How To Use the Barbell High Row to Broaden Your Upper Back

Rowing is a strength training train for the again that’s typically etched into lifters’ minds in three kinds: You’ll be able to pull an object perpendicular towards your chest, you’ll be able to pull one thing straight downward from excessive above, or you’ll be able to pull one thing straight up from down under. All of this begs a query: What would occur should you pulled alongside a less-traveled path?

Effectively, if you apply a bottom-up strategy to the barbell’s motion whereas standing at an obtusely-angled place, the product is a barbell excessive row. There’s no mistaking the truth that this motion isn’t on most individuals’s lists of important back-training actions, and that’s a crying disgrace. 

A person performing a high barbell row.
Credit score: Fotokvadrat / Shutterstock

It’s because the barbell excessive row is without doubt one of the most purposeful instruments for exercising your again by mimicking a motion that you just doubtless make the most of in on a regular basis conditions, and nearly each place aside from in a weight-room setting.

Learn how to Do the Barbell Excessive Row

In the event you already know the way to do a bent-over barbell row, transitioning to a barbell excessive row will in all probability be a bit of cake. However, should you’re unfamiliar with both variation of a barbell row, there’s no time fairly like the current to discover ways to row with probably the most standard gadgets within the health world.

Step 1 — Set Your self Up

Step 1 of the high barbell row.
Credit score: Cody McBroom / Youtube

Stand along with your toes unfold barely wider than shoulder width aside, your knees bent, and along with your waist angled in order that your physique kinds an angle or 45 levels in contrast with a completely upright place.

Maintain the bar with a barely wider than shoulder width grip and chill out your arms so it suspends straight beneath your shoulders.

Coach’s Tip: The excessive row requires a extra upright posture than your normal barbell row.

Step 2 — Row the Weight Up

Step 1 of the high barbell row.
Credit score: Cody McBroom / Youtube

Bend at your elbows and pull your shoulders again to raise the bar to the purpose the place it makes contact along with your decrease sternum. Pause briefly when the bar connects along with your sternum.

Coach’s Tip: Ensure that your elbows flare barely outward as you raise the bar up versus pulling them alongside the edges of your physique. 

Step 3 — Decrease the Bar

Step 3 of the high barbell row.
Credit score: Cody McBroom / Youtube

Slowly decrease the bar in a managed vogue to return it to its beginning place.

Coach’s Tip: Though you start the rowing motion from a lifeless hold, don’t enable the act of reducing the barbell to tug you right into a bent-over physique place.

Barbell Excessive Row Variations

Whereas the angle of the barbell excessive row could also be atypical, the essential execution of the motion is kind of elementary. This makes the barbell excessive row a easy train to duplicate with completely different apparatuses round your favourite industrial health club, or inside your individual home exercise atmosphere.

Dumbbell Excessive Row  

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  1. Seize a pair of dumbbells and bend on the waist to set your higher physique at a 45-degree angle.
  2. Elevate the dumbbells till your palms attain the extent of your decrease sternum space, and briefly pause.
  3. Return the dumbbells to their beginning place.

Smith Machine Excessive Row

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  1. Seize onto the bar of a Smith Machine and bend over barely to set your physique at a 45-degree angle.
  2. Unlatch the bar, raise it till it makes contact along with your decrease sternum space, and briefly pause.
  3. Return the bar to its beginning place.

Barbell Excessive Row Alternate options

While you distill rowing workout routines all the way down to their essence, the vast majority of them will work a number of muscle tissue all through the posterior facet of your physique. 

Whereas it’s true that your angles of strategy could differ relying in your space of focus, the elemental goal of the actions stays constant. This implies there are a number of various workout routines that seize the essence of what the barbell excessive row makes an attempt to perform, a technique or one other.

Bent-Over Barbell Row 

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  1. Seize onto a barbell whereas your physique is at an angle barely higher than 90 levels.
  2. Bend at your elbows and raise the bar as much as your sternum, pausing briefly on the prime of the motion.
  3. Return the bar to its beginning place.

Chest-Supported T-Bar Row

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  1. Seize onto the T-Bar rowing handles whereas your chest is positioned comfortably on the chest pad.
  2. Bend at your elbows to drag the handles, driving your elbows again behind your physique, and the handles towards your chest.
  3. Return the handles to their beginning place.

Inverted Row

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  1. Sit on the ground beneath a racked weight bar (or a Smith Machine bar) positioned a number of toes off the bottom.
  2. Seize onto the bar along with your palms barely wider than shoulder width aside.
  3. Brace your physique and elevate your self from the bottom in order that solely your toes relaxation on the ground, and your physique kinds a straight line out of your shoulders to your heels.
  4. Bend at your elbows to drag your chest upwards towards the bar. Pause for a one-count on the peak of the motion.
  5. Straighten your arms to decrease your self again to the beginning place.

Barbell Excessive Row Suggestions

The barbell excessive row is probably not as intricate as maybe an acrobatic barbell motion just like the snatch or clean, however that doesn’t imply you’ll be able to’t optimize it by using a number of easy ideas and methods. Attempt these out to make sure that your barbell excessive row periods are squeezed for all they’re price:

Make Constant Contact

As you row, attempt to the touch the middle of the barbell to the very same place in your physique each time you full a repetition. This can be certain that you develop sound and constant method, and all however affirm that the meant musculature is doing the work relatively than giving technique to undesirable supportive constructions.

Stand a Bit Wider

Through the barbell excessive row, you might end up tempted to listing forwards and backwards as you carry out your repetitions. In any case, you’re rowing a loaded object in entrance of your midline — some swaying is to be anticipated, particularly should you don’t brace your core or use a weightlifting belt.

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Standing along with your toes wider than hip-width aside will broaden your base of assist. This could enable you to preserve your torso regular so you’ll be able to focus exhausting on high quality muscular contractions.

Barbell Excessive Row Units and Reps

Regardless of calling for an ever-so-slight distinction in your higher physique’s tilt, the barbell excessive row’s methodology for muscular stimulation is equivalent to that of comparable rows. As such, you’ll be able to program it the identical method you’d for every other motion, relying in your aim: 

For Endurance: To make use of the barbell excessive row to coach your higher again for endurance, attempt two or three units of 15 to twenty reps with pretty gentle weight. 

Advantages of the Barbell Excessive Row

In the event you imagine that just about all rows are essentially the identical, you’d be appropriate; all of them activate the muscle tissue of your posterior chain, and primarily the contributing muscle tissue in your mid-back. 

An athlete doing high barbell rows.
Credit score: Jasminko Ibrakovic / Shutterstock

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Regardless of this, the superficial variations between the barbell excessive row and different rows are distinctive sufficient that you just’ll uncover some extraordinary benefits to coaching with the barbell excessive row.

Effectively-Rounded Pulling Power

Though its angle is perhaps one that you just don’t ordinarily assume throughout rowing units, the barbell excessive row engages all the muscles of your back, out of your spinal erectors and lats to your rhomboids and trapezius. In the event you’re in search of a back-training exercise that stimulates muscle mass comparatively equally, that is the one. 

Highly effective Posterior Delts

Weak rear delts are sometimes a limiting issue to the general improvement of shoulder muscle tissue and corresponding enhancements of their power. Barbell excessive rows incorporate your rear delts of their pulling sample, drawing them right into a motion able to involving extra weight than your rear delts can ordinarily raise on their very own. In consequence, you might lastly be capable to craft the well-formed delts you’ve been pursuing for years.

A Capped Physique

The muscle tissue of your higher again and rear shoulders tie straight into your neck and triceps. In consequence, focusing on the uppermost portion of your posterior chain can thicken a piece of your physique that hyperlinks different parts of your anatomy, thereby making all of them look like thicker within the course of.

Muscle tissues Labored by the Barbell Excessive Row

Most rowing workout routines systematically interact the muscle tissue of your again, and the barbell excessive row isn’t any exception. Exercising with the barbell excessive row will strengthen all your pulling muscle tissue, with a lot of that burden distributed all through the topmost portion of your again, and with a substantial contribution supplied by your shoulders.

Latissimus Dorsi 

Whereas not as concerned as it’s throughout down-and-back pulling actions just like the pull-up or lat pulldown, the biggest muscle group in your again nonetheless assists through the barbell excessive row that can assist you raise the barbell upward.


Operating out of your glutes all the way in which as much as your neck, the uppermost portion of your trapezius muscle tissue is amongst the first targets of the barbell excessive row, which will help to construct them up. 

A bodybuilder's trapezius muscles.
Credit score: Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

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All rowing actions contain scapular movement to a point, and the “excessive” facet of the excessive row will get your higher traps into the sport greater than most options whereby you’re working from a hinged place. 


Positioned beneath your trapezius muscle tissue and situated in your higher again, your rhomboids are a key contributor to upper-limb motion. They’re additionally a stabilizer of your shoulder girdle, and are within the direct path of the barbell excessive row’s trajectory.

Posterior Delts

As essentially the most rearward portion of your shoulders, your posterior delts are ideally positioned to help with the barbell excessive row’s up-and-back movement, particularly should you float your elbows out to the facet through the raise.

Who Ought to Do the Barbell Excessive Row

Whereas the underlying premise of all rows is similar — they enhance your capability to drag an object towards you — some rowing varieties are simpler than others at effectuating particular outcomes. 

Trainees With Shoulder Impingement  

One of many downsides to an ordinary upright row is that it has an unlucky repute for internally rotating lifters’ shoulders and exacerbating shoulder impingement. Due to the angle of the barbell excessive row, the width of the hand placement, and its low level of contact with the chest, it would give you the aptitude to focus on the muscle tissue of your higher again alongside along with your posterior delts. What’s extra, it does so with out extreme inside rotation on the shoulder, if that’s a posture you are trying to keep away from.

Aggressive Rowers

In the event you sit inside a rowing shell for the primary time, it’d shock you to be taught that the overwhelming share of the propulsive work carried out throughout aggressive rowing — roughly 70 % — is produced by your legs. (1

A person in a boat rowing competition.
Credit score: Corepics VOF / Shutterstock

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When your arms do contribute, the type of the rowing stroke requires the bar to attach along with your sternum whereas your physique is at a 45-degree angle. Due to this fact, the barbell excessive row will enable you to to improve your purposeful energy on a path of resistance that mirrors the movement of a aggressive rowing stroke.

Anybody Wanting Sensible Pulling Energy

Regardless of the temptation to primarily practice your again by utilizing rows which might be carried out at proper angles, the real-world lifting atmosphere is much completely different. From reaching down to choose up a package deal to lifting a toddler off the ground, a number of of the commonest lifting motions executed in the true world happen if you find yourself reaching down and pulling one thing up in the direction of you. 

In brief, the orientation of your physique throughout a bar bell excessive row comes nearer to approximating true-to-life lifting circumstances than most different rowing variations.

Widespread Barbell Excessive Row Errors

Unusual workout routines typically include rarely-encountered units of issues. That’s to say that a few of these points are frequent through the efficiency of the barbell excessive row whereas remaining rare throughout most different workout routines. 

In reality, you’ll should be additional cautious throughout barbell excessive rows, as the wrong enactment of a barbell excessive row typically leads to the proper execution of a separate train that you just don’t intend to be doing.

Standing Too Upright

In the event you straighten your physique an excessive amount of through the barbell excessive row, you run the chance of wandering into upright rowing territory. In the event you’re ready for the inner shoulder rotation that may accompany that train, that’s one factor, however the general focus of the 2 actions is completely different sufficient that you just’ll wish to make certain you stand at roughly a 45-degree angle. 

Bending Over Too Far

Leaning too low and too far ahead will shift the stress of your barbell excessive row towards the center portion of your again. When this occurs, you’ll find yourself with little or no distinction — if any — between your meant barbell excessive row and a well-executed bent-over barbell row. 

A person who is bent over too far for a high barbell row.
Credit score: AleksZa Picture / Shutterstock

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Not that there’s something in any respect flawed with bent-over barbell rows, however doing them on this occasion gained’t give you the developed upper-back that you just’re craving.

Maintaining Your Fingers Too Slim

In case your palms stay at roughly shoulder-width on the bar or narrower, lat engagement will increase whereas rear delt exercise drops considerably. Concentrating on your lats is actually a worthwhile endeavor, however there are a number of workout routines that may scratch that itch extra successfully.

Within the meantime, widening your palms can place extra of the main target in your rear delts, rhomboids, and higher trapezius, that are areas of your anatomy that usually obtain much less direct consideration throughout coaching compared to the lats.

Excessive-Degree Features

If the uppermost portion of your again is in want of some overdue consideration, the barbell excessive row will quell any fears you might need that this part of your anatomy goes unaddressed. On an aesthetic stage, the barbell excessive row lets you seem extra bodily spectacular as your shoulders and higher again fill out and start to protrude. 

On prime of that, it would additionally permit you to pull extra confidently at an angle that is perhaps uncommon within the health club, however fairly extraordinary in every single place else. So ultimately, your distinctive upper back muscle tissue and pulling power will stick out simply as obviously as your new rowing method.

Often Requested Questions

An unconventional motion just like the barbell excessive row is certain to spark a query or two. Listed here are your solutions:


  1. Jones, D. I. (2011). Higher versus Decrease Physique Contribution to the Rowing Stroke [Master’s thesis, Cleveland State University]. OhioLINK Digital Theses and Dissertations Middle.

Featured Picture: Fotokvadrat / Shutterstock

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