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The Barbell Row: A Complete Guide

The barbell row is sometimes called the "sixth lift" because of how well it complements the other staples of a complete barbell training strength program. In this video, Matt and Niki demonstrate the barbell row and discuss how to fit it into your training. Read on for more details on the barbell row, some alternatives, and options to help improve your upper back strength.

The Barbell Row: The “Sixth Lift”

Learn how to barbell row with our complete video guide.

Compared to most of the other accessory movements, the barbell row, or what we call “the sixth lift,” uses the most weight. It fulfills the three criteria that we use to help us decide which exercises take priority in our strength training program.

The barbell row is a great accessory movement to the deadlift, and can be used as an alternate or in addition to training the chin-up.

Stance and Grip

Take the same stance as your deadlift. Instead of placing the bar directly above the middle of the foot, stand another 1-2 inches back. Bend down and take a grip that is a few inches wider than the deadlift grip.

Set Your Back

Squeeze your chest up without dropping your hips to set your back in normal anatomical extension, and then pull explosively into the upper abdomen.

Set the bar back down on the floor after each rep. Then, squeeze your back flat again, and repeat.

Don’t Cheat!

If you raise your chest or open your hips, you’re cheating the movement. Your hips should be at about the same position as they are during your deadlift.

Programming the Barbell Row

When you can no longer deadlift every session on your linear progression, you can alternate the barbell row in your programming. You can also perform barbell rows on the same day as chin-ups. Start conservatively with weight, for 3 sets of 8 repetitions. Add 5lb each time you perform barbell rows. When you can no longer perform 8 repetitions, start dropping the reps until you reach 3 sets of 5 repetitions.




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