Chest-Supported Row vs. Bent-Over Row: Which Variation is Greatest for Constructing a Greater 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 realize that sculpted look, the finest again exercises revolve round a basic pull-day staple: the row. 

The variety of row variations to select from might really feel overwhelming, however you may’t go improper 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?

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

We’ll dive deeper into their variations and similarities, break down the right way to carry out each safely, and focus on the advantages and disadvantages of each so you may get probably 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 tissues Labored 

Just like the bent-over row, the chest-supported row includes a number of upper-back muscle tissues — primarily the latissimus dorsi (lats), trapezius (traps), and rhomboids. Your lats, that are the biggest again muscle tissues, are the principle 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 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 can too improve the stimulus by utilizing a supinated (palms-up) grip. 

Nevertheless, the bent-over row includes 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 stop 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 seeking to goal particular elements of your again, listed here are a couple of eventualities the place a chest-supported row works finest:

You’re a Newbie

Simply began power coaching? Fairly than danger getting damage performing a extra technical motion, persist with the model higher suited to learners. The chest-supported row teaches you the right way to interact your core and ideal your pulling approach from a seated place that retains your backbone steady. 

Whereas you could have to start out with lighter dumbbells, you may shortly improve the load in the event you stay constant along with your method. Plus, the chest-supported row offers you an opportunity to find out how altering variables corresponding to your grip, the angle of the burden bench, and time beneath pressure 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 Harm

Should you’ve been sidelined by a again harm and are able to resume coaching, the chest-supported row is a brilliant alternative. Utilizing a bench for assist decreases the strain 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 power, 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 helps 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 targets by going heavier, altering the tempo, altering the incline angle, or experimenting with completely different set and rep ranges. Both manner, the chest-supported row stands out as an apparent alternative 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 finest again train listing: 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 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 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 powerful higher again. 

Plus, powerlifters who wish to improve their deadlift PR may also make the most of the bent-over row to assist attain that purpose. Getting snug with hinging on the hips, mastering the right way to brace your core, and studying the right way to totally interact your lats and different again muscle tissues will solely enable 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. Growing 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 steady 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 tissues like your spinal erectors and hamstrings — each of that are recruited closely to stay in a powerful hip-hinge place. 

In line with a 2021 assessment on remedy for persistent low again ache, 12-16 weeks of posterior chain resistance coaching had a considerably larger impact than normal train on ache, degree of incapacity, and muscular power. (1) So, when you shouldn’t attempt to max out on the bent-over row in the event you’re making an attempt to construct a wholesome posterior chain, you may definitely incorporate it right into a program that features basic core workouts like useless bugs, chook canines, 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 principle elevate 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 measurement and power. (2) General, a compound motion will contain extra muscle engagement than an isolation train just like the chest-supported row. 

Easy methods to Do the Chest-Supported Row

To carry out a chest-supported row, you have to 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 tissues. 

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 toes into the ground, interact your glutes, and brace your core to create pressure 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 pressure in your abs to guard your decrease again as you full your set.

[Related: How to Do the Pendlay Row]

Easy methods 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 right way to do the standard barbell bent-over row. 

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

  1. Stand behind a barbell along with your toes shoulder-width aside. 
  2. Hinge on the hips by maintaining your again straight and bending your knees barely.
  3. Seize the bar along 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 maintaining 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 gives loads of intriguing potential for lifters seeking to construct a powerful, outlined again. Let’s study 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 learners and superior lifters who wish to attain their power and hypertrophy targets with out having to study 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 again squat, the chest-supported row helps you to assault both sides independently. Unilateral coaching is useful in that it lets you handle any imbalances and removes the potential for 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 recuperate 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 to catch your breath, reset, and be able to go for at the very least a couple of units earlier than shifting 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, in the event you don’t have an adjustable weight bench, you received’t be capable to 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 gear (like Superman holds). 

Much less General 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 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 sufficient 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 power base, you’ll shortly 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, power athlete, or normal health club 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 provides you with a stronger trunk to deal with no matter deadlift variation you like. 

Compound Motion

In line with a 2017 research on resistance coaching modalities, multi-joint workouts are simpler 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 ideal bang-for-your-buck alternative in your coaching protocol. Not solely does it construct upper-body power, nevertheless it additionally stimulates your belly and leg muscle tissues 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 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 suitable pull-day motion for you? Earlier than you pencil it into your program, listed here are some cons to think about. 

Harm Danger

Though it may be nice for growing explosive energy and upper-back power, the bent-over row may be harmful if completed 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 at some point of your set.

Only a slight slippage in type — corresponding 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 might derail your coaching plans. 

Grip Power Limitations

Should 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 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’ll be able to overcome this drawback by persistently engaged on grip power workouts or utilizing lifting straps for assist. Whereas the previous will enable 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 hundreds by maintaining your palms securely fixed 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 definitely advantages to recruiting a number of muscle teams in a single motion, your coaching session can shortly 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 belly muscle tissues. As soon as fatigue units in, it’s possible 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 maintaining your chest towards the bench, the freestanding place of the bent-over row opens the door to utilizing momentum to elevate the burden. Should you go too heavy, get fatigued, or lose focus, it’s straightforward to cheat the following reps by swinging or jerking the barbell moderately than sustaining pressure 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 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 alternative primarily based in your particular person targets. 

In the end, your finest guess is to incorporate each the chest-supported and bent-over variations in your exercise plan. That manner you may pack critical measurement 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, in the event you’re centered on gaining probably the most measurement and power, the bent-over row is the superior alternative. 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 learners. 

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 have to 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 a 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 Power Low Again Ache within the Normal 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 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 Workouts at Equal Complete Load Quantity: Results on Physique Composition, Cardiorespiratory Health, and Muscle Power. Frontiers in Physiology, 8.

Featured Picture: Jasminko Ibrakovic / Shutterstock


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