Any good exercise regimen strategically targets every muscle group in the body to develop strength and build power. When it comes to hitting your back muscles, your routine should include deadlifts, lat pulldowns or pullups, and some variation of a row.
If you don’t know much about the different types of rows, you might be wondering whether it even makes a difference which type you decide to add to your program. It absolutely does!
Below, we’ll overview two of the more common row exercises, Pendlay rows and bent-over rows, and the cases for and against each of them. Check it out!
Table of Contents
What are Pendlay Rows?
Pendlay rows are truly just a modified version of the original bent-over row. Performing the row requires a weighted barbell and attention to detail when it comes to keeping proper form.
The form of a Pendlay row is similar to that of a deadlift. With a barbell in front of you, your legs slightly bent, and your back parallel to the floor, you’ll lift the barbell all the way to your chest and return it right back to the floor for one rep.
2 Impressive Benefits of Pendlay Rows
1. They target multiple muscles in the body.
Targeting the back muscles is great, but Pendlay rows are capable of training much more than just your back. In addition to your rhomboids, traps, lats, and erector spinae (which are all back muscles), Pendlay rows also hit your biceps and rear deltoids.
The massive number of muscles targeted is a result of the form the exercise requires. Not only are you contracting the muscles of your back and biceps when bringing the bar to your chest for each rep, but you’re also maintaining the flexion of your back muscles to keep your back straight and level during the exercise.
2. It demonstrates greater fitness.
The major difference between Pendlay rows and other types of rows is the greater range of motion and power needed to perform them. With a stiff back and a heavy barbell, you’ll need to exert more power to be able to bring the bar all the way to your chest and return it back to the floor.
The distance you must pull the barbell with a Pendlay row is much greater than other types of rows and you have less of an ability to use the momentum from a previous rep to fuel your next rep. This means you need more power for the Pendlay row if you want to do it properly.
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1 Reason Against Pendlay Rows
1. It requires a near-full range of motion.
While this could be seen as a benefit of the exercise, it’s not ideal for anybody with back, shoulder, or elbow injuries to perform Pendlay rows. Because you’re beginning the exercise from the floor and almost locking your back and elbows at different points of the exercise, you’re prone to further injury.
The range of motion also requires you to use more power with each rep. For an already weak joint or muscle, this could prove to be a bit painful when the weight gets too heavy.
What are Bent-Over Rows?
Bent-over rows are perhaps the most basic and popular back exercise. The form required for this type of row is a bit difficult to maintain at a heavier weight and often results in cheating form, so select your weight accordingly.
To perform a bent-over row, you’ll need a weighted barbell and proper stance. With the barbell in your hands, your back at a 45-degree angle, and your legs slightly bent, you’ll bring the barbell to your chest and then return it back to the level of your knees to finish out the rep.
2 Incredible Benefits of Bent-Over Rows
1. There’s more than one way to do them.
What’s great about the bent-over row is how many different ways you can perform it. You can add a bench, replace the barbell with a dumbbell, or even adjust the angle of your back depending on your skill level and strength.
The number of variations available makes this exercise incredible for beginners as well as advanced weightlifters. You can also keep your workouts interesting by alternating the type of row you perform from workout to workout when you get bored.
2. It’s a great exercise for beginners.
Nearly all beginner exercise programs include bent-over rows as a major back exercise. If you start with a lighter weight, it’s incredibly easy to adapt to the required form and build-up your current back strength.
With that said, you can begin to transition to more complex back exercises once you begin to build more strength and power. This exercise is a great stepping stone toward more advanced exercises but realistically can stay in your exercise program forever (if you wanted) without having to slap on a lever powerlifting belt.
1 Reason Against Bent-Over Rows
1. It’s easy to cheat!
You might want to avoid bent-over rows because they’re more conducive to cheating. Because there is less of a focus on keeping a straight back, you’re more likely to arch any portion of your back to be able to lift a heavier weight.
Though you might feel more satisfied with the amount of weight you’re lifting, this can eventually lead to injury if performed this way consistently or at too heavy of a weight. Performing an exercise with improper form doesn’t do much in the way of building strength and muscle either.
Pendlay Rows vs Bent-Over Rows Conclusion
Pendlay rows and bent-over rows both target the major muscles in the back and can prove to be a driving force in developing back strength and larger muscles.
So, which is our winner?
Not only do they target the back in general, but they also hit almost every muscle in the back and a few minor muscles elsewhere. When comparing the form for each of the exercises, Pendlay rows actually require significantly more power, range of motion, and full-body strength than regular bent-over rows and you’re less likely to cheat.
All in all, you get more bang for your buck when you add Pendlay rows to your routine.
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