What is it they say about variety? That it’s the spice of life? We 100% agree!
But when it comes to your gym life — it depends.
You have to be strategic, and today we are going to help you with that! We have SIX BENT OVER ROW VARIATIONS for you to add to your exercise library.
For most, exercise variety is great!
- Variation helps keep you motivated!
- Mixing things up prevents burnout!
- Changes can be beneficial for pushing past a plateau!
- Trying new movements expands your exercise knowledge!
But if you are looking to get bigger or stronger — constantly changing your programming may not be the best idea!
The keyword is constantly! Everyone needs some sort of change from time-to-time to avoid adaptation.
Here are 10 ideas to help keep your body from hitting a plateau that may be hard to break ….
- Change your sets or reps.
- Increase or decrease your load.
- Try a different intensity.
- Add in, take away, or change your style of cardio.
- Change your tempo (pauses, etc.)
- Increase or decrease rest times.
- Change your workout schedule/training split.
- Incorporate supersets or clusters.
- Try all new exercises.
- Perform the exercises in your plan in a different way.
If growth or strength is your goal, your training program should mainly consist of basic (but effective) staple exercises that change based on your progress, goals, and training phase, and hypertrophy should be achieved mainly through those first eight suggestions above!
You can still incorporate new exercises or your current exercises in a different way, but they need to fit into your overall plan and have a specific purpose.
Constant confusion IS NOT ideal …
But a little strategic confusion could be beneficial!
One of the best ways to be strategic with muscle confusion when you are trying to grow or get stronger is to take an exercise you already have in your plan and make a slight adjustment. Which is exactly what you can do with the SIX BENT OVER ROW VARIATIONS we are showing you today.
You can find step-by-step instructions and tips below! But if you are more of a visual learner, or want to ensure you are doing them correctly, check out this instructional video we filmed!
6 BENT OVER ROW VARIATIONS FOR A BIGGER BACK
The first three variations only use dumbbells which makes them great if you workout from home, travel, or go to a gym with limited equipment.
They are all dumbbell rows, but each is slightly different and serves a unique purpose!
VARIATION ONE: Bent Over Two Arm Dumbbell Row
This is a back-day staple for most. We include it in our variation list because many people workout from home or only have access to a gym with limited equipment and need dumbbell-only ideas for back day!
But also because many people perform this row variation with poor form and end up recruiting more traps or arms. We want to help make sure if you are doing it, you are doing it right!
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and weights by your side.
- Hinge at the hips, so your back is almost parallel to the ground.
- Brace your core, engage your glutes, keep your spine neutral.
- You will stay in this position for all reps.
- Perform your row by driving your elbows back first and then squeeze up.
- Slowly lower to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps.
Tips To Consider:
- Use moderate to light weight. Your goal is to hit the lats hard. Lowering the weight will help ensure you maintain proper tempo, use less momentum, and ONLY recruit your lats.
- Do not row the weight up into your chest! Drive your elbows back and up.
- Try this exercise as a super-set with a pushing movement!
VARIATION TWO: Bent Over Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
This exercise is very similar to variation one, except you will be using a bench for support and only rowing one arm at a time.
Throwing in unilateral movements is important to ensure you are hitting each side of your body equally. If you don’t currently have any unilateral exercises in your plan, you should!
- Place your right knee and right arm on a flat bench.
- Grab a DB with your left hanging arm.
- Brace your core and keep your spine neutral.
- You will stay in this position for all reps on the right side.
- Perform the row by driving your left elbow back and then drive it up and squeeze your lats at the top.
- Slowly lower and repeat for the desired number of reps.
- Switch sides and repeat.
Tips To Consider:
- Same as the two-arm row. Keep the weight moderate to light.
- Do not row the weight up into your chest!!!! Drive elbows BACK and then UP!
- To not overly recruit your biceps, reduce elbow flexion to isolate lats.
VARIATION THREE: Chest Supported Dumbbell Row
This is another dumbbell variation with a bench, but you will put the bench at a slight incline and use it for chest support!
The back is a large muscle, and sometimes people attempt to use a load that is way too heavy. This usually results in swinging or using the legs for momentum
When your chest is supported, it takes out all momentum and is all muscle! You get to focus on what’s most important — tempo and time under tension!
- Place a bench at a slight incline.
- Put your dumbbells on the floor next to the top of the bench, or hold them in each hand as you approach the bench.
- Straddle the bench and rest your chest on the angled portion of the bench.
- Plant your feet firmly on the ground.
- Allow your arms to hang straight downwards with your palms facing toward one another and pull your shoulders down.
- Row the dumbbells up towards the ribcage by pulling your elbows back and up and squeeze your lats.
- Slowly lower and repeat for the desired number of reps,
Tips To Consider:
- Similar form tips as above. Your elbows should drive straight back along your body and not flared out to the sides.
- Use LIGHTER weight. Without ANY momentum, you will likely only be able to do about 50% of the normal weight you do for variation one.
- Rest only your chest and torso on the bench, not your neck or head. Your head and neck should be over the top of the bench.
- Keep your head/neck neutral at all times.
- As you lift, your upper chest will probably slightly lift up off the pad. This is fine. Just keep your spine neutral!
VARIATION FOUR: Standing Cable Low Row
This row variation hits your lats at a lower angle and is great for people who have a hard time with the elbow back and up movement. With the cable pulley down low, once you stand back, the back and up movement is a little more natural.
You can use any handle you have available at your gym. If you use a straight bar, we suggest an overhand (pronated) grip for better lat isolation. You can also use an EZ curl bar with an underhand (supinated) grip, but be aware that you will recruit a little more bicep performing them this way.
We also really like using a rope. With a rope, you can use a neutral position, which is great for lat contraction! It also allows you to go out and around your hips.
- Lower cable pulley to the very bottom.
- Hold a straight bar with an overhand grip.
- Facing the machine, step back away from the machine.
- Keep your chest out and get a full stretch in your lats.
- Get in a similar stance as row variation one.
- Drive the weight DOWN and into your belly button!
Tips To Consider:
- Do not pull toward your chest. Pull to your belly button,
- Do not flare your elbows out.
- Try out a variety of handles and grips.
VARIATION FIVE: Inverted Row
This is a bodyweight-only exercise, but don’t let that fool you! It is VERY DIFFICULT, especially if added in as a back day finisher!
It’s also a great back day warm-up and perfect for anybody working on developing their pull-up strength.
You would typically use a smith machine/squat rack for this exercise, which is how we describe below, but if your gym has rings or a TRX system, those are also great options!
- Set the bar to around waist height when standing. You want the bar set just high enough to allow your arms to fully extend in the hanging position.
- Position yourself underneath the bar face up.
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip (palms facing away from you) slightly wider than shoulder-width.
- Let yourself “hang,” and then step your legs straight out and plant your heels on the ground. Your body should be in a straight line.
- Keep your core and glutes tight and contracted.
- Pull yourself up to the bar until your lower chest touches the bar.
- Squeeze and push your chest out.
- Slowly lower yourself back down.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Tips To Consider:
- Focus on full range of motion!!
- You won’t be able to drive your elbow down and pull up to the belly button as we would typically advise. You still want to focus on having your elbows down at an angle, but your elbows won’t be completely tucked like they are with a DB or cable row.
- If this is too difficult, try raising the bar up so that your body is at more of a 45-degree angle when you lean back.
- Another way to make this movement easier is to bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor.
- Try this as a warm-up, finisher, or in a super-set with a weighted exercise.
VARIATION SIX: Meadows Row
The Meadows Row was made popular and named after the famous bodybuilder John Meadows. You may have also heard it called a — Landmine Row, Single Arm T-Bar Row, or Perpendicular Landmine Row.
Whatever you wanna call it, we love it! It is unilateral, allows for a more significant elbow-out arm path, provides extra range of motion, and is great for grip strength!
It seems that a lot of people don’t know about this row variation, and we’ve noticed those that do tend to use bad form. A few weeks ago, we filmed a video on back thickness where we go into even more detail on how to do the Meadows Row with proper form. You can check it out HERE if you want!
- Position a barbell wedged into the corner of a wall. You can also use a landmine attachment if you have access to one.
- Load the bar using small plates.
- Get into a split stance position.
- Grab the end of the barbell with an overhand grip.
- Rest your non-working arm on your front leg for support.
- Hinge forward, slightly turn your body and get your hip as high as possible.
- Row the weight up, out, and away from your body.
- Stop and squeeze when your elbow is at the midline of your body.
- Slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
- Switch and do the same number of reps on the other side.
Tips To Consider:
- Whatever leg is stepped back (the side you are working) make sure you really focus on driving that hip upwards for a better stretch in your lat.
- Use smaller plates. Large plates restrict full range of motion.
- Do not arch through your spine or let your back “rotate.”
- If you feel this movement in your arms more than your back, try adjusting your grip.
We hope you found this video helpful
and it helps you spice up your next back day!!
If you want to hit your lats a little differently, swap your current row variation for one of these!
Or, if you are looking for more lat-focused movements, pick a few from the list and add them to your current program!
But don’t forget that including variations like these to bust past plateaus or cure boredom should be pretty low on your list of priorities if your goal is to build a BIGGER BACK!
Actually, no matter your goal, your first priority should always be finding a training program and diet that best matches your goals and genetics.
That is if you want the fastest and easiest results!!
We have a FREE QUIZ that can help you out with this. It’s only six questions. You get your results instantly and are given the three most important things you can do to get real results fast!!
You can check it out HERE whenever you get a chance!