The biggest piece of free weight equipment is probably the barbell.

So it makes sense that barbell movements can involve some pretty heavy lifting!

Problem is… when that “heavy” factor enters the scene, we sometimes yank it around and try to throw it so hard that we can lose good form. This is true for the barbell row in particular – here’s how to perfect your barbell row technique for massive results.


First of all, when we talk about “rowing”, many associate this with the arms. After all, we’re “pulling” right? Sure we are, but the arms actually provide only “assistance” here.

It is the back that needs to provide the power for a good rowing technique, so we need to make sure we are engaging the back muscles properly.

Any time you are rowing, remember that the shoulders and shoulder blades need to move toward the rear and toward the spine.

The shoulders themselves actually seem to rotate back and the shoulder blades “pinch” inward toward the spine. Now, the lats also contract during a row so you’ll feel them retract a bit as well.

So here’s a few tips on the barbell row:


Use a bit of a wide stance to ensure stability. Stay flat footed, keeping your balance by slightly bending the knees. Having a barbell in your hands actually provides counter-balance so you should be able to feel settled and stable.


When beginning the rowing motion, make sure your head and neck are not folded downward, rather keep your head up looking slightly forward. Also, lift your chest upward and outward. Prior to beginning the movement, draw in the belly button.

These posture combinations will keep your spine aligned and your back “flat”, not rounded. This is the setup that will ensure safety during the movement.

barbell row technique_2


Use a wider grip. Many people make the mistake of using a shoulder-width grip. Using a wide grip allows the shoulders and shoulder blades to retract further, thereby allowing the back muscles to contract fully.

Most barbells have a knurled carved grip surface interrupted with a smooth “ring” along the way. Use that ring as a grip point. If no ring, then just go a few inches wider than shoulder width.


Start by standing with knees bent/broken, bent over at the waist, barbell hanging down just past your knees. Get into that posture position with the wide stance and grip. Once again, be sure to puff the chest outward and upward, drawing in the belly button.

Next, pull the barbell up, aiming for the belt buckle or perhaps as high as the belly button….no higher!

As you “pull” concentrate on pinching the shoulder blades together and keep the chest up (one trick here is to imagine that you are pulling with the elbows, not with the hands.

This trick allows good retraction of those shoulder blades). Return to start and repeat for reps.

Using this technique will properly activate the back muscles and get you great results!

Bill Wilson, BA, CPT, CSCS

Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Common Sense Fitness, Inc.

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