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The Pendlay Barbell Row

The dangerous point in the exercise is the turnaround point at the bottom. If you start every row from at-rest on the floor (aka Pendlay Rows, named for strength coach Glenn Pendlay) and drop them rather than lower them, they are pretty mild on the low back. This style is called row pulls, and with them bumper plates are helpful.

Here are two variations of the Pendlay row—

  • One, arch and extend your upper back; this might take some experimenting to figure out, but it makes a big difference.

 

  • Two, pull dynamically from a dead stop on the floor, kind of like a clean, not ripping it off the floor, but accelerating. Pull hard into the chest, then let the weight drop at a free fall, using no eccentric effort in the lowering of the weight. This is mainly to spare the low back. This style lends itself to low reps and heavy weights.

Pendlay-style barbell rows teach the whole back to work in concert. The lats act not only on the arm; they also stabilize the spine. The motion of the scapulae is synchronized with the movement of the arm, an important motor pattern to reinforce for shoulder health. It’s another example where the ground-based, closed-chain, natural movement wins every time. It restores mobility to the thoracic spine.

Squeeze at the midpoint means to really pull the bar hard into your chest at the top of the barbell row. Don’t just sit back let momentum carry it from the midpoint to graze you at the top, keep pulling!

Do bentover rows totally strict, bent over so the torso is parallel to the floor, knees unlocked, keeping everything still but the arms, back perfectly flat, weight on the heels. You have to have a surprising degree of hamstring flexibility to do them flat-backed. It will help to warm up and stretch the hamstrings good before you begin.

If you’re too tight for good form, develop the necessary flexibility before working this exercise.


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