6 Row Variations to Develop a Stronger and Healthier Back

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.

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About the author

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Masters in Exercise Physiology from Columbia University in NYC, USA. Mike is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Club Coach (USAW2), and Performance Nutrition Coach. Mike is a sponsored ReebokONE Ambassador specializing in weightlifting, barbell and powerlifting training, and sport-specific strength and conditioning. Additionally, Mike is an Assistant Coach of Strength and Conditioning at NYU and the Co-Founder at J2FIT Human Performance in NYC, USA. Mike is the Founder of The Barbell CEO, a lifestyle brand devoted to the strongest coaches, entrepreneurs, and minds. Additionally, Mike is a co-host on The Fittest League Podcast.