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Chest-Supported Row vs. Bent-Over Row: Which Variation is Greatest for Constructing a Larger Again?

It’s no secret that constructing a well-developed again entails loads of pulling workout routines and sufficient protein to help your strength- and muscle-building efforts. Whereas there are completely different routes you’ll be able to take to attain that sculpted look, the best back workouts revolve round a traditional pull-day staple: the row. 

The variety of row variations to select from could really feel overwhelming, however you’ll be able to’t go fallacious with two of the simplest choices: the chest-supported row and the bent-over row. However what reigns supreme within the battle between a bench-based again builder and a freestanding barbell motion?

Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

We’ll dive deeper into their variations and similarities, break down find out how to carry out each safely, and focus on the advantages and disadvantages of each so you will get essentially the most bang on your buck throughout your subsequent pull-day session. 

Desk of Contents

Key Variations 

[Related: Lat Pulldown vs. Pull-Up: The Battle for a Bigger Back]

Key Similarities

Muscle mass Labored 

Just like the bent-over row, the chest-supported row includes a number of upper-back muscle tissues — primarily the latissimus dorsi (lats), trapezius (traps), and rhomboids. Your lats, that are the most important again muscle tissues, are the primary mover throughout any row variation. In the meantime, your traps assist stabilize your scapula, and the rhomboids play an essential position in shoulder stabilization. 

Bodybuilder flexes his back muscles while posing in the gym.
Credit score: ThomsonD / Shutterstock

Along with your lats, traps, and rhomboids, your posterior deltoids — the again shoulder muscle tissues that connect to your shoulder blades — additionally act as prime movers in the course of the bent-over row and the chest-supported row. Plus, each row variations contain ample biceps activation, as this two-headed muscle assists with flexing your forearm and elbow. As you retract your shoulder blades throughout a row, your biceps assist your arm bend on the prime of the motion. You can too enhance the stimulus through the use of a supinated (palms-up) grip. 

Nonetheless, the bent-over row includes a number of muscle teams and joint buildings that the chest-supported model doesn’t. Most notably, this multi-joint motion recruits your hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors to forestall any rounding as you pull the barbell towards your physique from a hip-hinge place. Total, your legs and core should put in an equal quantity of effort as your higher physique to carry out this train safely and successfully.

[Related: What Muscles Do Push-Ups Work? Get More Out of This Timeless Exercise]

When to Do the Chest-Supported Row 

Generally, selecting a chest-supported row merely makes extra sense. Whether or not you’re new to lifting, therapeutic from an damage, or trying to goal particular elements of your again, listed here are a number of situations the place a chest-supported row works greatest:

You’re a Newbie

Simply began power coaching? Moderately than threat getting harm performing a extra technical motion, follow the model higher suited to newbies. The chest-supported row teaches you find out how to have interaction your core and ideal your pulling approach from a seated place that retains your backbone secure. 

Whereas you’ll have to start out with lighter dumbbells, you’ll be able to rapidly enhance the load in case you stay constant together with your strategy. Plus, the chest-supported row provides you an opportunity to learn the way altering variables resembling your grip, the angle of the load bench, and time below pressure can have an effect on your outcomes. For instance, an overhand (pronated) grip will result in extra rear delt and upper-back activation since your elbows come out out of your physique. An underhand (supinated) grip retains the elbows nearer, forcing your traps and biceps to step up their sport.

Woman performs a chest-supported row with dumbbells.
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

You’re Working Your Manner Again From Harm

In the event you’ve been sidelined by a again damage and are able to resume coaching, the chest-supported row is a brilliant selection. Utilizing a bench for help decreases the stress in your backbone and core, permitting you to give attention to performing the motion utilizing exact approach. 

Begin with lighter weights to set your self up for long-term success by rebuilding your power, stamina, and confidence one rep at a time. 

You’re Chasing Bodybuilding or Physique Objectives

If you wish to develop a extra outlined, muscular again, the chest-supported row allows you to goal your lats, rhomboids, and traps with out your decrease again and core being a limiting issue. In any case, sustaining a hinged place whereas rowing a heavy load may be very tiring.

From there, you’ll be able to tailor the train to help your physique targets by going heavier, altering the tempo, altering the incline angle, or experimenting with completely different set and rep ranges. Both approach, the chest-supported row stands out as an apparent selection if you wish to isolate sure muscle tissues on again day.

When to Do the Bent-Over Row

There’s a motive the bent-over row is close to the highest of each best back exercise list: it produces outcomes. From athletes aiming to get extra explosive to individuals who have to develop stronger posterior chains to lifters in search of a approach to develop a much bigger again, listed here are conditions the place you can also make the bent-over row the star of the present.

You’re Coaching for Olympic Weightlifting or Powerlifting

All power and energy athletes ought to embrace a bent-over row variation of their routine. Olympic weightlifters can profit from this train through the use of it as a primer for the clear and jerk, which requires explosive motion and a powerful higher again. 

Plus, powerlifters who wish to enhance their deadlift PR also can make the most of the bent-over row to assist attain that aim. Getting comfy with hinging on the hips, mastering find out how to brace your core, and studying find out how to absolutely have interaction your lats and different again muscle tissues will solely enable you carry out even higher when it’s time to step as much as the barbell. 

Male powerlifter prepares to perform a conventional barbell deadlift.
Credit score: Nomad_Soul / Shutterstock

Moreover, bent-over rows can provide you a leg up on the squat and the bench press. Growing your traps will create a stronger shelf for the bar to relaxation on — a significant benefit when squatting heavy hundreds. When it’s time to bench, having a powerful higher again will help you preserve a greater arch and stay secure as you decrease the bar towards your chest.       

You Wish to Strengthen Your Posterior Chain

A weak posterior chain can contribute to low again ache and poor posture. Though it’s a little bit of a double-edged sword, the bent-over row may also help you in that space by strengthening key muscle tissues like your spinal erectors and hamstrings — each of that are recruited closely to stay in a powerful hip-hinge place. 

Based on a 2021 assessment on therapy for continual low again ache, 12-16 weeks of posterior chain resistance coaching had a considerably higher impact than normal train on ache, degree of incapacity, and muscular power. (1) So, when you shouldn’t attempt to max out on the bent-over row in case you’re attempting to construct a wholesome posterior chain, you’ll be able to definitely incorporate it right into a program that features fundamental core exercises like useless bugs, chicken canine, and planks. 

You Wish to Add Total Dimension and Energy

If rising a thick, dense wall of muscle alongside your again issues most, make the bent-over row the primary carry in your pull day. A 2009 research evaluating three row variations discovered that this train produced giant activation symmetrically from the higher to decrease again, supporting the concept of the bent-over row as a go-to motion for including measurement and power. (2) Total, a compound motion will contain extra muscle engagement than an isolation train just like the chest-supported row. 

Learn how to Do the Chest-Supported Row

To carry out a chest-supported row, you’ll need a pair of dumbbells and an adjustable weight bench. Altering the incline degree (in addition to your grip) can alter the way you assault your again exercise by stimulating particular muscle tissues. 

Right here’s a step-by-step information to executing the chest-supported row with the proper approach.

  1. Set your bench to a 45-degree angle. Seize your dumbbells and lie chest-down on the bench with the weights by your sides and your palms dealing with inward. 
  2. Press your ft into the ground, have interaction your glutes, and brace your core to create pressure all through your torso.
  3. Whereas sustaining a impartial backbone and head angle, retract your shoulder blades and pull your elbows towards the ceiling till they type a 90-degree angle.
  4. Squeeze your upper-back muscle tissues on the prime of the motion for one to 2 seconds, then rigorously decrease the weights again to the beginning place. Preserve constant pressure in your abs to guard your decrease again as you full your set.

[Related: How to Do the Pendlay Row]

Learn how to Do the Bent-Over Row

The bent-over row requires simply two items of apparatus: a barbell and weight plates. If doable, use high-quality bumper plates so that you don’t have to fret about noise points. Whereas it’s also possible to carry out this train with a pair of dumbbells, this breakdown covers find out how to do the normal barbell bent-over row. 

Right here’s a step-by-step information that may enable you grasp the nuances of this compound motion:

  1. Stand behind a barbell together with your ft shoulder-width aside. 
  2. Hinge on the hips by retaining your again straight and bending your knees barely.
  3. Seize the bar together with your fingers barely wider than your shoulders utilizing a pronated (palms-down) grip. 
  4. Have interaction your glutes and core, deadlift the bar off the ground, and lean ahead to type a 45-degree angle.
  5. Whereas retaining a impartial backbone, pull your elbows again till the bar touches your midsection. 
  6. Maintain the contraction for one second earlier than slowly reducing the barbell till your arms are prolonged and the load plates are simply above the bottom. 

Advantages of the Chest-Supported Row

The chest-supported row affords loads of intriguing potential for lifters trying to construct a powerful, outlined again. Let’s study a number of key advantages of performing this train.

Added Stability

The largest good thing about the chest-supported row is undoubtedly being able to coach your again with the built-in stability of a bench. That is nice for each newbies and superior lifters who wish to attain their power and hypertrophy targets with out having to be taught a sophisticated approach or fear almost as a lot about core or lower-back limitations.

Takes Benefit of Unilateral Coaching

Versus bilateral workout routines just like the barbell bench press or the back squat, the chest-supported row allows you to assault either side independently. Unilateral training is useful in that it means that you can tackle any imbalances and removes the potential of one aspect shouldering extra of the load. Supersetting the chest-supported row with one other unilateral train like single-arm lat pulldowns can take your again exercise to a different degree. 

Simpler Restoration

The less-taxing nature of the chest-supported row makes it simpler to recuperate throughout and after your exercise. This motion doesn’t demand almost the identical depth or general muscle recruitment as a compound train just like the bent-over row.

Man sitting on a weight bench with a pair of dumbbells near his feet.
Credit score: Reshetnikov_art / Shutterstock

It’s best to be capable of catch your breath, reset, and be able to go for not less than a number of units earlier than transferring on to the subsequent train.

Cons of the Chest-Supported Row

Though added stability and simpler restoration stand out as positives, there are some drawbacks to the chest-supported row, together with:

Requires Extra Tools

Sadly, in case you don’t have an adjustable weight bench, you gained’t be capable of carry out the chest-supported row. Plus, you want a pair of dumbbells (or kettlebells) that present sufficient of a problem. With out the requisite instruments, you’ll have to flip to different again workout routines that don’t require a bench (such because the inverted row) or will be carried out with out tools (like Superman holds). 

Much less Total Muscle Engagement

There’s a tradeoff for extra stability: much less muscle engagement. Since you’re seated together with your chest in opposition to the bench, your core and legs get a little bit of a break. So although the chest-supported row works effectively for hitting your lats, rhomboids, traps, and biceps, it falls in need of the bent-over row in what number of muscle teams it recruits.

Can’t Go as Heavy

The awkward physique place of the chest-supported row could make it tougher to leap up in weight. Working at the usual 45-degree angle provides you adequate vary of movement to drag and squeeze, however solely to a sure diploma. Even in case you’re an skilled lifter with a stable power base, you’ll rapidly understand it may be troublesome to regulate heavier dumbbells and squeeze out clear reps. 

Advantages of the Bent-Over Row

Whether or not you’re a bodybuilder, power athlete, or normal fitness center goer, the bent-over row presents a wealth of potential muscle- and strength-building advantages. 

Carryover to Different Pulling Workout routines

Whether or not it’s pull-ups, deadlifts, or the cable seated row, you’ll be able to put your self in a greater place to carry out effectively at different pulling workout routines by way of the bent-over row. Constructing power and endurance in your lats and traps will carry over to muscle-building workout routines like dumbbell pullovers, lat pulldowns, and face pulls.

Man performing cable lat pulldowns.
Credit score: Nikolas_jkd / Shutterstock

Plus, coaching your glutes, hamstrings, and core to deal with a rowing movement from a bent-over place provides you with a stronger trunk to deal with no matter deadlift variation you like. 

Compound Motion

Based on a 2017 research on resistance coaching modalities, multi-joint workout routines are simpler for enhancing muscle power and maximal oxygen consumption than single-joint ones. (3) That makes one thing just like the barbell bent-over row an awesome bang-for-your-buck selection on your coaching protocol. Not solely does it construct upper-body power, but it surely additionally stimulates your belly and leg muscle tissues from begin to end. 

Improved Posture

A sedentary way of life can result in slouched shoulders, weak spinal erectors, and disengaged glutes. The bent-over row may also help counteract that by permitting you to strengthen your posterior chain. As you progress, you shouldn’t be stunned to see an enchancment in your posture and a discount in decrease again points.

[Related: 6 Deadlift Benefits Everyone Should Know About]

Cons of the Bent-Over Row

Is the bent-over row the correct pull-day motion for you? Earlier than you pencil it into your program, listed here are some cons to think about. 

Harm Threat

Though it may be nice for creating explosive energy and upper-back power, the bent-over row will be harmful if finished incorrectly. Sustaining correct type is usually a main problem, as you should cohesively coordinate a number of muscle teams and joint complexes to help you maintain a loaded hip-hinge place at some stage in your set.

Only a slight slippage in type — resembling rounding your decrease again or barely shifting your hips to at least one aspect — can result in a strained muscle, ligament, or extra extreme damage. Whether or not you repeatedly carry out the bent-over row incorrectly otherwise you simply lose focus for one rep, you run the danger of experiencing a setback that might derail your coaching plans. 

Grip Energy Limitations

In the event you’re taking the glass-half-empty view, one of many drawbacks to the bent-over row is that your grip power is a limiting issue. In case your forearms and fingers can’t deal with holding, lifting, and reducing a loaded barbell repeatedly, you’ll battle to execute the motion successfully or effectively. This will also be the case with the chest-supported row in case you use heavy dumbbells.

Close-up shot of a person's hand grabbing a barbell.
Credit score: Robert Avgustin / Shutterstock

You’ll be able to overcome this drawback by persistently engaged on grip strength exercises or utilizing lifting straps for help. Whereas the previous will enable you get higher at bent-over rows and different lifts that require good grip power, the latter will allow you to work with heavier hundreds by retaining your fingers securely fixed to the barbell. 

Demanding on Decrease Again and Core

Compound workout routines just like the bent-over row primarily put your total physique to the check. Whereas there are definitely advantages to recruiting a number of muscle teams in a single motion, your coaching session can rapidly go south in case you don’t have a well-developed core. 

Hinging on the hips and remaining in that near-horizontal place whereas pulling the load vertically locations important stress in your decrease again and belly muscle tissues. As soon as fatigue units in, you could battle to maintain the proper type or should put down the barbell totally. 

Utilizing Momentum

Whereas the chest-supported row forces you to make use of correct type by retaining your chest in opposition to the bench, the freestanding place of the bent-over row opens the door to utilizing momentum to carry the load. In the event you go too heavy, get fatigued, or lose focus, it’s simple to cheat the following reps by swinging or jerking the barbell fairly than sustaining pressure and executing strict, managed reps. Not solely will this restrict the effectiveness of the train, but it surely might additionally result in an damage. 

Row Until You Develop

The battle between the chest-supported row vs. the bent-over row doesn’t essentially have a winner or a loser. Each workout routines supply distinctive advantages that may help with sculpting the again of your desires. On the identical time, there are notable variations between the 2 rowing variations that may make one or the opposite a extra logical selection primarily based in your particular person targets. 

In the end, your greatest wager is to incorporate each the chest-supported and bent-over variations in your exercise plan. That approach you’ll be able to pack critical measurement in your body, develop higher posterior chain and grip power, and reap all of the rewards of rowing — one pull at a time.


Is a bent-over row higher than a chest-supported row?

As a result of every variation brings distinctive advantages, it’s powerful to say one is inherently higher. Nonetheless, in case you’re targeted on gaining essentially the most measurement and power, the bent-over row is the superior selection. That stated, the chest-supported row continues to be helpful for coaching your upper- and mid-back and is usually simpler to carry out, making it a stable possibility for newbies. 

Is the chest-supported row the identical because the incline row?

Regardless of their identify variations, each describe the identical train. Whether or not you name it a chest-supported row or an incline row, you’ll need an adjustable weight bench and a pair of dumbbells to help your back-building efforts. 

What’s the greatest angle for bent-over rows?

The best physique place for a bent-over row requires a ahead lean of about 45 levels. Though you’ll be able to go a little bit additional (round 60 levels is my choice), hinging your hips to 90 levels will put extra stress in your posterior chain and will make the train tougher to carry out repeatedly.


  1. Tataryn, N., Simas, V., Catterall, T., Furness, J., & L. Keogh, J. W. (2021). Posterior-Chain Resistance Coaching In comparison with Basic Train and Strolling Programmes for the Therapy of Continual Low Again Ache within the Basic Inhabitants: A Systematic Assessment and Meta-Evaluation. Sports activities Medication – Open, 7.
  2. Fenwick CM, Brown SH, McGill SM. Comparability of various rowing workout routines: trunk muscle activation and lumbar backbone movement, load, and stiffness. J Energy Cond Res. 2009 Mar;23(2):350-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181942019. PMID: 19197209.
  3. Paoli, A., Gentil, P., Moro, T., Marcolin, G., & Bianco, A. (2017). Resistance Coaching with Single vs. Multi-joint Workout routines at Equal Whole Load Quantity: Results on Physique Composition, Cardiorespiratory Health, and Muscle Energy. Frontiers in Physiology, 8.

Featured Picture: Jasminko Ibrakovic / Shutterstock

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