The bent-over row is one of those moves that 100% of bodybuilders would say is vital to complete back development. Because you’re using a barbell in the bent-over position, you’d be hard-pressed to identify a muscle group that’s not involved in the process. As far as the back muscles, you hit the upper lats, rhomboids and middle traps when you use a wide, overhand grip. This month we’re looking at the reverse-grip version, which better targets those stubborn lower lats. And because your hands are supinated, you’re automatically stronger because of the mechanical advantage and biceps involvement.
Spot the Error
The lower lat area provides the appearance of back width all the way down the back to where the lats meet the waist. Although few people understand it, the lower lats require a distinct arm angle. In other words, whenever you do close- or reverse-grip rows, your elbows automatically draw near your body. That change in angle is what recruits the stubborn lower lat fibers with better success than wide-grip moves. That said, it’s imperative that you don’t pull the bar into your upper ab area (save that for the wide-grip bent-over row with an overhand grip). As you can see in photo 2, the bodybuilder is missing the target. Photo 1 is correct.
When using an underhand grip — to ensure the bar ends up in the correct position for the peak contraction on the lower lats — be sure to actually drag the bar up your quads. That’s right, don’t let the bar pull away from your legs at any time. With your knees unlocked, the angle of pull is ideal when pulling the bar into your hips when keeping your elbows tight to your sides. This position also allows you to draw your elbows as far back behind the plane of your back as possible for the best squeeze of your lower lats.
Try this first: Attach a lat bar to a low pulley. Get into the bent-over row position and practice pulling the bar with a reverse grip into your lower abs/hips area. Practice dragging the bar up your quads while keeping your chest up, back arched and abs tight. Once you have that form down perfectly, start with an empty barbell and duplicate that motion before adding much weight. Finally, try and use the power rack with raised safety bars for an easy dismount at the end of each set.