Hypothesis – most trainees stay away from barbell bent rows. They prefer chins, pulldowns, seated rows, dumbell rows or even T-bar rows to the conventional barbell bent row.
The problem with bent rows is the decline in the strength curve.
What I mean by the strength curve is the loss of power from one part of the range of motion to another.
The movement from full extension to approximately half way up is disproportionately strong when compared to the second half. Partial reps can keep going long after the full reps are done. But if you want full reps you have to be prepared to leave the big plates on the sideline.
I am not opposed to partial reps on bent rows and don’t consider it training beyond failure if :
- reps are done at a controlled pace bordering on superslow, and
- reps are done with slow, continuous tension. No pausing at the bottom or “heaving” the weight up by moving your entire torso.
But maybe we don’t have to bother with the partial reps. Maybe we can solve the problem by doing two things:
- Underhand grip. By taking an underhand grip, similar to what you would do for barbell curls, you put your biceps in a stronger position. Most people know that the weak link in a compound movement is the smaller muscle groups. In the case of bent rows, the biceps is that muscle group. By putting them in a stronger position you can keep the focus on the lats for a longer period of time.
- < 90°. I’m talking about the angle of your torso during the movement. Gravity is not your friend when you are at a 90° angle to the floor. By reducing the angle even slightly you can reduce the path that the bar has to travel while still preserving the peak contraction potential of the movement. Think about bringing the bar across your things to your belly instead of through the air to your nipples.
Putting the biceps in a better position and shortening the bar path might sound like a bit of a cop-out. Are we trying to make the exercise easier? No. Bent rows are a special case. The leverage sucks to begin with by implementing these two changes you can compensate and get a bigger bang for your training buck!
One more point. With all back movements, retract the shoulder blades after taking your grip and before you start the set. Keep your back in this position for he entire set, don’t let up. Full range of motion in a lat movement has nothing to do with releasing the shoulders.