The Reverse Grip Barbell Row is an underhand grip barbell row variation that increases your upper back muscle’s strength and activates your biceps. It’s an essential strength-building workout that can train not only your back but also your shoulders. So, if you want to build a massive upper body and not waste your time and energy doing useless reps, follow this definitive guide! 

By simply changing your grip, you effectively switch the emphasis from the overhand grip’s rhomboids and traps to the underhand or reverse grip’s lats.  The movement is evident in reverse grip bent-over row, which is a free-weight exercise that nearly targets all the muscles in your back. Moreover, it can offer you excellent strength and muscle-focused upper body movement!

This Ultimate Guide Will Cover

  • How to Perform Reverse Grip Barbell Rows Correctly
  • Benefits of Doing Reverse Grip Barbell Rows
  • Common Reverse Grip Barbell Row Mistakes To Avoid
  • Reverse Grip Barbell Row Muscles Worked
  • Reverse Grip Barbell Row vs Overhand Grip Barbell Row
  • OurTrainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, and Programs
  • Reverse Grip Barbell Rows Variations
  • Reverse Grip Barbell Rows Alternatives
  • FAQs About Reverse Grip Barbell Rows

How to Perform Reverse Grip Barbell Rows Correctly

What you’ll Need:

  • Barbell – Choose a weight that you can carry and don’t overload. If you do, you may end up performing this exercise in the wrong form.

Alternative Equipment:

  • Cable Machine – You’ll need a low pulley cable station that has a V-handle attachment.
  • Dumbbells – Similar to the barbell, select a weight that will still allow you to perform the exercise correctly.
  • Squat Rack Machine – Add a barbell bar and use this set-up to do inverted rows.

Step 1: Secure Your Grip

Stand upright and grab a Barbell with a supinated grip, so your palms are facing up. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.

Step 2: Master the Starting Position

Bend your knees slightly and squat down to move your torso forward. Ensure that your back is straight, so it’s a bit parallel to the floor. Let your arms hang perpendicular to the ground and your upper body. This is your starting position.

Step 3: Lift the Barbell Up and Squeeze

While maintaining a stationary torso, pull the barbell with your elbows tucked close to your body until it’s just below your chest. Think of your elbow to your hands with the underhand grip as if they were just a stiff hook.  Don’t exert any force on your biceps except for holding the barbell. Squeeze your shoulder blades and back muscles when your reach the top of the movement as you hold the weights for a moment.

Step 4: Lower The Barbell With Control and Repeat

Slowly lower the barbell back to the original position. Then, repeat your desired number of reps.

Throughout the entire movement, ensure that you keep your head up and cautiously use the weights. Only increase the load when you master the movement. Also, if you have any back issues, it’s better to avoid this exercise because doing it without the correct technique can put you at risk of back injuries. Alternatively, if you have a healthy back, don’t slouch forward!

4 Reverse Grip Barbell Row Benefits

1. Safely Lift Heavier Weights

Since your elbow is close to your body while doing the range of motion of this exercise, you’ll be able to lift heavier weights without damaging your joints. 

2. Increase Bicep Strength

Because this exercise recruits the lats and biceps more, it’s one of the most effective workouts to enhance those muscles. Because of this, you gain more strength and hypertrophy in those areas. 

3. Stabilize and Strengthen Back Muscles

Since you’re able to lift more wights with this workout, you’ll be able to amp up your back muscle activation, which in turn stabilizes and strengthens it. Also, it can help with training your lower back’s endurance because of the isometric contraction.

4. Activates Hypertrophy 

The Reverse Grip Barbell Row contributes greatly to enhancing muscle mass by engaging several muscle groups aside from the lats. This is beneficial mostly for bodybuilders and athletes who are training for heavier and compound movements like deadlifts and front squats.  More muscles lead to increased training volume without necessarily overworking other muscle groups that are still recovering from an intense workout.

Common Reverse Grip Barbell Row Mistakes To Avoid

Mastering the correct form of any exercise must always be your top priority. If you want to make sure that you’re doing this underhand grip barbell bent-over row exercise properly, avoid these common mistakes!

Not Bending Enough

The more you bend, the wider the range of motion you can cover. This means you’ll have more “time-under-pressure” for your back muscles which is necessary since, to build muscles, you’ll first need to break them. There’s a big difference between barely bending over and having your upper body in line with the ground.

Not Bending Your Legs While Lifting

When you execute this exercise, ensure that you’re bending your knees. This will enable you to push your hips backward, giving you a solid base to hold yourself in place so you’ll be able to lift the maximum amount of weight. If you keep your legs straight, too much weight will go to your lower back, which may cause spinal flexion or some severe back injuries.

Wrong Chest Position

Remember to always keep your chest up when doing this exercise to avoid spinal flexion or injuries. It can happen easily when you have roundness in your lower back and your center of gravity moves forward. To maximize your lift, you’ll need a solid base. So, stop and redo your form when you start to feel that you’re rounding your back.

Standing Up Little By Little

With your upper body parallel to the ground during this workout, it fatigues your muscles more. So, if you stand up little by little once you’re starting to get tired, you lose some of the potency of this exercise. Instead of standing up, just lower the weight that you’re using.

Too Much Spine or Neck Tension

One of the worst things that you can do while performing this exercise is putting too much tension on your spine or neck. So, always keep your spine and neck neutral to prevent excess pressure from building up as it may cause strain to the muscles in that area. While keeping your upper body parallel to the floor, your face also needs to be parallel to the floor.

Not Tightening the Core

Having proper core control can determine whether you’re making significant gains or ruining your lower back. Before each rep, inhale and hold while contracting your core to keep your upper body as solid as you can when you lift. If you exhale during the rep, you’ll instantly fall into spinal flexion, transferring the load to your lower back.

Reverse Grip Barbell Row Muscles Worked

This strength-building compound exercise targets the following muscles:

  • Lats
  • Rhomboids
  • Upper and Lower Back
  • Biceps
  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes

The underhand grip bent over barbell row can activate almost all the muscles in your upper and lower back. Aside from that, it also trains other parts of your body, including your biceps, shoulder, lats, quads, hamstring, and glutes. As you perform this workout, you’ll be able to develop a gigantic and strong back!

Reverse Grip Barbell Row vs Overhand Grip Barbell Row

Most beginners would wonder about the difference between the underhand and Overhand grip barbell row when performing a bent-over row exercise and which is better. The answer is none. Either variation is better than the other because they focus on different parts of your body. So, depending on your goal, you will need one or the other!

One of the main distinctions between the two grips is that the overhand grip trains your upper back muscles. On the other hand, the underhand grip activates your lower back, traps, and lats.

Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, and Programs:

For Muscle Building

If you want to build your muscles, you’ll need to use a moderate load and opt for more volume than you would if you’re concentrating on strength. Perform three to five sets of five to ten reps with medium to heavy load, or do two to four sets of ten to twenty reps with moderate load to near failure. 

For Strength Training

When using the reverse grip barbell row for strength training, you need to execute three to five sets of three to five reps with heavy loading. Rest as necessary. Ideally, you should only do this exercise if you’re an experienced lifter. Maintaining a hinge at your hips while supporting a heavy barbell can put a lot of strain on your lower back. 

For Muscle Endurance

Striving to improve your muscle conditioning and endurance? Aim for using less weight and doing high reps. Begin with two to three sets of twenty to thirty reps with light to moderate load and forty-five to sixty-second rest in between each set.

Reverse Grip Barbell Row Variations

Doing this exercise alone may stall your growth since your muscles will get used to the burn. So, mix it up with these variations instead of doing the same workout routine for months! You may find some to be harder and others easier, but all of these exercises will guarantee you a solid upper body!

Dumbbell Bent Over Row

Instead of doing the bent-over row using a barbell, you can sub it out with dumbbells! With two weights, you’ll need to have more coordination and avoid relying on the more robust slide for your body. Also, using the dumbbells will help you balance your strength on each side. 

Begin with the dumbbells just below your knees and let your wrist turn naturally during the movement.

Dumbbell Incline Row

To better assure that you’re not rounding your back as you perform the rows, do this Dumbbell Incline Row. Incline a bench at 45 degrees and lie down with your chest on the backrest while holding a dumbbell in each hand. Let your arms hang towards the floor. Row the weights up until they reach your chest and squeeze your shoulder blades, then lower them back. 

Ensure that your chest remains in contact with the bench throughout the movement so your torso stays in the exact correct posture.

Pendlay Row

This exercise is a stricter take on a standard bent-over row because you bend over until your back is parallel to the ground. Then, you need to lower the barbell all the way to the floor with each rep. Aside from that, other form points are similar to an overhand grip, shoulder squeezed at the top of the movement, and core tight. 

You will need to reduce the amount of loading when doing the Pendlay row because it’s more challenging to lift the barbell from the ground with each repetition.

Bent-Over Fly

Although this variation uses lighter weights, it can produce a more substantial Scapular Retraction. Put a slight bend in your elbows, then lift the weight straight out to your sides until you reach your chest height without engaging your upper body.

One-Arm Barbell Row

If you want to better engage your lats when you perform rows and want to look like a legendary lifter in the gym, then you should execute the one-arm barbell row. You will have to use a loaded barbell and need enough space when you do this exercise. 

Stand by the side of the dumbbell and bend over to hold one end near the plate. While keeping the standard bent-over row position, row one of the barbell up, then bring it down slowly.

Reverse Grip Barbell Row Alternatives

Other than the variations, you can do these alternatives to engage different muscle groups to continue enhancing your physique, strength, endurance, and other skillsets.

Seated Cable Row

The seated cable row is an excellent alternative that targets your middle and upper back. It’s an isolated workout that can also correct your posture and enhance your shoulder muscle balance. 

In this exercise, you’ll need to set up a low pulley cable station and attach a v-handle. Then, secure your feet on the platform and pull the cable attachment towards your waist. Keep your upper body upright and avoid leaning forward. If you need to find a substitute for this exercise, check out guide on the Seated Cable Row Alternatives.

Inverted Row

Inverted Row exercise can enhance your upper body strength in the biceps, back, and forearms. It’s a bodyweight workout that can develop your core stability and improve your horizontal pulling strength. Inverted rows are the perfect starting point if you’re having a hard time doing Chin-ups and Pull-ups.

To perform this exercise, you’ll need a squat rack machine. Grab the barbell over the apparatus while lying on your back and pull up until your chest touches the bar. Prevent your shoulders from moving forward, and make sure to squeeze your shoulder blades together. Also, do the complete range of motion and don’t allow your hips to sag.

Seal Row

When you execute this alternative, you’ll be lying prone on a bench while grabbing onto a weight and doing supported rows. When you lie on the bench, you lessen any tension and stress on your hamstrings and lower back. It’s an excellent exercise to isolate your back and minimize bouncing or momentum during a row.

Frequently Asked Questions

This strength-building workout can activate nearly all the muscles in your upper and lower back. In addition, it also engages other parts of your body, including your biceps, shoulder, lats, quads, hamstring, and glutes. If you include this workout in your fitness plan, you’ll be able to create a powerful back!

Using an overhand grip is better if you want to engage your upper back (rhomboids and traps). Alternatively, doing an underhand grip is ideal if you’re going to focus on your lats. You also need to keep in mind that the amount you arc the barbell back towards your hips and the angle of your torso can affect the targeted muscles. 

Doing this exercise will not make you sweat for nothing. Since the underhand grip puts more work on your biceps, it’s the perfect exercise to strengthen them. Other than that, it can also improve your other muscles including the lats, spinal erectors, rhomboids, glutes, and hamstrings. 

Using different grips produces different results. That’s why, yes, it matters. The overhand grip can activate your upper back while an underhand grip trains your lats.

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