Impressive back strength and muscular development is one thing that power, strength, and elite fitness athletes have in common. Deadlifts, pull ups, cleans, snatches, and squats all require large amounts of muscle mass and strength to withstand the stress of explosive and forceful loading. Back specific movements that target the latisumus dorsi (lats), erector spinae (lower back), and traps (lower, middle, and upper) can offer power, strength, and functional fitness athletes greater muscular development, improved movement mechanics, and enhance an athlete’s injury resilience.

Below are 6 row variations that can be easily integrated into any training regimen to further target back-specific weaknesses and/or enhance muscular development.

Pendlay Row


Named after USA Weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay, this stricter bent row variation offers athletes a more isolated approach to train the lats while mimicking the certain positions found in weightlifting and deadlifting. Often done with a the back nearly parallel to the ground, Pendlay rows offer increased hip, lumbar, and back stabilization; which can be very beneficial for pulling movements.

Archer Row

This rowing variation is a great scapular stabilization exercise for overhead and pressing athletes to build into warm-up sets, correctives, and/or back routines. Scapular stabilization can improve pulling abilities, overhead strength and stability, and overall shoulder health.

Meadows Row

Named after Jim Meadows, bodybuilder and Elite FTS advisor, this row variation is unlike many others on this list. The unique angle, hand placement, and joint action of this row has been know to great immense back strength and size. The additional increase range or motion allows of this exercise allows for lifters to get a better squeeze and lat stretch to further promote muscular damage and growth.

Seal Row

This strict rowing variation allows athletes to almost completely isolate the back while minimizing lower back involvement. Seal rows can be done for overall muscle development or to correct poor movement mechanics and spinal positioning, both of which can increase injury risk if not addressed.

Kroc Row

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Named after elite powerlifter and all-around strength athlete Matt Kroc, these “cheating rows” are a great way to increase overall back development and grip strength. This row variation allows for increased volume and intensity (higher reps with heavier loads), both of which can promote serious muscular development. Additionally, this higher repetition movement can promote increased grip strength, which can increase pulling abilities.

Inverted Row

Performed using a barbell, rings, ropes, or whatever else is lying around, the inverted row is a calisthenic exercise that can increase strength and muscle mass. Often performed with only an athlete’s bodyweight, the inverted row can train grip strength, body awareness, and offer an athlete with a simple yet highly effective solution to back training.

Final Thoughts

Rows are a great way to increase muscle mass, strength, and enhance injury resilience for power, strength, and fitness athletes. Coaches and athletes can integrate rows into training cycles based upon equipment needs, limitations and specific weaknesses of athletes, or preference.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured Image @karawebb1 on Instagram

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Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.