Pendlay Row vs Barbell Row – Which Is Best for Strength?

The barbell row is one of the most widely embraced upper body movement to build serious strength and muscle mass regardless of sport and aesthetic goals. When browsing across the various rowing variations, we often see lifters using a wide range of back angles, “total body” momentum, and/or ranges of motion.

Glenn When looking at which row style to embrace, we are often faced with a decision to choose between the barbell row and/or the strict, back parallel to floor version, called the Pendlay row.

Therefore, in this article we will discuss each row movement, provide video demonstration of proper execution, and discuss the distinct differences and applications of each rowing style.

The Pendlay Row

In a recent sit down with Glenn Pendlay, we discussed the origins of this row. According to Glenn, the row is simply a bent over row done the way it should be; strict, back flat, and parallel to the floor. Whether or not he calls it the Pendlay row or just a simple row is another story, which you can read more about here.

In the video below we look at how to properly perform the Pendlay row.

The Barbell Row

The barbell row is a vague exercise classification given to any and all rowing movements done with a barbell. This includes the Pendlay row, which is a distinct style of barbell rowing. Other variations include underhand barbell rows, barbell rows with a 45 degree back angle, and more. Take a look at the video below to see how to properly perform a barbell row and how it is slightly different than the pendlay row variation. This video is specifically geared for those of us who are serious about strength and power sports, so pay attention!

Differences and Applications

Below are some of the key differences between the Pendlay row and barbell row, and how they apply specifically to strength and power sporting movements.

Muscular Hypertrophy

Both rows have the ability to promote massive muscle growth. When looking to build a strong back for either aesthetic purposes or carry over to other lifts, it’s important to train with volume, load, and focused contractions at specific times of your training. Muscular hypertrophy can be done with both movements, especially when hand placement, back angle, and increased strict form is prioritized (however doing more body english on a high rep row set can also help increase muscular damage and growth).

A post shared by Kenneth Sefland (@ksefland) on

General Strength

Strong is strong. Therefore, to be strong, one must take the time to develop both lifts. When looking why you actually need/want all that strength (such as in the specific sections below), you need to determine if overall strength is a weakness or specific positional strength is your issue. If you have issues staying tight with the back in a deadlift or squat, you may need to start performing a strict rowing versions like the Pendlay row. If however, you need to just gain some overall size and strength, heavy barbell rows at various angles (even with some body english) can also help you gain strength and mass.

Specificity to Powerlifting and Weightlifting Movements

In terms of weightlifting, performing the Pendlay row is a top priority for lifters who lack positional strength in the hamstrings and back. The Pendlay row does a great job of increasing static and concentric strength, both needed during the snatch, clean, and breaking through stick points in a lift. For powerlifting, Pendlay rows can also be used to aid in the squat and deadlift, as they increase lower and upper back strength, similarity to the effects on weightlifters. That said, barbell rows (and their variations) are great ways to add general strength and muscle mass, both of which are very beneficial to gaining weight and getting strong.

A post shared by Mike Kundla (@614thor) on

Top Articles for Strength and Power Athletes

Check out some of our top articles for recovery, advanced training, and more!

Featured Image: @614thor on Instagram

Comments