Pendlay Row vs Barbell Row

Which Is Better for Building Your Back?

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: March 6, 2024

The Pendlay row and the barbell row are two similar exercises for building upper body strength and muscle mass. Both involve pulling a barbell toward your body, but they differ in their execution and application.

In this article, I will explore the differences between the Pendlay row and the barbell row and help you decide which one is best for you.

Pendlay Row vs Barbell Row

The Pendlay row is a variation of the standard barbell row, named after its creator, weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay. This barbell row variation involves a more horizontal back angle and a pause on the floor between each rep.

On the other hand, the traditional barbell row or bent-over row is performed in a more upright position with no pause between reps. Before I explain the differences in more detail, let me quickly walk you through how to perform each exercise.

How to Pendlay Row vs Barbell Row

Both Pendlay rows and barbell rows are effective exercises for building a solid and muscular back. However, they differ in execution and proper form. Here’s how to perform each exercise correctly:

How to Do the Pendlay Row

  1. Begin by standing with your feet about hip-width apart and a barbell on the ground in front of you.
  2. Position your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with an overhand grip on the barbell.
  3. Bend your knees and hinge at the hips to lower your torso until it’s parallel to the ground.
  4. Engage your shoulder blades and quickly pull the barbell towards your chest while keeping your back flat.
  5. Lower the barbell back to the ground and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Proper form throughout the exercise is essential. Keep your back straight and avoid excessive rounding or arching. This will ensure you’re targeting the muscles in your back and not putting unnecessary strain on your lower back.

How to Do the Barbell Row

  1. Start by standing with your feet about hip-width apart and a barbell on the ground in front of you.
  2. Position your hands about shoulder-width apart, with an overhand grip on the barbell.
  3. Deadlift the bar to the standing position, then bend your knees and hinge at the hips to lower your torso to roughly a 45-degree angle to the ground.
  4. Engage your shoulder blades and pull the barbell towards your waist, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  5. Lower the barbell back to just above your knees and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Like with the Pendlay Row, proper form is vital throughout the exercise. Keep your back straight and avoid rounding or arching. This will ensure you’re targeting the muscles in your back and not putting unnecessary strain on your lower back.

Pendlay Row vs. Barbell Row Differences

Now that you know the proper form, let’s discuss how the Pendaly and barbell rows differ. In this section, I will compare each exercise regarding body position, movement pattern, and muscle activation.

Additionally, this short video shows a side-by-side comparison of the barbell and Pendlay rows.

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Starting Position & Back Angle

The main difference between the Pendlay row and the barbell row is their starting positions. The Pendlay row starts from a dead-stop position, where you lift the barbell from the ground. On the other hand, the barbell row starts with the barbell hanging at arm’s length in front of you.

The starting position of the barbell also affects your back angle. The Pendlay row requires you to bend all the way forward to grab the loaded barbell on the floor. With 45-pound weight plates or equivalent circumference bumper plates, your back is roughly 0 degrees or parallel to the floor.

On the other hand, the barbell row begins in the bent-over position, with your back anywhere from 45 to 60 degrees from the floor.

Pendlay Row vs Barbell Row Starting Position

Movement Pattern & Tempo

The movement patterns of the Pendlay row and barbell row are also different. The Pendlay Row involves pulling the barbell straight up toward your chest or sternum, while the barbell row involves pulling toward your waist or navel.

The tempo of the Pendlay Row is more explosive, with a quick concentric and a controlled eccentric. The barbell row, on the other hand, is performed at a slower, more controlled tempo in both the positive and negative phases.

Pendlay Row vs Barbell Row Form

Mechanics & Muscles Worked

Both the Pendlay Row and Barbell Row work the erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, lower traps, and rear delts. As a result, either exercise can be effective for building muscle and achieving a strong back.

However, the Pendlay row has a higher pulling angle, which results in more external arm rotation, especially with a wider grip. These body mechanics emphasize the muscles of the mid-traps and upper back.

By comparison, the barbell row has a lower pulling angle with arms tucked at the sides. These mechanics are even more pronounced with a shoulder width or underhand grip. Therefore, the bent over barbell row generally emphasizes the lower lats.

Pendlay Row vs Barbell Row Angle

Pendlay Row vs Barbell Row: Which Is Better

The Pendlay row and barbell row are two back exercises that target similar muscle groups. However, as you learned, some differences between them make them unique.

So, I will review the pros and cons to help you determine which is better for your training needs.

Pendlay Row Pros & Cons

The dead stop movement of the barbell Pendlay row is great for building explosive strength and power. However, it can be more challenging to perform correctly and generally requires using lighter weights.

Pros:

  • Increases explosive strength
  • Power carries over to other platform lifts

Cons:

  • May not be as effective for building the lats

Barbell Row Pros & Cons

The bent-over barbell row is a more traditional exercise that is great for building the muscles of the back. It also allows for heavier weights to be used while keeping constant tension on the muscles. However, the barbell row may be less effective for building explosive strength and power.

Pros:

  • Builds all back muscles
  • Power carries over to other platform lifts

Cons:

  • May not be as effective for building explosive power
Pendlay Row vs Bent Over Row Finish

Programming Pendlay Row vs. Barbell Row

The Pendlay row can be considered a variation of the barbell row, and these similar exercises are sometimes used interchangeably in a training program. However, key differences in technique and training focus suggest using them strategically based on your training goals.

Strength or Hypertrophy

Pendlay Row is an effective exercise for building strength off the floor. Therefore, it is especially beneficial when incorporated with Olympic lifting programs or powerlifting workouts. This exercise is often done for lower reps and heavier weights, making it ideal for strength training.

Conversely, the conventional barbell row is foundational for building muscle size. It is often used as part of a bodybuilding workout routine and is usually done for higher reps and moderate weights, making it ideal for hypertrophy training.

Both exercises can be programmed similarly for progressive overload. Strength training should involve incrementally increasing the weight (load), while hypertrophy training may benefit more from increasing reps or sets (volume).

Overall, it is crucial to consider your fitness goal and focus on proper technique and form. Both exercises can be used for strength and hypertrophy but have slightly different focuses and programming considerations.

Hypertrophy vs Strength Training

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By |March 6, 2024|Workouts|0 Comments
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