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

It’s no secret that constructing a well-developed again entails loads of pulling workouts 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 basic pull-day staple: the row. 

The variety of row variations to select from might really feel overwhelming, however you’ll be able to’t go mistaken 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?

Man performing chest-supported row using dumbbells.
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

We’ll dive deeper into their variations and similarities, break down tips on how to carry out every one safely, and focus on the advantages and disadvantages of each so you will get essentially the most bang in 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 entails a number of upper-back muscle groups — primarily the latissimus dorsi (lats), trapezius (traps), and rhomboids. Your lats, that are the most important again muscle groups, are the primary mover throughout any row variation. In the meantime, your traps assist stabilize your scapula, and the rhomboids play an vital 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 groups that connect to your shoulder blades — additionally act as prime movers through 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 high of the motion. You can too enhance the stimulus by utilizing a supinated (palms-up) grip. 

Nonetheless, the bent-over row entails 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 need to 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 

Typically, selecting a chest-supported row merely makes extra sense. Whether or not you’re new to lifting, therapeutic from an damage, or seeking to goal particular elements of your again, listed below are a couple of eventualities the place a chest-supported row works finest:

You’re a Newbie

Simply began energy coaching? Reasonably than danger getting damage performing a extra technical motion, follow the model higher fitted to inexperienced persons. The chest-supported row teaches you tips on how to have interaction your core and excellent your pulling approach from a seated place that retains your backbone secure. 

Whereas you might have to begin with lighter dumbbells, you’ll be able to rapidly enhance the load in the event you stay constant along with your strategy. Plus, the chest-supported row offers you an opportunity to find out how altering variables resembling your grip, the angle of the burden bench, and time underneath stress 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 Means Again From Harm

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

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

You’re Chasing Bodybuilding or Physique Targets

If you wish to develop a extra outlined, muscular again, the chest-supported row enables 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 could be very tiring.

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

When to Do the Bent-Over Row

There’s a cause 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 searching for a solution to develop an even bigger again, listed below 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 energy and energy athletes ought to embody a bent-over row variation of their routine. Olympic weightlifters can profit from this train by utilizing it as a primer for the clear and jerk, which requires explosive motion and a powerful higher again. 

Plus, powerlifters who need to enhance their deadlift PR may make the most of the bent-over row to assist attain that objective. Getting snug with hinging on the hips, mastering tips on how to brace your core, and studying tips on how to totally have interaction your lats and different again muscle groups will solely allow you to 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. Creating your traps will create a stronger shelf for the bar to relaxation on — a serious benefit when squatting heavy hundreds. When it’s time to bench, having a powerful higher again will permit you to 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 can assist you in that space by strengthening key muscle groups like your spinal erectors and hamstrings — each of that are recruited closely to stay in a powerful hip-hinge place. 

In accordance with a 2021 overview on therapy for persistent low again ache, 12-16 weeks of posterior chain resistance coaching had a considerably larger impact than common train on ache, degree of incapacity, and muscular energy. (1) So, when you shouldn’t attempt to max out on the bent-over row in the event you’re attempting to construct a wholesome posterior chain, you’ll be able to actually incorporate it right into a program that features fundamental core exercises like useless bugs, fowl canine, and planks. 

You Wish to Add Total Measurement 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 examine evaluating three row variations discovered that this train produced massive 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 energy. (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 will have 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 groups. 

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 stress 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 groups on the high of the motion for one to 2 seconds, then rigorously decrease the weights again to the beginning place. Maintain constant stress 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 attainable, use high-quality bumper plates so that you don’t have to fret about noise points. Whereas you can even carry out this train with a pair of dumbbells, this breakdown covers tips on how to do the normal barbell bent-over row. 

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

  1. Stand behind a barbell along with your ft shoulder-width aside. 
  2. Hinge on the hips by preserving your again straight and bending your knees barely.
  3. Seize the bar along with your fingers barely wider than your shoulders utilizing a pronated (palms-down) grip. 
  4. Interact your glutes and core, deadlift the bar off the ground, and lean ahead to type a 45-degree angle.
  5. Whereas preserving 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 burden plates are simply above the bottom. 

Advantages of the Chest-Supported Row

The chest-supported row provides loads of intriguing potential for lifters seeking to construct a powerful, outlined again. Let’s look at a couple of key advantages of performing this train.

Added Stability

The most important 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 inexperienced persons and superior lifters who need to attain their energy and hypertrophy objectives 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 workouts just like the barbell bench press or the back squat, the chest-supported row enables you to assault both sides independently. Unilateral training is helpful in that it means that you can deal with 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 get well 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 at the least a couple of units earlier than shifting on to the following 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 the event 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 workouts that don’t require a bench (such because the inverted row) or might 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 along with your chest towards the bench, your core and legs get a little bit of a break. So despite the fact that the chest-supported row works effectively for hitting your lats, rhomboids, traps, and biceps, it falls wanting 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 offers you adequate vary of movement to tug and squeeze, however solely to a sure diploma. Even in the event you’re an skilled lifter with a stable energy 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, energy athlete, or common gymnasium 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 workouts through the bent-over row. Constructing energy and endurance in your lats and traps will carry over to muscle-building workouts 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 offers you a stronger trunk to deal with no matter deadlift variation you favor. 

Compound Motion

In accordance with a 2017 examine on resistance coaching modalities, multi-joint workouts are simpler for bettering muscle energy and maximal oxygen consumption than single-joint ones. (3) That makes one thing just like the barbell bent-over row an important bang-for-your-buck selection in your coaching protocol. Not solely does it construct upper-body energy, however it additionally stimulates your stomach and leg muscle groups from begin to end. 

Improved Posture

A sedentary life-style can result in slouched shoulders, weak spinal erectors, and disengaged glutes. The bent-over row can assist counteract that by permitting you to strengthen your posterior chain. As you progress, you shouldn’t be shocked 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 suitable pull-day motion for you? Earlier than you pencil it into your program, listed below are some cons to contemplate. 

Harm Threat

Though it may be nice for growing explosive energy and upper-back energy, the bent-over row might be harmful if achieved incorrectly. Sustaining correct type could be a main problem, as you need to cohesively coordinate a number of muscle teams and joint complexes to permit you to maintain a loaded hip-hinge place at some point of 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 would derail your coaching plans. 

Grip Energy Limitations

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

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

You possibly can overcome this downside by persistently engaged on grip strength exercises or utilizing lifting straps for help. Whereas the previous will allow you to get higher at bent-over rows and different lifts that require good grip energy, the latter will allow you to work with heavier hundreds by preserving your fingers securely mounted to the barbell. 

Demanding on Decrease Again and Core

Compound workouts just like the bent-over row basically put your whole physique to the take a look at. Whereas there are actually advantages to recruiting a number of muscle teams in a single motion, your coaching session can rapidly go south in the event you don’t have a well-developed core. 

Hinging on the hips and remaining in that near-horizontal place whereas pulling the burden vertically locations important stress in your decrease again and stomach muscle groups. As soon as fatigue units in, it’s possible you’ll wrestle to maintain the proper type or need to put down the barbell solely. 

Utilizing Momentum

Whereas the chest-supported row forces you to make use of correct type by preserving your chest towards the bench, the freestanding place of the bent-over row opens the door to utilizing momentum to carry the burden. When 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 stress and executing strict, managed reps. Not solely will this restrict the effectiveness of the train, however it 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 workouts supply distinctive advantages that may help with sculpting the again of your goals. On the similar time, there are notable variations between the 2 rowing variations that may make one or the opposite a extra logical selection based mostly in your particular person objectives. 

Finally, your finest guess is to incorporate each the chest-supported and bent-over variations in your exercise plan. That means you’ll be able to pack severe measurement in your body, develop higher posterior chain and grip energy, 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 the event you’re targeted on gaining essentially the most measurement and energy, 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 inexperienced persons. 

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

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

What’s the finest 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 desire), 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 Normal Train and Strolling Programmes for the Therapy of Persistent Low Again Ache within the Normal Inhabitants: A Systematic Evaluation and Meta-Evaluation. Sports activities Medication – Open, 7.
  2. Fenwick CM, Brown SH, McGill SM. Comparability of various rowing workouts: 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 Complete Load Quantity: Results on Physique Composition, Cardiorespiratory Health, and Muscle Energy. Frontiers in Physiology, 8.

Featured Picture: Jasminko Ibrakovic / Shutterstock

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