Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bodyweight Rows For A Bigger Back...

I’m a big believer of including bodyweight exercises in your workouts to help maximize muscle growth. Exercises where you move your entire body through space are much more demanding and provide a greater amount of nero-muscular activation then exercises where you just move your limbs.

This is why squats are harder then leg presses, pull ups harder then pull downs, etc.

One of my favorite bodyweight exercises for building a wide muscular back is chin ups or pull ups. For years my back workouts would often include up to 50 reps of pull ups. I’d do sets of 5-10 reps using different grips until I completed 50 total reps.

But this past January I suffered a serious muscle tear in my teres major and tricep tie in area and this has really hindered my back workouts. In fact I haven’t been able to do a full pull up with my bodyweight in over 7 months because it is just too much stress on my previously torn muscles.

I’ve been looking for an alternative exercise that combines the benefits of bodyweight movements and will still allow me to work my back intensely without over stretching my muscles. And the exercise that I came up with is bodyweight rows.

They are almost like doing an inverted push up. Bodyweight rows are to your back, what push ups are to your chest.

To set up for this exercise I like to use the smith machine and set the bar so that it is about waist height. I’ll then place a flat exercise bench about 4-5 feet away from the smith machine bar. The smith machine works best because the bar will be solid and stay in place during the entire exercise.

Get in position by gripping the bar with a slightly wider then shoulder width grip and place your feet on the exercise bench. Keeping your body straight, row yourself up until your chest touches the bar and then lower yourself to the starting position and repeat.

The benefits of this exercise is that it works muscles of the back hard and will allow you to perform more reps then you could with regular pull ups because the mechanics of the exercise place you in a stronger position and you are not lifting your entire bodyweight.

You should give bodyweight rows a try for your next back workout. They work great as either an overall back warm up exercise or as a finishing movement to really pump up the lats at the end of your workouts.


  1. Godforbeginners@yahoo.comAugust 13, 2008 at 12:58 PM

    Once again Lee you have the best stuff on the web. I have a degree in exercise science from the USA and have learned more from you than when I was in the university. Thanks for all your help and tips. You are trustworthy and any purchase of your products is a good/safe investment. Doug

  2. Thanks Doug, glad to be able to help.

  3. I do these in my workouts as well. I know then as "Reclined Pullups"

    Try then without the bench. Lift one leg and plant the other foot on the floor, flat. This will work the glutes at the same time.

    Great stuff Lee..

  4. Hi Lee,

    just tryed this exercise today and have the following question:

    when you raise yourself up, where should the par be hitting?
    upper chest, meddle, or lower chest

    thank you