The row is the pound-for-pound champion of upper-body mass-building exercises. With less risk of injury and greater potential for size gains than even the bench press, the barbell row is a workout staple of both physique- and strength-minded athletes. Add one of these variations to your back training for a fresh dose of stimulation.
Named for Olympic weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay, this row differs from a traditional barbell row in that your torso is horizontal and the weight returns to the floor between reps. With no momentum and zero stretch reflex to help move the bar, Pendlay rows develop power and starting strength, defined as the ability to move a load from a dead-stop position.
How To Do It: With a loaded barbell on the floor in front of you, hinge at the hips and knees and bend forward so the bar is directly under your navel with your torso roughly parallel to the floor. Using a wider than shoulder-width grip, pull the bar to your upper abs with speed and power. Lower under control, let the bar come to a full stop and regrip if necessary.
The neutral, close-grip position of this move and the way the weight is balanced at the midline of the body allows you to pull a heavier load than with other rows. Any version of this — a T-bar bench, chest-supported row or a barbell with a V-handle — can help add thickness to your back.
How To Do It: Load a T-bar bench or cradle one end of a barbell with a V-handle, flush against the inside of the sleeve. Take a wide stance and straddle the bar, with your hips back and chest up. Extend your arms and bend your hips and knees until you can grasp the handle. Retract your shoulder blades and bring your elbows behind you until the bar touches your upper abs.
Often called “fat man pull-ups,” inverted rows aren’t just a way to make pull-ups easier for overweight or deconditioned lifters. In fact, they provide variety and challenge for even advanced trainees, especially when using TRX handles or fat grips or when chains or a weight vest are added to the load.
How To Do It: Set the bar of a Smith machine to about hip height. Lie faceup underneath the bar and grasp it with a wide overhand grip. Put your heels up on the end of a bench or box, then pull your chest to the bar and return to full arm extension.
Matt “Kroc” Kroczaleski is a record-setting powerlifter, an NPC bodybuilder and the namesake of the brutally demanding Kroc row, which is universally praised for stimulating size and strength gains. Its magic comes from a combination of heavy weight and high reps, so it’s not for beginners.
How To Do It: Place one hand and the same-side knee on a flat bench. Grasp a heavy dumbbell so the post is perpendicular to your body, not parallel, and your palm faces behind you. With your torso at about a 45-degree angle (more upright than in a traditional dumbbell row), drop your shoulder at the bottom for a stretch before quickly pulling the dumbbell toward your hip. Go ahead and use some body English in your torso to help move the weight.
This is an unorthodox version of a one-arm dumbbell row popularized by bodybuilder and nutrition guru John Meadows. Since it requires you to grasp the thick end of the T-bar, straps are highly recommended.
How To Do It: Load a T-bar or landmine and stand on the opposite side, parallel to the end of the bar, using a staggered stance with your right foot forward. Bend over at the waist and grasp the end of the bar with your left hand using an overhand grip. Shoot your hips backward, then raise the hip closest to the bar so it’s slightly higher than the other side. Rest your right elbow on your right knee for support. Quickly pull the weight up so your hand approaches your ribs.