Reverse grip bent over rows, also known as reverse barbell rows or Yates rows (for Dorian Yates), are an intermediate level back exercise. They are similar to conventional barbell rows in that they compound multiple muscles in the arms and back along with the rear deltoids.
Muscles Targeted: Reverse grip bent over rows target the middle back in addition to the biceps, the shoulders and the lats (latissimus dorsi) which are the muscles that are adjacent to the pectorals, under the armpits.
Exercise Instructions: While holding a barbell, carefully bend forward at your waist so that your chest is leaning forward over your feet. Keep your knees bent and your feet just beyond shoulder width apart. Securely grasp the barbell with both hands, using an underhand grip with your hands about shoulder width apart. Start with your arms fully extended, allowing the barbell to hang at about mid-shin level. Next, lift or “row” the barbell up close to your stomach area. Return the barbell back down to the starting position and repeat. Be sure to keep your head up, back flat and your shoulders back throughout this exercise to keep your back in a secure and stable position.
Why This Exercise is Important: Rowing is one of the most efficient and effective exercises you can do for developing your back muscles. The reverse grip bent over rows are great because they allow you to tuck your elbows in close to your body allowing you to both keep your joints free from injury and move heavy weights to help stimulate muscle growth. This movement strengthens your back which acts as a platform for enabling you to work your other muscles even harder because you have the necessary stability.
Things To Avoid: Only use weights that you can handle at all times. Avoid working with weights with which you are not comfortable with and which do not allow you to maintain the correct form and technique. Avoid loading the barbell with plate upon plate for the sake of it. Also, refrain from slouching forward or bending your back while performing this exercise, which can result in injury. Likewise, make sure you do not push your elbows away from your torso and always keep them close to your body. Avoid jerky movements and rapidly lowering the barbell up and down during your sets. Always use a smooth tempo with slow and controlled repetitions. Keeping your head down also minimizes the efficiency of the workout.
Reps and Sets: When using an underhand grip (palms facing out) as with the reverse grip rows or an overhand grip (palms facing in), a good place to start is 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions. Vary this setup, if you wish, with regard to your goals and the weight being used.
Other Exercises To Use: Low pulley rows are a good alternative to reverse grip bent over rows, especially for those who have back problems. They target the middle back as well, but are forgiving to the lats; working the traps (trapezius muscles) instead.
One arm dumbbell rows allow you to vary your torso-hip ratio, which is strictly 45 degrees for the barbell row, and focus on the sides of your back because you can use one arm at a time. This isolates the muscles used in performing the exercises and works them more individually. This setup is not necessarily optimized for power, but for strengthening weaker back and arm muscles and giving you improved definition and endurance (depending on the number of repetitions).
Similarly, lying T-bar rows work the middle back, biceps and lats like the reverse grip rows but differ in that they target the trapezius muscles much more along with the rear deltoids (shoulders).
All three exercises mentioned above will make for a great workout when used in sync with the reverse grip bent over rows, but can also be used as alternatives by beginners or for those who do not feel comfortable with executing the reverse grip bent over row. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the back.