a heavy barbell on gym floor

How To Do Barbell Rows

by Evelyn Valdez

Grab your UPPPER Lifting Belt and Lifting Straps and get ready to nail your bent-over barbell row form! 

Along with pull-ups, the bent-over row is one of the most effective exercises that targets your entire back muscles, and then some! Aside from targeting your entire back, it also targets your upper arms, core, and even some muscles in your lower body. Making it a key exercise for anyone trying to lose back fat, build a stronger back or better upper body strength.

If you're ready to take your back gains to the next level, keep on reading to learn how to execute a barbell row with top form!  

How To Barbell Row

Iulia doing Barbell Rows


​​​​Step 1: The Setup

Set up the barbell on the floor with the appropriate weight for your fitness level. Stand in front of it with your feet slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart.

Once the barbell is set up in front of you, take a deep inhale, brace your core, and move toward the bar by pushing your hips back bending slightly at the knees, almost as if you're getting into a Romanian deadlift position.

Next, place your hands on the bar using a double overhand grip, palms facing down, just outside of shoulder-width apart. Grab the bar with a secure grip and makes sure that your shoulder blades are tucked back and down (so chest up, or a "proud chest"), back straight, and head in a neutral position - don't look up or down at your feet! Instead, focus on a spot a few feet in front of you.

Step 2: The Pull

To lift the bar off the floor and start the pull, extend your legs by raising your hips. Begin pulling your elbows toward the ceiling to lift the bar until it comes in contact with the bottom of your rib cage or belly button.

Squeeze your shoulders and back muscles as you row the bar up, and remember to keep your back flat and in a neutral position. At the top of the movement, squeeze your shoulder blades and hold for a second or two.

Step 3: The Ascent

The last step is to lower the weight back down, which sounds easy enough, but you must do it in a controlled manner.

You can either lower the bar to the floor or lower it a few inches above the floor. Typically bodybuilders or Olympic lifters will rest their rep by putting the bar to the floor and lifting again from the floor, average lifters tend to keep it a few inches above the floor before doing the next rep. It's a matter of preference, but typically if you're lifting a heavy load then it's best to reset the rep in order to go through the full range of motion. 

So, after holding the bar at the top of the movement, in a controlled manner lower the bar toward the ground, or a few inches off the floor, until your arms are straight. Once your back to the starting position, brace your core and begin to lift again!

If you're unsure about how many reps and sets to do, the bent-over barbell row is usually performed for 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps. Again, it depends on the weight being used, but it is a heavy movement, so your reps might be lower than if you were doing a dumbbell row.

Barbell Row Techniques

To ensure you're performing this exercise in a safe and effective manner, here are some tips to keep in mind when rowing:

Don't Bounce The Weight Up

One of the most common mistakes that lifters make is letting the torso bounce up and down when rowing the bar. But this mistake is one you don't want to make. It can irritate the shoulder joint over time and even increase the risk of a lower-back injury.

To avoid this, focus on keeping your torso motionless and using your upper back and other muscles to pull the bar. If you're struggling to pull the bar towards you without 'bouncing' your torso, then take a step back and use a lighter weight. The key to avoiding injuries and making progress is to use a weight you can control. It will make it easier for you to focus on your form and it will also recruit the intended muscle groups. Before increasing the weight on any exercise, make sure you can do at least 10 reps with proper form.

Play Around With Different Grips

The double overhand grip is the most common grip to use, and the best one for those just starting out with this exercise. Once you're comfortable with the barbell row, don't be afraid to change up your grip and hand positions.

Different grips and hand positions can help emphasize one muscle group more than another. For example, placing your hands at a narrower than shoulder-width grip will have you pulling the bar towards your lower abdomen, which puts a greater emphasis on your lats (middle to lower back). As another example, using an underhand grip (palms facing up) instead of an overhand grip puts more tension on the lats and biceps, and less on the traps and upper back muscles. Therefore you can choose a certain grip or hand placement that best suits your goals.

Reset your reps

Most people are used to doing the exercise by keeping the bar a few inches of the floor and only resetting after every set. There's not a problem doing this, but once you're comfortable with the exercise, consider resetting after every rep, meaning lowering the bar all the way to the floor. This will help you move through the full range of motion and make the exercise more effective thus maximizing your results.

Use Lifting Straps On Heavy Sets

It can be hard going heavier on barbell rows without your grip giving out, and letting your grip give out before your back muscles can lead to ineffective results.

Consider using lifting straps on your heaviest sets! Weight lifting straps are a great piece of workout gear that will help reduce grip fatigue and will prevent the weight from slipping out of your hands. Plus, you can use them for other pulling exercises, like deadlifts and upright rows.


1. How should beginners gradually progress in terms of weight and intensity when incorporating bent-over barbell rows into their workout routine?

Beginners should start with lighter weights and focus on mastering proper form and technique before increasing the weight. They can gradually increase the weight as they become more comfortable with the exercise, aiming to add small increments over time to avoid strain or injury.

Beginners can also start by incorporating alternative exercises, like dumbbell rows and cable rows, to help them develop better muscle strength before hitting the barbell.

2. Are there any specific warm-up exercises or mobility drills recommended before performing bent-over barbell rows to reduce the risk of injury?

Yes - always warm up before lifting weights!

Incorporate dynamic stretches, such as arm swings or shoulder circles, and activation exercises targeting the back muscles, such as band pull-aparts or scapular retractions, to prepare the body for the movement and reduce the risk of injury.

3. Besides lifting straps, are there any other equipment or accessories recommended for enhancing safety and performance during bent-over barbell rows?

Besides lifting straps, lifters can use a lifting belt to stabilize the lower back during heavy lifts. A weight lifting belt and lifting straps can offer additional support and confidence while allowing you to push through more reps. 

    Why Choose UPPPER Lifting Straps and Lifting Belts?

    At UPPPER, we strive to make lifting gear that is high-quality, durable, comfortable, stylish, and most importantly, designed to help elevate your workouts to the next level. 

    Our Weight Lifting Belts are not only designed to look good. They are optimally designed to provide abdominal and lower back support to help promote good form and better balance when lifting heavy. 

    Our Lifting Straps are designed to help you grip any amount of weight without the discomfort or stress of the weight slipping out of your hand. The loop’s adjustable sizing and extending length allow you to wrap and connect your hand to the weight to improve traction, protect your grip, and minimize your risk of injury. 

    >> Shop UPPPER Lifting Gear <<

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