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 totally different routes you may 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 might really feel overwhelming, however you may’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 the way to carry out each safely, and focus on the advantages and downsides of each so you may get essentially the most bang to your buck throughout your subsequent pull-day session.

Desk of Contents

Key Variations

  • The bent-over row entails the complete posterior chain and requires important core activation. However, the chest-supported row recruits your upper-back muscle tissues whereas principally eradicating your decrease half from the equation.
  • The chest-supported row is usually safer for each rookies and superior lifters because the weight bench supplies stability and safety to your backbone. In the meantime, the dearth of help with a bent-over row can restrict the person’s capability to correctly interact the again since they’re directing effort to stabilize their physique in a bent-over place.
  • In contrast to the chest-supported row, the bent-over model straight carries over to different actions just like the deadlift and good mornings, because it teaches you the way to hip-hinge accurately.

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

Key Similarities

  • Each row variations primarily work the latissimus dorsi (lats), making both motion a implausible selection to your again or pull-day exercise.
  • Your grip strength can be put to the take a look at with every train. Rowing will assist you to develop a stronger grip (and forearms), which might repay when performing workouts like cleans, snatches, and shrugs.  (In the event you’re making an attempt to focus on your again muscle tissues and your grip power is a limiting issue, try our record of the best lifting straps.)
  • The bent-over row and the chest-supported row may help add thickness and general dimension to your upper- and mid-back, particularly should you differ your grip to focus on particular areas.

Muscle tissue Labored

Just like the bent-over row, the chest-supported row entails 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 vital function 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 high of the motion. You may also enhance the stimulus by utilizing a supinated (palms-up) grip.

Nevertheless, 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. General, 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

Typically, selecting a chest-supported row merely makes extra sense. Whether or not you’re new to lifting, therapeutic from an harm, or trying to goal particular components of your again, listed below are a number of situations the place a chest-supported row works finest:

You’re a Newbie

Simply began power coaching? Relatively than danger getting harm performing a extra technical motion, keep on with the model higher suited to rookies. The chest-supported row teaches you the way to interact your core and ideal your pulling method from a seated place that retains your backbone secure.

Whereas you will have to begin with lighter dumbbells, you may rapidly enhance the load should you stay constant together with your method. Plus, the chest-supported row offers you an opportunity to find out how altering variables comparable to your grip, the angle of the load bench, and time beneath rigidity 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 recreation.

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

You’re Working Your Means Again From Damage

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

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 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 may tailor the train to help your physique objectives by going heavier, altering the tempo, altering the incline angle, or experimenting with totally different set and rep ranges. Both means, 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 purpose 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 option to develop a much bigger again, listed below are conditions the place you may 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 by utilizing it as a primer for the clear and jerk, which requires explosive motion and a robust higher again.

Plus, powerlifters who need to enhance their deadlift PR can even make the most of the bent-over row to assist attain that objective. Getting comfy with hinging on the hips, mastering the way to brace your core, and studying the way to totally interact your lats and different again muscle tissues will solely assist 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 may give 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 significant benefit when squatting heavy masses. When it’s time to bench, having a robust 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 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 robust hip-hinge place.

Based on a 2021 overview 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, stage of incapacity, and muscular power. (1) So, whilst you shouldn’t attempt to max out on the bent-over row should you’re making an attempt to construct a wholesome posterior chain, you may definitely incorporate it right into a program that features fundamental core exercises like lifeless bugs, hen canine, and planks.

You Wish to Add General Dimension and Power

If rising a thick, dense wall of muscle alongside your again issues most, make the bent-over row the primary elevate 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 thought of the bent-over row as a go-to motion for including dimension and power. (2) General, 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 want a pair of dumbbells and an adjustable weight bench. Altering the incline stage (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 method.

  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 going through inward.
  2. Press your toes into the ground, interact your glutes, and brace your core to create rigidity 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 high of the motion for one to 2 seconds, then rigorously decrease the weights again to the beginning place. Hold constant rigidity 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 too can carry out this train with a pair of dumbbells, this breakdown covers the way to do the normal barbell bent-over row.

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

  1. Stand behind a barbell together with your toes 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 palms 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 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 robust, outlined again. Let’s study a number of key advantages of performing this train.

Added Stability

The most important advantage of 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 rookies and superior lifters who need to attain their power and hypertrophy objectives with out having to be taught an advanced method 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 all sides independently. Unilateral training is helpful in that it lets you handle 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 stage.

Simpler Restoration

The less-taxing nature of the chest-supported row makes it simpler to get better 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 number of units earlier than transferring 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, should you don’t have an adjustable weight bench, you received’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 may be carried out with out tools (like Superman holds).

Much less General 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 nicely 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 drag and squeeze, however solely to a sure diploma. Even should you’re an skilled lifter with a stable power base, you’ll rapidly understand it may be tough to manage 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 may put your self in a greater place to carry out nicely at different pulling workouts through the bent-over row. Constructing power 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 gives you a stronger trunk to deal with no matter deadlift variation you favor.

Compound Motion

Based on a 2017 examine on resistance coaching modalities, multi-joint workouts are simpler for bettering 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 to your coaching protocol. Not solely does it construct upper-body power, nevertheless it additionally stimulates your stomach 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 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 best pull-day motion for you? Earlier than you pencil it into your program, listed below are some cons to contemplate.

Damage Threat

Though it may be nice for creating explosive energy and upper-back power, the bent-over row may be harmful if carried out incorrectly. Sustaining correct type could be a main problem, as it’s essential to cohesively coordinate a number of muscle teams and joint complexes to help you maintain a loaded hip-hinge place during your set.

Only a slight slippage in type — comparable to rounding your decrease again or barely shifting your hips to at least one aspect — can result in a strained muscle, ligament, or extra extreme harm. 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 Power 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 palms can’t deal with holding, lifting, and reducing a loaded barbell repeatedly, you’ll wrestle to execute the motion successfully or effectively. This can be the case with the chest-supported row should 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 downside by persistently engaged on grip strength exercises or utilizing lifting straps for help. Whereas the previous will assist you to get higher at bent-over rows and different lifts that require good grip power, the latter will allow you to work with heavier masses by retaining your palms securely mounted to the barbell.

Demanding on Decrease Again and Core

Compound workouts just like the bent-over row basically put your total physique to the take a look at. Whereas there are definitely advantages to recruiting a number of muscle teams in a single motion, your coaching session can rapidly go south should 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 stomach muscle tissues. As soon as fatigue units in, chances are you’ll wrestle to maintain the proper type or should put down the barbell completely.

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 elevate 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 quite than sustaining rigidity and executing strict, managed reps. Not solely will this restrict the effectiveness of the train, nevertheless it might additionally result in an harm.

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 provide distinctive advantages that may help with sculpting the again of your goals. 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 objectives.

Finally, your finest wager is to incorporate each the chest-supported and bent-over variations in your exercise plan. That means you may pack critical dimension 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. Nevertheless, should you’re centered on gaining essentially the most dimension and power, the bent-over row is the superior selection. That mentioned, the chest-supported row remains to be helpful for coaching your upper- and mid-back and is usually simpler to carry out, making it a stable possibility for rookies.

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 will want 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 may go somewhat additional (round 60 levels is my desire), hinging your hips to 90 levels will put extra stress in your posterior chain and should 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 Remedy of Continual Low Again Ache within the Normal Inhabitants: A Systematic Evaluate and Meta-Evaluation. Sports activities Drugs – 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 Power 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 Power. Frontiers in Physiology, 8.

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