Row variations (and I’m not talking about a boat) are great if you are looking to put on seriou size. Of course rows will increase your strength and yes, even your aesthetics.

If this is a goal then it would be a wise decision to incorporate some sort of rowing into your training.

In this article we will be talking about the standard bent over row and row variations to go along with a recently posted video on the YouTube channel 10 Row Variations For A Big Strong Back.

When I started to row

I’ve been doing rows since the day I started lifting. Probably like most of you I started off doing “Bodybuilding” style workouts.

Higher volume and broken up into splits like the following:

  • Back & Bis
  • Chest & tris
  • Legs
  • Shoulders

There are a lot of variations of these splits, but in my early years of lifting I did them ALL.

The standard barbell row is a compound movement (which means it stresses multiple muscle groups) and if done correctly will put on some major size and strength all around.

In fact row variations will hit:

  • Lats (Latissimus Dorsi)
  • Spinal Erectors
  • Rhomboids
  • Posterior shoulder muscles
  • Forearms and biceps
  • Hamstrings and glutes

Best Row Variations to Improve Deadlift and get BIG BACK (Barbell Rows)


3 Reasons Everyone Should Be Rowing

My top 3 reasons why the row should be incorporated into your training.

Great for hypertrophy and strength

As mentioned above in the video I broke down which row variations you can go very heavy in and typically are used in strength blocks (more specific to competition) all the way to variations you can go lighter with and get more of a “Pump” from while doing hypertrophy training.

There are tons of variations which keep the movement fresh and never getting old. Which is actually very important the longer you have been lifting. Once something becomes monotonous it tends to not be as motiving to train.

My favorite to do during a strength block is going to be standard barbell bent over rows, Pendlay rows, and heavy single arm rows.

Have a great carryover to pulling movements

As you know I have been on the pursuit of getting a BIG deadlift which I’ve since added 80 lbs to.

After doing more and more deadlifts the next step is going to be proper accessory exercises to strengthen the main movement (in this case the deadlift) so rows are my go-to for training that hit smaller muscles involved with the lift.

Your back can never be TOO strong, especially in strongman. Strongmen/woman specifically have lots of events involving their back. There is usually always a deadlift event, some sort of carry event, and my favorite atlas stones! Having a strong back also helps in all the other main lifts as well.

They require minimal equipment

Something I’ve always been an advocate about is simplicity.

Back in the garage days I didn’t have much space or room for equipment and need to make sure everything was space efficient. Nowadays there is equipment for everything!

However, for the most part all you need is a barbell and some dumbbells to get the job done. Even if you wanted to maybe upgrade yourself to change things up the attachments and handles cover such a small footprint and are honestly not very expensive. So needless to say, I’m a fan!

General Guidlines To Incorporate RowVariations Into your Training

If you are looking for strength, I would recommend to stay within the 5-8 rep range and 3-5 sets for rows. Typically, as you get closer to competition, I would stick to whatever variations are closest to your comp lifts.

Typical rest time would be 90 seconds

If you are looking for hypertrophy and more muscle, I would be somewhere between the 8-12 rep range for 3-5 sets depending where you are at with your program. The higher volume will give you more of a pump, and you can play with whatever variations you want. Bodybuilders will typically do the “lighter” or smaller targeting exercises that are mentioned towards the end of the video.

Typical rest time could be 1 ½ to 3 minutes

Straps or no straps?

Lots of people ask if they can wear straps during their rows, I say do whatever you want! When it comes to rows you will be limited by your grip so I like to wear straps to allow me to train heavier. You should be doing enough grip work outside of rows so it’s not effected.

You can also do your first couple sets with no straps and once you begin to feel your grip being taxed and less able to focus on your back, it’s time to strap up!

I think by now you are understanding that rows should be a staple in your programming. Make sure to try out the variations that are in the video and let us know what you think!

Joey Szatmary

Joey Szatmary

Founder of Szat Strength and current Overall 2019 National Heavy Weight Strongman Champion.