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 workouts and sufficient protein to assist your strength- and muscle-building efforts. Whereas there are completely 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 incorrect with two of the best 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 tips on how to carry out each safely, and talk about the advantages and downsides of each so you may get probably the most bang to 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 muscular tissues — primarily the latissimus dorsi (lats), trapezius (traps), and rhomboids. Your lats, that are the biggest again muscular tissues, are the primary mover throughout any row variation. In the meantime, your traps assist stabilize your scapula, and the rhomboids play an essential 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 muscular tissues 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 prime of the motion. You too can improve the stimulus through the use of a supinated (palms-up) grip. 

Nevertheless, the bent-over row includes a number of muscle teams and joint constructions that the chest-supported model doesn’t. Most notably, this multi-joint motion recruits your hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors to stop any rounding as you pull the barbell towards your physique from a hip-hinge place. General, your legs and core must 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 here are just a few situations the place a chest-supported row works finest:

You’re a Newbie

Simply began power coaching? Quite than danger getting damage performing a extra technical motion, stick to the model higher suited to newbies. The chest-supported row teaches you tips on 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 may rapidly improve the load should you stay constant together with your strategy. Plus, the chest-supported row provides you an opportunity to learn the way altering variables comparable to your grip, the angle of the load 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 Method Again From Harm

For those who’ve been sidelined by a again harm and are able to resume coaching, the chest-supported row is a great alternative. Utilizing a bench for assist decreases the stress in your backbone and core, permitting you to deal with 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 enables you to goal your lats, rhomboids, and traps with out your decrease again and core being a limiting issue. In spite of everything, sustaining a hinged place whereas rowing a heavy load could be very tiring.

From there, you may tailor the train to assist your physique objectives by going heavier, altering the tempo, altering the incline angle, or experimenting with completely different set and rep ranges. Both method, the chest-supported row stands out as an apparent alternative if you wish to isolate sure muscular 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 searching for a method 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 embody 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 robust higher again. 

Plus, powerlifters who need to improve their deadlift PR can even make the most of the bent-over row to assist attain that aim. Getting comfy 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 muscular tissues will solely assist 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. 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 robust 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 may also help you in that space by strengthening key muscular 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 larger impact than common 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 actually 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 Energy

If rising a thick, dense wall of muscle alongside your again issues most, make the bent-over row the primary raise 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 dimension and power. (2) General, a compound motion will contain extra muscle engagement than an isolation train just like the chest-supported row. 

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 stage (in addition to your grip) can alter the way you assault your again exercise by stimulating particular muscular tissues. 

Right here’s a step-by-step information to executing the chest-supported row with the right 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 muscular tissues on the prime 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]

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 tips on how to do the normal barbell bent-over row. 

Right here’s a step-by-step information that may assist 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 palms 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 decreasing 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 gives loads of intriguing potential for lifters trying to construct a robust, outlined again. Let’s study just a few 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 newbies and superior lifters who need to attain their power and hypertrophy objectives with out having to be taught an advanced 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 useful in that it permits you to 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 stage. 

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 total 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 just a few 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 Gear

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 will be carried out with out gear (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 though the chest-supported row works nicely 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 sufficient vary of movement to drag and squeeze, however solely to a sure diploma. Even should you’re an skilled lifter with a strong power base, you’ll rapidly notice it may be tough 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 common gymnasium goer, the bent-over row presents a wealth of potential muscle- and strength-building advantages. 

Carryover to Different Pulling Workouts

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 by way of 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 offers you a stronger trunk to deal with no matter deadlift variation you favor. 

Compound Motion

Based on a 2017 research on resistance coaching modalities, multi-joint workouts are more practical 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 amazing bang-for-your-buck alternative to your coaching protocol. Not solely does it construct upper-body power, however it additionally stimulates your stomach and leg muscular 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 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 correct pull-day motion for you? Earlier than you pencil it into your program, listed here are some cons to contemplate. 

Harm Threat

Though it may be nice for growing explosive energy and upper-back power, the bent-over row will be harmful if achieved 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 permit you to 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 chance of experiencing a setback that would derail your coaching plans. 

Grip Energy Limitations

For those who’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 decreasing a loaded barbell repeatedly, you’ll battle to execute the motion successfully or effectively. This may also 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 may overcome this drawback by constantly engaged on grip strength exercises or utilizing lifting straps for assist. Whereas the previous will assist 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 palms securely fixed to the barbell. 

Demanding on Decrease Again and Core

Compound workouts just like the bent-over row basically put your complete physique to the check. Whereas there are actually 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 muscular tissues. As soon as fatigue units in, you might battle to maintain the right type or must put down the barbell fully. 

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 raise the load. For those who go too heavy, get fatigued, or lose focus, it’s simple to cheat the following reps by swinging or jerking the barbell relatively than sustaining stress and executing strict, managed reps. Not solely will this restrict the effectiveness of the train, however it may 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 desires. On the identical time, there are notable variations between the 2 rowing variations that may make one or the opposite a extra logical alternative 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 method you may pack severe 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 robust to say one is inherently higher. Nevertheless, should you’re centered on gaining probably the most dimension and power, the bent-over row is the superior alternative. That mentioned, the chest-supported row continues to be helpful for coaching your upper- and mid-back and is mostly simpler to carry out, making it a strong choice 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 assist your back-building efforts. 

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

The perfect physique place for a bent-over row requires a ahead lean of about 45 levels. Though you may go slightly 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 Power Low Again Ache within the Basic Inhabitants: A Systematic Overview 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 Workouts 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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