over at a 110-120 degree angle and starts pulling the barbell towards the chest.

On the other hand, the Pendlay row, named after the U.S. weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay, requires a 90-degree angle and a dead stop at the bottom.

The Downsides of the Conventional Row

The main problem with conventional barbell rows is that people feel obligated to cheat. А well-performed barbell row is rarer than a proper deadlift or squat. Sooner or later, even strict lifters turn the barbell row into air-humps. The result is a jerky motion (swinging) and a poor range of motion.


Use The Pendlay Row To Fix Your Form

Pendlay’s version fixes many of the problems associated with the conventional row by adding the following form adjustments:

1.Every rep is treated as a deadlift. This increases the quality of the performance.

2.The lifter has to touch his chest/upper abs with the bar on every rep. This longer range of motion results in more muscular stimulation.

Yates Rows – The Worst of Them All

The Yates row is a bastardized version of the regular row. The lifter is almost standing up, and the bar touches the lower abs. That’s how short the range of motion actually is. The Yates row could be considered the equivalent of a 1/3 bench press a.k.a. bench press lockouts. Ultimately, it’s an inferior exercise.

Sometimes All Barbell Rows Suck

The barbell row may be a solid multi-joint exercise, but there are situations when you would do better without it.

The standing row fatigues the lower back which recovers slowly. The extra stress can hurt your deadlift and squat. This is why many people skip barbell rows altogether and stick to deadlifts, pull-ups, chest supported rows, T-bar rows, Hammer Strength machine rows…etc.

What about reverse grip barbell rows?

The reverse grip places a lot of stress on the bicep tendon and can result in a tear. The fact that most people do “humping” rows increases the risk. The overhand grip is safer.

When should I do barbell rows – before or after deadlifts?

If you are going to do barbell rows and deadlifts on the same day, do the deadlift first to take advantage of your fresh back.

If you do barbell rows first, your lower back will be already cooked before your deadlift.

Conversely, barbell rows after deadlifts are easier to tolerate, although you may still experience pronounced lower back fatigue.

My bench press is stronger than my barbell row. Is that normal?

Yes. The bench press has a mechanical advantage over the barbell row. The triceps, the chest, the front delts and the back are heavily involved. If your row is 80% or more of your bench press, you are doing well.

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