exercises are among the most effective exercises
for building strength and muscle mass. However,
for most trainers, the only bodyweight exercises
for the back that they know are the pull-up or
chin-up! While the pull-up is definitely effective,
it can be too challenging for some or not challenging
enough for others. Also, pull-ups don't fully
address the different positions the back is capable
of working in.
the pull-up row. It gives all the significant
benefits of a bodyweight exercise while actually
improving on the regular barbell, dumbell and
cable row by taking the lower back completely
out of the movement.
you're going to learn four variations of the pull-up
row that target the total beginner all the way
to the very advanced. There will be a link to
a page with pictures of all four of these variations
at the end of the article.
about rows: it's important with all rowing movements
to keep your lower back arched. This position
prevents injuries and helps put the lats in their
best position for activation.
1. Beginner Level - Standing Pull-Up Rows
perform the Standing Pull-Up Row, all you need
is something solid to grab onto, like a pole or
a railing. You can grab directly onto it or loop
a towel around it, grasping the ends of the towel.
your feet close to the bottom of what you're holding
onto and lean back to arms-length. Keep your entire
body straight and stiff - the only movement will
come at the elbows and shoulders.
yourself up towards the pole, squeezing the muscles
in your back hard. Lower yourself back down, letting
your arms straighten out, and repeat.
you get stronger with these, you can also do them
holding on with only one arm and pulling up one
arm at a time.
is the best version for the complete beginner.
Simply grip onto a pole or other solid object,
place your feet near the bottom of it and
row yourself up.
For a little
extra range of motion and more resistance,
loop a towel around the solid object and
grip onto the ends. As you pull up, squeeze
your back muscles.
You can also
pull the ends of the towel out to the sides
as you pull yourself up for an extra bit
2. Beginner to Intermediate
Level - Lying Pull-Up Rows
Lying Pull-Up Row requires something solid that
you can lay under and grab onto. It you're at
home, this could be a very sturdy horizontal railing
(be sure it's strong!). If you're at the gym,
you can set a Smith Machine bar or power rack
bar to a couple of feet off the ground.
underneath the bar and grasp it with a shoulder-width,
your feet out and away, putting yourself into
a laying position while holding onto the bar.
Keeping your torso stiff, pull yourself up as
closer you keep your feet towards the bar, the
easier the exercise will be. The easiest position
for this version of the pull-up row is with your
legs bent fully as though you are in the bottom
of a squat. This greatly reduces the amount of
bodyweight you must move.
make the exercise harder, set your feet out further
(or straighten your legs) or elevate your feet
on a bench or chair. This will make you take up
more of your bodyweight during the movement, increasing
is set up using a regular Olympic bar set
on the safety rails of a power rack. The
bar of a Smith Machine also works quite
well for this.
out (or higher up) you place your feet,
the more challenging the exercise will be.
If you are
an advanced trainer, this is an excellent
high-rep rowing exercise.
version of the pull-up row can also be done
with a wide grip on the bar in order to hit
a different area of the back.
3. Intermediate to Advanced
- One Arm Lying Pull-Up Rows
set-up for the One Arm Lying Pull-Up Row is exactly
the same as for the regular Lying Pull-Up Row
as explained in the previous variation, the major
difference being you'll grasp the bar with only
one hand instead of two.
the bar with an underhand grip even with the centerline
of your body for best balance and leverage. Pull
up with the one arm for a full set then repeat
with the other arm.
can hold your non-working arm across your abdomen
or grip it onto the forearm of your working hand.
Gripping your other arm with your non-working
hand will make the exercise easier, however, as
it will take up some of the resistance of the
for this version is exactly the same, the
only difference being that you'll grip the
bar with only one hand.
on this one can be a bit tricky. Your body
will tilt somewhat as you pull up because
of the off-center pull with only one arm.
picture demonstrates the other one-arm grip
where you also grasp the forearm of your working
arm. This makes the exercise a little more
balanced and a little easier to do.
4. Intermediate to Advanced
- Free Hanging Pull-Up Rows
version of the Pull-Up Row will utilize all of
your bodyweight for resistance, just like a chin-up.
It can be done using a chin-up bar or, if necessary,
using a Smith Machine bar or a bar set on the
safety rails of a power rack.
you have low ceilings, you'll need to use the
power rack or Smith Machine version (set the bar
to about 4 feet off the ground) otherwise your
feet will hit the ceiling and stop the exercise.
the chin-up bar with a shoulder-width, underhand
grip. Raise your legs up as though doing a complete
hanging leg raise movement.
your upper body back to a horizontal position
and straighten your legs to vertical. Your shins
should be right up against the bar and your feet
should be directly above the bar. Your body should
be in an "L" shape.
your legs in that position, do a pull-up row from
there. Keep your legs as close to the bar as possible
when doing this to better keep your balance.
You can perform
this exercise on a standard chin-up bar
if you're got high enough ceilings. If you
have lower ceilings, set the bar on the
safety rails of the power rack or use the
Smith Machine bar.
Do a leg raise
until your shins are against the bar. Now
pull yourself straight up, keeping your
legs very close to the bar.
This is a
very challenging exercise for the back -
it uses your entire bodyweight just like
picture shows the position when done using
a chin-up bar.
you can see, the Pull-Up Row can be used effectively
by every level of trainer from complete beginner
to the very advanced. Give one of these versions
a try in your next back workout!
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