Barbell Front Row Exercise Guide

When it comes to upper body exercises, the barbell front row is one of the most effective and challenging. This pulling exercise targets the back, shoulder, biceps, and triceps muscles, and is great for toning and strengthening these areas.

How to Do an Barbell Front Row

Setting Up

Preparing for a barbell bent row is like preparing for a deadlift, except with a wider feet stance. Grasp the barbell with an overhand grip, about shoulder-width apart. Then slowly lower your hips, straighten your back to complete the rep, and lockout your elbows.

Since this exercise is done with weight in an overhand position, make sure to activate those upper back muscles.


To perform this exercise, lift the barbell off the floor slowly, with your thighs firmly planted on the ground. Maintain a strong hip hinge position (about 45 degrees) and tensed back as you do so – this will ensure stability while lifting the weight. Slowly row it towards your belly button while squeezing your abs.

Squeeze shoulder blades together when reaching maximal contraction point to engage your upper back muscles.

Pause in this position for a few seconds, and start lowering the barbell down to the ground with control. Remember to breathe and straighten your back. Repeat until you reach your desired number of reps. 


  • It’s easy to get injured when doing barbell bent rows. The key is to take it easy at first and gradually increase the intensity over time.
  • Be mindful of your neck position. When performing the barbell front row, ensure that your neck position is stable and neutral. Limit movement of your head and cervical spine in order to maintain optimal spinal alignment.
  • Maintain your lower back in a neutral position and avoid rounding it. This does not only allow you to perform the exercise better but also avoids injuries and strain.


  • Tones and strengthens the upper back muscles
  • Improves posture to stay healthy and looking good
  • Works multiple muscle groups at once and increases strength for weightlifting
  • Burns calories
  • Balances out chest exercises like the bench press, preventing overdevelopment of the chest and underdevelopment of the back

Illustrated Guide

How To Do Barbell Front Row

Muscles Worked

Primary Muscles

  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Trapezius
  • Rear Delts
  • Rhomboids

Secondary Muscles

  • Core
  • Biceps
  • Rotator Cuffs

Barbell Bent Row Variations

Pendlay Rows

The Pendlay row, just like a barbell front row, is a bodybuilding exercise that uses a weighted barbell to activate muscle groups throughout your body, including your lats, rhomboids, biceps, glutes, hamstrings, and rear deltoids. Created by Olympic weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay in the 1990s, it has become one of the most popular exercises for building strength and power across your entire body.

While not necessary for everyone who wants to build muscle mass or improve fitness levels overall, Pendlay rows are more ideal for those with significant lower-back issues as it involves lifting the barbell from the floor with a more forward torso.

Yates Rows

The Yates row is similar to the barbell bent-over row, except that it is performed with an underhand grip, taking the focus off your forearms and wrists and focusing more on the biceps. This exercise also allows for a smaller range of motion that a barbell front frow.

Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

The bent-over dumbbell row is one of the most popular back exercises due to the fact that it is simple and versatile. It works the lats, rhomboids, and traps – and can be performed standing or resting on a bench.

It is also ideal for beginners who can pick up any dumbbell weight and jump right in, making it a common back exercise. And for those without dumbbells, the resistance can be easily replicated with bottles or even bricks.

Barbell Bent Row Alternatives

T-Bar Rows

The T-Bar is a strengthening exercise that hits the same muscles as a barbell front row, but with more emphasis on the inner back muscles, namely the rhomboids and traps, using more of a tucked-elbows movement.

It requires a T-Bar row machine and involves pulling weight into the midriff, targeting the major muscles of the back through a retraction of the shoulder blades.

To perform a t-bar row, make sure that you keep your feet at hip-width, knees bent slightly, hips positioned at 45 degrees and elbows tucked. Maintaining the correct form is key to getting the best out of t-bar row exercises.


Back Exercises Guide

Kevin Harris