The barbell bentover row is an incredibly effective exercise because it strengthens nearly your whole posterior chain: back, triceps, glutes, hamstrings, etc, says Scott Martin, CPT, fitness associate at the Health & Wellness Center at Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel.
Problem is, loads of guys experience low back pain halfway through their reps, which can stem from a mobility issue, joint derangement, and, more often than not, setup.
Many guys grab the bar using an underhand grip, dropping their torso toward the floor, rounding their mid to upper back, and minimally bending their knees, Martin says. In short, you're setting youself up for disaster. This is painful, because now you're loading the weight on your spine and the muscles supporting it, which is unsafe and could lead to injury, he adds.
How to do it right:
1. Position your heels below your hips. Grab the barbell (over or underhand), placing your hands about a thumbs distance away from your thighs.
2. Stand tall with the barbell. Expand your chest and pull your shoulders back and down.
3. Maintain a neutral spine (this is where most guys go wrong) as you lower the bar toward your knees. “A simple way to find neutral is to lift your chest,” Martin says. Your spine should feel long and powerful. Let the bar slide down your thighs while you shift your hips and butt back, as you would in a deadlift.
4. Your torso can be parallel to the floor or more upright, depending on your mobility. You may feel more tension in your hamstrings and glutes; that's okay. The muscles in your posterior chain are going to help create a stable platform to lift from.
5. As you row the barbell to your ribs, you want to squeeze your shoulder blades, then release as you slowly descend.