A Safer Way to Bent-over Row

The bent-over row has been a staple of strength training and bodybuilding programs for decades. You can find a plethora of pictures and videos of big, strong people doing the bent-over row and their wide backs, bulging biceps, and massive forearms are the proof in the pudding.

The bent-over row is a builder of upper backs and the elbow flexors (the biceps and forearms). The problem is the bent-over row puts a ton off stress on the lower back. If you have low back issues, the traditional bent-over row may leave you hurting for a while.

One simple tweak can make the exercise much more back friendly and allow you to continue to crush it in the gym.

The Split-Stance Row

Assuming a split-stance you can make the bent-over row much more back friendly and allow you to handle higher loads at higher volumes.

There are a couple reasons that I prefer this variation over the traditional bilateral stance.

  • Takes the stress off the lower back
  • Much harder to round the back in the split-stance versuses the bilateral stance

Note: It is important to switch between front legs as there is some contraction of the hips and core on the front leg to help in stability.

Variations

Trap-bar Split-Stance Row

The trap-bar allows for a bigger split stance because you don’t have to worry about the bar hitting your knee. The neutral grip also allows you to pull your elbows back even further, leading to a bigger contraction of the upper back.

Dumbbell Split-Stance Row

The dumbbells are much like the trap-bar in that you don’t have to worry about the bar hitting your shins or knees during the actual pull. You are also able to get a bigger range of motion like the trap bar, as you don’t have to worry about the bar hitting you in the chest.