I’ve never done “real” sets of bent over dumbbell rows in my life.
When I first began exercising, I was always put off by their inherent meatheadyness. Barbell bent over rows go hand in hand with grunting, heavy weights, and chalk. At the time, that intimidated me. Now, I’m a fan of all three, but I still shy away from bent over rows because of the awful technique that usually goes along with them. Example:
YouTube top comment win: “I’ve got jelly in my fridge that holds better form.” +1 for you, sir or ma’am.
While I’m a huge proponent of pulling variations, most of my exercise selection tends to focus on self-limiting exercises, which limit form breakdown far more than some of the traditional strength training exercises, due to a technical or balance requirement. However, bent-over rowing is something that I’ve started flirting with recently, like the girl that you were intimidated by in high school before you grew up a bit.
In recent training sessions, I’ve included Pendlay Row and High Pull variations that let me tax the entire posterior chain as one entire unit. These variations are fun for me, but I’m not quite ready to implement them into my training programs. However, I have been using a bent over row variation with several of my clients that has integrated quite seamlessly. It’s a battling rope and kettlebell combination row. Here’s an example:
I’m a fan of the rope as a handle for three reasons:
- First, it allows the wrists to rotate which a barbell doesn’t, which reduces stress on the upper extremity. Since it’s thicker than most barbells, grip work is an added bonus.
- Second, the rope prevents the herky-jerky ‘kip’ that so many lifters utilize when moving heavier weight. The rope will go slack and the weight won’t move, so this ensures that we’re using controlled concentric motions, rather than momentum to bring the bar up.
- Finally, the rope allows you to pull further than a barbell would allow, which allows for greater scapular retraction for many of my clients.
This bent over row variation allows us to integrate a rowing pattern while performing an isometric hip-hinge, which is one of the biggest reasons I’ve been toying around with bent over row variations. If you don’t have access to battling ropes, a rope-attachment for a cable station can be used as a substitute, and it’s possible to use the same set-up with dumbbells rather than with kettlebells. If you have any questions about setting this up, let me know!