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A Back Blasting Superset - Bent-Over Rows to Deadlifts



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Secret Training Tip #685 - A Back
Blasting Superset - Bent-Over
Rows to Deadlifts

Home -> BetterU News Archive -> Issue #14 -> Back Superset

 By Nick Nilsson

Harness the power of the superset to send your back training to the next level.

The power of supersets is undeniable. Supersets (doing 2 exercises one after another with no rest in between) are very effective for building strength and muscle mass.

The following is a superset for your back that will pile on muscle like no other. One word of warning: you should be comfortable doing both of these exercises separately before attempting them together in a superset.

The first exercise is the barbell bent-over row. You can use either an overhand, wide grip or an underhand, close reverse grip. Both grips are effective but work different areas of the back.

Select a weight that will cause you to reach failure in the 6 to 8 rep range. Do a hard set of bent-over rows then immediately after setting the weight down, move into the second exercise: deadlifts.

You will use the exact same weight for deadlifts, however, you may wish to change your grip to a mixed grip (one overhand, one underhand) so that you can hold onto the bar better.

Do reps of the deadlift until either your grip fails or until a rep before your back fails (don't do deadlifts to absolute failure - always keep the do-or-die rep in you).

After you get done with the deadlifts, your lats should be extremely pumped up.

There are several reasons why this superset is so effective:

1. It uses two of the best mass-building movements for your back (and body!).

2. The bent-over row uses the lats to actually move the weight while the deadlift uses the lats to help support the weight. Since the lats are already fatigued from the rowing, they will be forced to work far harder when you do the deadlifts. In a nutshell, the rest of your body will help push your lats harder!

3. The weight you use for bent-over rows should be relatively easy for you on the deadlift. This allows you to do even more reps with the deadlift.

4. It is very easy and convenient to go from the bent-over row to the deadlift. All you need to do is change your grip (if even that! You may choose to use the same grip.).

Give this superset a try in your next back workout. The results will speak for themselves!


How to Do Barbell Bent-Over Rows:

The Bent-Over Row builds thickness in the upper back and uses the lower back and abs to stabilize the body during the movement. The biceps also contribute to the movement, however care should be taken to minimize biceps involvement as the biceps are the weakest muscle in the chain.

  • There are several variations but the most effective version for the lats is the reverse-grip row.

  • Bend your knees and bend over at the waist, keeping an arch in your lower back and looking forward. It is important not to round your lower back in this exercise.

  • Take a shoulder-width, palms-up grip on the barbell. Your knees will be inside your arms during the movement. The next thing you should do is suck up your abs and hold them tightly in. This will stabilize your abdominal area.
Start position for the barbell bent-over row for the back.
Top position for the barbell bent-over row for the back.
  • Keeping your knees bent (the angle will be somewhat greater than 90 degrees) and back arched and without lifting with your lower back, pull the barbell back and up into your lower abdomen.

  • Fight the tendency to stand up to help cheat the weight up, which can strain your lower back.

  • Also, do not dip your upper body down to meet the bar. This will reduce the effectiveness of the exercise and can lead to lower back injury.

  • When done with proper form, the bent-over row is one of the most effective back exercises you can do.

Common Errors in the Bent-Over Row:

1. Improper body position

This is most commonly seen as the straight-legged, rounded back style. This is the worst position for your lower back to be taking weight on. Always keep your lower back arched, your knees bent, and your head up and butt down.

2. Yanking the weight up

Always lift the weight up using muscle power only. Yanking the weight up in this position can cause lower back injury.

3. Dipping the upper body down

This is often done as you pull the bar up in an effort to get the weight up to the end of the rep. Instead of pulling the bar up to you, you are dropping yourself down to meet the bar. This is a less effective way to train the back and has the potential for injury. Keep your torso as steady as you can.

Error: hunched-over position for the barbell bent-over row for the back

Tricks for the Bent-Over Row:

1. Coming in for a landing

Imagine your body as a plane coming in for a landing. This will help with your body positioning. Always look forward when doing this exercise. Looking down will automatically cause your back to round over.

2. Butt against the wall

If you have trouble keeping in the correct position, do this exercise with your butt pressed against the wall. By keeping it firmly in one spot, you will eliminate the tendency to stand up.


How to do Barbell Deadlifts

The Deadlift is a powerful exercise that should be a part of every serious trainers routine. It uses more active muscle mass than any other exercise, including squats. The focus of the Deadlift is usually considered the lower back, however it does work most of the major (and many of the minor) muscles in the body. The Deadlift is extremely useful for building muscle mass and total body strength because of the great amount of muscle mass it uses.

Deadlifts - Start position


Deadlifts - Top position
  • Step up to a loaded barbell. Place your feet slightly less than shoulder-width apart and crouch down with the bar touching your shins.
  • Grasp the bar with either a palms-down grip or a mixed grip (one hand palm-up, the other palm down) just outside your legs.
  • At this point, your legs should be bent at 90 degrees or less, your back should be straight (do not hunch over), your head should be vertical and your eyes should be looking straight or slightly up.
  • Begin the movement by straightening your legs (standing up).
  • As the bar clears your knees, straighten your back until you are standing vertical with the weight.
  • You should essentially be dragging the bar up your shins and legs in order to keep the weight as close to your body as possible.
  • This minimizes torque on your lower back.
  • Lower the weight slowly and repeat.
  • Remember to squeeze your glutes hard throughout the movement!
Here are a few tips to remember as you are deadlifting.
  • Squeeze the bar off the floor - don't snatch at it.
  • Keep looking straight forward as you lift. It is not necessary to look way up nor is it a good idea to look down.
  • Consciously lead with your head and shoulders to maintain a flat back.
  • Keep off your toes.

Common Errors for the Deadlift:

1. Allowing the back to round over

Always try to keep an arch in your lower back. It is natural for a little rounding to occur after the bar has cleared your knees but if you do the entire exercise with a rounded back, you are going to get hurt.

2. Lifting unevenly

If one side of the bar comes up higher or if the bar starts rotating as you are lifting, then you are lifting unevenly. To remedy this, make sure your grip is even on the bar. Using a mixed grip can cause rotation as you lift so be sure to pull up evenly.

3. Leaning back at the top

Do not lean back at the top of the movement. This could relax the erector spinae and make the spine take the whole load, leading to injury. Leaning back at the top does not constitute a full range of motion.

Error: Deadlifts - Hunched-over position

4. Holding your breath

Don't hold your breath during the movement as that can increase blood pressure to dangerous levels.

5. Dropping the weight

Don't forget the negative portion of this movement. Don't just drop the weight. Lower it slowly. The negative is an extremely valuable part of the deadlift.

Tricks for the Deadlift:

1. The mixed grip

The mixed grip (one hand facing forward, one hand facing back) is better for a stronger grip as it prevents the bar from rolling.

  • Alternate which hand grips which way to prevent strength and muscle imbalances
Deadlifts - Mixed Grip
  • Be sure you grip evenly if you do use a mixed grip.

  • If you find the weight swinging to one side excessively, adjust your grip spacing accordingly.

  • The side it is rotating to is usually closer to the center of the bar though this could also depend on which way you are gripping.

  • The bar usually has a tendency to rotate towards the hand that has a pronated grip (palms back).

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