Want to build a strong shoulder and upper back? Barbell rows are a great way to do it. You can use free weights or a barbell, and they’re a step up from dumbbell rows in terms of difficulty.
What is a Barbell Row?
The barbell row is a bodybuilding exercise that targets the latissimus dorsi muscle in your back. It also works your trapezius muscles. The purpose of this exercise is to strengthen your back, but it’s also used as part of a mass-building program. You should aim to do 8 to 12 repetitions per set.
The barbell row is a popular weight lifting exercise that targets the muscles in your back, particularly the latissimus dorsi — commonly referred to as the lats. The lats are the largest muscles of your back and are responsible for movements such as bringing your upper arms down and toward the midline of your body.
What Muscles Do Barbell Rows Work?
The barbell row is a compound exercise that targets the following primary muscles in your back:
Latissimus dorsi: The Latissimus dorsi — often referred to as the “lats” — is a large, flat muscle that runs along the sides of your back. It allows you to extend, rotate and adduct your arm.
Rhomboids: The rhomboids are two diamond-shaped muscles located inside of your upper back between your shoulder blades. They allow you to retract and rotate your scapulae.
Trapezius: The trapezius — often referred to as the “traps” — is a large, triangular muscle that extends from behind your neck down to mid-back level. It allows you to rotate, extend and adduct your arm, elevate and depress your scapulae and extend your head.
If you’ve been weight training for any amount of time, you’ll know that there are countless exercises to build strength and size. You can train your muscles with barbells, dumbbells, machines, kettlebells and even just your own bodyweight. Sounds like a lot of choice? Yes it is, and that’s the problem.
When you have so much choice it becomes difficult to focus on what you need to do. You end up spending more time thinking about what you should be doing instead of actually doing it.
So much choice also makes it difficult to understand which exercises are actually worth your time and effort. There are so many popular routines out there, such as StrongLifts 5×5 or Starting Strength, but they all include different exercises so you don’t really know which ones will help you reach your goals most efficiently.
Barbell rows target your back and biceps. During a barbell row, you stand with your feet hip-width apart and bend over so your torso is nearly parallel to the floor. You then grasp a barbell with an overhand grip, keeping your arms fully extended and your shoulders pulled down away from your ears. Finally, you contract your back muscles to lift the barbell up toward your abdomen, keeping it close to your body throughout.
In addition to working the same muscles as bent-over rows, barbell rows also work the muscles of your shoulder girdle and core. Your shoulder muscles have to work hard to keep the barbell stable during the movement, while your core muscles have to contract isometrically to maintain stability in your spine as you bend over.
If you’re having trouble with barbell rows, or you just want to make sure you’re doing them right, here are five common mistakes that people make when they’re rowing:
- Bending too far forward at your hips.
- Lifting your chest up at the top of each rep.
- Shrugging your shoulders up as you lift the weight.
- Using too much weight and performing jerky reps with bad form.
- Not doing enough rows to maximize their benefits.
Barbell rows are one of the best exercises for getting stronger, adding muscle size and improving your overall physique. Like all weight training exercises, barbell rows offer many benefits, and should be a staple in any workout routine. If you’ve never tried barbell rows before, however, you might not know what muscles they work or where they fit into your training plan.
Barbell rows are a compound exercise, meaning they work multiple muscle groups simultaneously. However, the primary muscles used during the exercise are located in your back. These include the erector spinae in your lower back and the latissimus dorsi in your upper back. Other smaller muscles are also worked as stabilizers during this exercise, including your rear deltoids in your upper shoulders and your biceps at the front of your upper arms.
Barbell Row Benefits
Barbell rows offer many benefits due to their use of multiple muscle groups. For example, compound exercises like barbell rows burn more calories than isolation exercises like bicep curls because they require more energy to perform. In addition to burning calories and fat during a workout, barbell rows build muscle and strength that can increase your resting metabolism so that you continue to burn calories throughout the day.
In the end, whether you should choose barbell rows over bent-over rows depends on your workout regimen. Both exercises are highly effective for training the latissimus dorsi and trapezius muscles; however, each exercise works more of the other muscles as well. For example, during barbell rows, you will work your lats a bit more than during bent-over rows.
Barbell rows also allow you to lift heavier weight, which can make them potentially better at building total body strength. On the other hand, they force the core and lower body muscles to support a greater amount of weight than do bent-over rows (where only bodyweight is used), meaning that they might not be optimal if your primary goal is to focus on developing certain muscle groups rather than overall strength. Ultimately, both exercises are very beneficial for building a strong back, and you should consider using both in your routine.