Everyone has a list of exercises they don’t like and for whatever reason so I thought it might be a fun and maybe even an informative exercise (pun not intended) to list out some of my own personal bugbears and the reasons they have earned my contempt.
The Bent Over Barbell Row is a good starting point as it presents one of the best examples of the form vs weight debates that fill youtube comment sections, body-building forums and gyms around the world. Is it best to keep your form tight like a “pendlay” row or go balls deep, get some weight on the bar and perform a good ol’ fashioned “Yates Row”?
In my opinion during both scenarios you are worse off for including any variation of this exercise in your programme. Here are the reasons why
1 – Strict form challenges your ability to hold posture with your hips at a right angle with the floor not your ability to pull the barbell up, making it a great exercise to build up your ability to…. hold posture with your hips at a right angle with the floor with a barbell in your hands. Not a great back building exercise.
2 – Loose form and weight works your ability to flop around in bad postures with a heavy weight, it’s not necessarily a bad body-building exercise for “thickness” but it does eat into your lower back’s recovery a hell of a lot which hampers your ability to recover for exercises like heavy squats, deadlifts, olympic lifts and heavy overhead lifts. Now I don’t know about you but between a heavy squat or deadlift and some crappy looking rows I know which one I would rather include in my programme.
Any meeting of these two rowing styles only really melds the two problems together, I have had barbell row in and out of my programme for years and every time it’s absent training is just better. How can you better work these qualities then?
Pull against a fixed point – The use of a bench to perform dumbbell or barbell chest supported row allows you to challenge the row with posture not being an issue. This for me is the ideal compromise as you can work the muscles of your back intensely without eating into your recovery.
Challenging your postural muscles by lifting heavy weights with good posture if you want to work on that “thick” look that comes from having a lot of mass along your spine the best thing to do is have solid ass form in your squat and deadlift variations, show me a lifter squat 250 kg with an upright back and I will show you a “thick” look.
If you treat your back in this way you can work it hard with a great frequency, a hard fixed rowing, pull up/down work out only takes 2 days at most to recover from so you can hammer your back more frequently and since you are probably deadlifting and squatting at least 2x a week there are now 4 back workouts in one week! You don’t even have to think about it or separate your back and deadlift days.
You can add in some low level trunk work as well like reverse hypers or hyper extensions into your abdominal work outs to bring the orgy of back swole up to 6x a week.
I like efficiency, getting a bigger back and getting stronger on important lifts and these are the reasons I dislike the barbell row.