The Best Back Exercises: Row Variations

If you’ve stumbled upon this article, you’re probably looking for nothing less than a “demon” back or perhaps find what exercises allowed many of the women you look up to achieve what they did.

When exercising, science plays a key role in understanding how our bodies work and what methods can help us achieve our fitness goals. Forget any ideas of complicated formulas or mind-boggling theories, though.

Science provides us with practical insights into how to optimise our exercise routines.

For optimal muscle growth, it’s important to choose exercises that effectively isolate and stimulate targeted muscle groups, establish good mind-muscle connection, and incorporate a variety of levels of intensity.

We have also found that organising exercises by movement categories helps to provide clarity and comparison between different types of exercise. Also, allows one to understand which muscles and movements they target.

Row variations

Rowing exercises are fantastic for back growth. The issue is not one is the better option, as all have their advantages and plusses. Thus, having exercises against each other allows you to visualise why one might be better.

Barbell Bent-Over Row


Pendlay Row

Many people see these two exercises to be the same. Yet that is not the case.

The bent-over row allows constant time under tension, as the weight doesn’t touch the ground, and employs lower back muscles and leg strength to keep a stable position. And will also require more grip strength to keep the weight above ground.

The pendlay row, different from the bent-over row, allows you to leave the weight on the ground after every rep, thus creating a lengthier range of motion.

With the pendlay row, many add more weight than they would with a bent-over row. As the angle at which you stand is less strenuous for your lower back, making it an ideal exercise for heavy lifters.

Machine Low-Row


Machine High-Row

The vital difference between these two exercises is the position where the row begins (low/high).

You must be aware of your objective for muscle growth to determine which exercise is preferable to the other.

When performing a low row, you will create a lat bias movement and utilise mid-back muscles, such as the infraspinatus, posterior deltoid, and teres major, assisting the latissimus dorsi. And you will also engage your biceps when creating a drag pull.

Where-as the high row, the lats are indeed in use during the performance of the exercise, but, unlike the low row, the high row allows activation of the trapezius and rhomboids, muscles that get neglected with a high row.

The advantage of these exercises is that most machines will provide chest support, allowing you to lock in and maintain full lat engagement throughout the entirety of the movement.

Machine Chest Sup. Rows


Dumbbell Chest Sup. Rows

Thanks to the incline position of the bench, ideally 45 degrees, when performing dumbbell chest-supported rows, it is not only easier on the back than a standing position but also a good way for beginners to learn the row movement while hitting their upper back muscles.

However, keeping your lats locked in is harder when heavy loading, as it will probably cause you to round your back.

When performing Dumbbell-supported Rows, many times I have found myself struggling to try to adjust the exercise to make it more optimal when trying to increase to heavier weights.

The Machine Chest supported row, on the other hand, equal to the rest of the machine rows, allows you to lock in your lats, keeping them engaged throughout the entire movement while giving your lower back a break, and hitting your upper back muscles. And thanks to the mechanics of the machine, the only thing stopping you from holding the weights is your grip, rather than you uncomfortably scooching up the bench to find the correct position to perform the exercise.

Seated Cable Rows


T-Bar Rows

Seated Cable Rows are optimal when facing hip and lower-back strength troubles. When performing the exercise, you are in a stable upright position, allowing you to focus on strengthening your scapulae instead of your lower back. 

Because of the variety of grips/handles available, seated cable rows allow you to target specific areas of your upper back.

T-Bar rows are excellent for strength training.

Due to the mechanics of the exercise, T-Bar rows allow one to employ a heavy load while simultaneously working most muscles in your body.

The exercise utilises a good amount of lower back and core strength to keep the weight in place. The rowing part of the exercise will work your upper back muscles. And standing will strengthen parts of your lower extremities.

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