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 possibly can take to realize that sculpted look, the best back workouts revolve round a traditional pull-day staple: the row. 

The variety of row variations to select from could really feel overwhelming, however you possibly can’t go improper 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 how one can carry out each safely, and focus on 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

Muscular tissues Labored 

Just like the bent-over row, the chest-supported row includes a number of upper-back muscle mass — primarily the latissimus dorsi (lats), trapezius (traps), and rhomboids. Your lats, that are the most important again muscle mass, are the primary mover throughout any row variation. In the meantime, your traps assist stabilize your scapula, and the rhomboids play an necessary 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 mass that connect to your shoulder blades — additionally act as prime movers throughout 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 even enhance the stimulus by utilizing 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 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 damage, or seeking to goal particular elements of your again, listed below are a couple of eventualities the place a chest-supported row works greatest:

You’re a Newbie

Simply began energy coaching? Reasonably than danger getting damage performing a extra technical motion, keep on with the model higher suited to freshmen. The chest-supported row teaches you how one can interact your core and ideal your pulling approach from a seated place that retains your backbone secure. 

Whereas you could have to begin with lighter dumbbells, you possibly can shortly enhance the load in case you stay constant together with your method. Plus, the chest-supported row offers you an opportunity to learn the way altering variables similar to your grip, the angle of the burden bench, and time below 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 Method Again From Damage

When you’ve been sidelined by a again damage and are able to resume coaching, the chest-supported row is a great selection. Utilizing a bench for assist decreases the stress in your backbone and core, permitting you to give attention to performing the motion utilizing exact approach. 

Begin with lighter weights to set your self up for long-term success by rebuilding your energy, 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 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 possibly can 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 approach, the chest-supported row stands out as an apparent selection if you wish to isolate sure muscle mass 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 must develop stronger posterior chains to lifters on the lookout for a method to develop an even bigger again, listed below 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 energy 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 enhance their deadlift PR may make the most of the bent-over row to assist attain that objective. Getting snug with hinging on the hips, mastering how one can brace your core, and studying how one can totally interact your lats and different again muscle mass 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. Growing your traps will create a stronger shelf for the bar to relaxation on — a significant benefit when squatting heavy hundreds. When it’s time to bench, having a powerful higher again will assist you to preserve a greater arch and stay secure as you decrease the bar towards your chest.       

You Need 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 mass like your spinal erectors and hamstrings — each of that are recruited closely to stay in a powerful hip-hinge place. 

In response to a 2021 evaluate on therapy for continual low again ache, 12-16 weeks of posterior chain resistance coaching had a considerably better impact than normal train on ache, degree of incapacity, and muscular energy. (1) So, when you shouldn’t attempt to max out on the bent-over row in case you’re attempting to construct a wholesome posterior chain, you possibly can definitely incorporate it right into a program that features fundamental core exercises like lifeless bugs, chicken canines, and planks. 

You Need 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 research 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 energy. (2) General, a compound motion will contain extra muscle engagement than an isolation train just like the chest-supported row. 

How one can Do the Chest-Supported Row

To carry out a chest-supported row, you will have 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 mass. 

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 going through inward. 
  2. Press your ft 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 mass 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]

How one can Do the Bent-Over Row

The bent-over row requires simply two items of kit: a barbell and weight plates. If potential, use high-quality bumper plates so that you don’t have to fret about noise points. Whereas you can even carry out this train with a pair of dumbbells, this breakdown covers how one can 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 ft shoulder-width aside. 
  2. Hinge on the hips by preserving your again straight and bending your knees barely.
  3. Seize the bar together with your arms 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 preserving 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 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 largest 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 freshmen and superior lifters who wish to attain their energy and hypertrophy targets with out having to be taught an advanced approach or fear practically 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 helpful in that it permits you to handle any imbalances and removes the potential for one facet 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 practically 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 a minimum of a couple of 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 Tools

Sadly, in case you don’t have an adjustable weight bench, you gained’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 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 towards the bench, your core and legs get a little bit of a break. So though the chest-supported row works properly 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 offers you adequate vary of movement to drag and squeeze, however solely to a sure diploma. Even in case you’re an skilled lifter with a stable energy base, you’ll shortly notice 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, energy athlete, or normal fitness center 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 possibly can put your self in a greater place to carry out properly at different pulling workouts by way of the bent-over row. Constructing energy 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

In response to a 2017 research on resistance coaching modalities, multi-joint workouts are simpler for enhancing muscle energy 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 selection to your coaching protocol. Not solely does it construct upper-body energy, nevertheless it additionally stimulates your stomach and leg muscle mass 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 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 fitting 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 growing explosive energy and upper-back energy, the bent-over row may be harmful if finished incorrectly. Sustaining correct type generally is a main problem, as it’s essential to cohesively coordinate a number of muscle teams and joint complexes to assist you to maintain a loaded hip-hinge place at some point of your set.

Only a slight slippage in type — similar to rounding your decrease again or barely shifting your hips to at least one facet — can result in a strained muscle, ligament, or extra extreme damage. 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

When you’re taking the glass-half-empty view, one of many drawbacks to the bent-over row is that your grip energy is a limiting issue. In case your forearms and arms can’t deal with holding, lifting, and decreasing a loaded barbell repeatedly, you’ll wrestle to execute the motion successfully or effectively. This can be the case with the chest-supported row in case 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 constantly engaged on grip strength exercises or utilizing lifting straps for assist. Whereas the previous will assist you to get higher at bent-over rows and different lifts that require good grip energy, the latter will allow you to work with heavier hundreds by preserving your arms 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 check. Whereas there are definitely advantages to recruiting a number of muscle teams in a single motion, your coaching session can shortly go south in case 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 vital stress in your decrease again and stomach muscle mass. As soon as fatigue units in, you could 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 preserving your chest towards the bench, the freestanding place of the bent-over row opens the door to utilizing momentum to elevate the burden. When 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 pressure and executing strict, managed reps. Not solely will this restrict the effectiveness of the train, nevertheless it might additionally result in an damage. 

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 based mostly in your particular person targets. 

Finally, your greatest wager is to incorporate each the chest-supported and bent-over variations in your exercise plan. That approach you possibly can pack critical dimension in your body, develop higher posterior chain and grip energy, 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, in case you’re centered on gaining probably the most dimension and energy, 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 mostly simpler to carry out, making it a stable choice for freshmen. 

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 will have an adjustable weight bench and a pair of dumbbells to assist your back-building efforts. 

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

The best physique place for a bent-over row requires a ahead lean of about 45 levels. Though you possibly can go a little 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 Basic Train and Strolling Programmes for the Remedy of Power Low Again Ache within the Basic Inhabitants: A Systematic Assessment 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 Workouts at Equal Whole Load Quantity: Results on Physique Composition, Cardiorespiratory Health, and Muscle Power. Frontiers in Physiology, 8.

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