How To Do The Pendlay Row, Benefits And Muscles Worked

man doing pendlay rows

If you’ve never heard of the Pendlay Row, which is quite similar to the barbell row, you should continue reading. Invented by USA Weightlifting Coach Glenn Pendlay, after whom the Pendlay row is named, wasn’t looking to create his own exercise when he recommended doing barbell rows with a flat back, returning the bar to the floor for each rep. Back strength and muscular development for pulling movements, such as snatches, cleans, and deadlifts, are emphasized in this row variation. Furthermore, the rigorous version of this row aids in the development of better form, carrying over to weightlifting-specific movements and lifts.. 

This comprehensive guide will explore how the Pendlay row can be a useful exercise across various strength and power sports, alternatives, variations, and programming suggestions. 

How To Do The Pendlay Row

girl doing pendlay row exercise
image credit: strengthlog.com

Begin with the bar on the floor in front of you. Because each rep will require you to lift it from the ground, use a lighter weight than you would for a bent-over barbell row.

Hinge at the hips and lower yourself down so that your back is parallel to the ground. Your knees should be slightly bent. With your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart, grasp the bar with an overhand grip. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and straighten your back to lift the weight up to your belly. Lower the bar all the way down to the floor. Make sure your back is parallel to the floor throughout the exercise – The only parts of the body that should move when performing a repetition are your arms and shoulders.

Pro Tip: Shut out the sights and sounds of your surroundings. Focus completely on what your muscles are doing. Odds are that you’re doing this incorrectly if you don’t feel the back and hamstrings (isometrically contracting to aid in stability) doing most of the work.

Benefits of the Pendlay Row

Builds a Bigger, Stronger Back

It’s critical to use volume, weight, and focused contractions while training to build a solid back for either aesthetic reasons or to carry over to other lifts. The Pendlay enables you to lift heavier weights than other back-specific exercises, yet it still forces a complete range of motion (if done correctly) to maximize back hypertrophy.

A Stronger Back for Deadlifts and Squats

Contracting and bracing your back is critical for keeping good posture while performing exercises such as the deadlift, back and front squat, and bench press. As you lift heavier amounts of weight in those exercises, the strain on your back will increase. To maintain your ability to brace your back in pace with the rest of the lift, Pendlay rows should be added to your regimen.

Each rep is initiated from a dead stop on the floor, forcing you to brace each time you lift the bar.

Specificity to Powerlifting and Weightlifting Movements

For weightlifters, the Pendlay row is a top priority for lifters who don’t have enough positional strength in their hamstrings and backs. Both static and concentric strength is increased by the Pendlay row, which is advantageous for the snatch, clean & jerk, and breaking through sticking points in those lifts. For powerlifters, Pendlay rows can help with the squat and deadlift by strengthening the lower back and upper back.

Muscles Worked

The Pendlay row is a compound exercise that targets large muscle groups of the body. The below muscle groups are worked, which can assist you in more complex movements like deadlifts, squats, and weightlifting exercises.

Latissimus Dorsi

The lats are a large slab of thin, triangular muscle that spans pretty much the entire length of your back. They are involved in scapular depression as well as the flexion (or pulling) of your arms. Anytime you pull something to you, you’re engaging your lats.

Hamstrings

The hamstrings work isometrically to support the lifter as they assume the bent over position in the Pendlay row. When done correctly, the lifter should feel an intense strength and loading of the hamstrings. Because you’re essentially in a deadlift position for the Pendlay row (sort of), the positional strength you’ll gain should positively affect your deadlift. 

Spinal Erectors

The erectors work to assist in stabilizing the spine during this bent over row variation, as you’re hinged over for the entire movement. A strong lower back is necessary and can be developed during the Pendlay row. It can directly correlate to a more substantial setup and pulling position in the deadlift or any movement in which a load is lifted from the floor.

Bottom Line

The Pendlay row is a variant of the barbell row where you keep your upper body fixed throughout the movement. The only thing that moves is the bar and your arms, so it targets the same muscle groups – primarily the lats, but also a number of upper and lower back muscles. It’s a more difficult lift than the standard barbell row since you must pull the bar from the ground each time.

Rows are excellent for developing your back muscles and, as a result, improving your posture. If you rely on the bench press solely to balance out your upper body every time you go to the gym, adding rows to your routine may assist correct this imbalance.

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