How to do a barbell row

How to do a barbell row: step-by-step instructions for this back-strengthening exercise.

Woman demonstrating how to do a barbell row
(Image credit: Getty)

Knowing how to do a barbell row correctly can reduce the risk of injury, help strengthen your back and improve posture.

This compound exercise is a type of resistance or strength training, which is important for building muscle mass (opens in new tab) and bone density, especially as we age. Studies (opens in new tab) have found that regular resistance work, such as weight lifting, can reduce the risk of osteoporosis in women. 

In this article we talk to personal trainer Angie Haviland-Wyer, who runs strength-training classes at her StudioBelle Gym in the UK, to find out exactly how to do a barbell row. And don’t worry if you don’t own a barbell, as you can use the best adjustable dumbbells (opens in new tab) to do the same move. 

Angie Haviland-Wyer
Angie Haviland-Wyer

Angie is a qualified personal trainer and owner of StudioBelle Gym in Warminster, U.K. She specializes in kettlebells, suspension training, spinning, boxercise and circuits. 

How to do a barbell row

“Slow, controlled movements will serve you better than lifting a weight that’s too heavy that you can’t handle,” warns Haviland-Wyer.

Before you start, load your barbell with weight – or just use the bar without weights if you are a beginner – and leave it on the floor in front of you.

Step one: Plant your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees as your hinge from the hips, keeping your back straight and your neck in line with your spine. The barbell should be on the floor in front of you.

Step two: Grab the bar with two hands (palms facing down) and, with soft knees, bring it up to mid-shin height.

Step three: Take a deep breath to engage the core, then with elbows narrow, squeeze shoulders together to ‘row’ the weight up towards your chest. Then slowly lower it back down again to the mid-shin height. That’s one rep.

What muscles are worked by a barbell row?