Why I Do Pendlay Rows Instead of Regular Barbell Rows (2015)
“Wanna grow? Gotta Row!” was what many of the old school lifters used to say because rows should be an essential part of any program and should get just as much attention as the bench press in most cases.
If you want a big muscular upper back and some thickness in the lats and mid back then you need to row like no tomorrow if you want to reach your genetic potential, there is no way around it.
With so many benefits of rowing such as aesthetics, strength and posture, you would be ignorant to not incorporate heavy rowing variations in your program, they are a must have.
Every program I have for myself or my clients includes at least 3 row variations at the bare minimum. I like to always have at least one barbell rowing in my program because barbell rowing allows you to handle some serious weight and the placement of your hands dictates where most of the load will be distributed.
THE MAIN THING THAT I DON’T LIKE ABOUT REGULAR BARBELL ROWS
The reason why I am not that crazy about traditional barbell rows is because they affect your lower back recovery. If you are like most lifters and you do a lot of squats, deadlifts, rack pulls, military presses, good mornings and stuff of that nature then it might be a lot for your lower back to handle.
The lower back can take a little bit longer to recover for the most part so if you are doing all of the compound movements listed above already then why do barbel rows on top of that?
Don’t get me wrong, barbell rows are a fantastic exercise and many lifters around the world have built extremely thick backs because of them, but it is not the only option either.
On the other hand, the Pendlay row is very similar to the barbel row except ever repetition starts from the floor from a deadstop. This means that its essentially a concentric based movement so the eccentric part of the lift won’t be as emphasized but that is ok because your back will still grow if you are incorporating other eccentric based movements, its not the end of the world if you have a concentric based exercise in your program.
There is this misconception that if there is no eccentric component then there will not be any growth and this information is false for the most part because hang cleans build monstrous traps and the lifter doesn’t lower the weight down slowly on that lift, the Pendlay row is similar in many ways.
Below are some reasons why I personally like the Pendlay Row better than the barbel row for hypertrophy and strength purposes in most cases.
EXPLOSIVE PULLING POWER + TOTAL BODY TIGHTNESS
The Pendlay row is good at teaching a lifter full body tightness and explosive power from the floor as well which is good because this will have a huge carryover to the majority of your lifts. The reason why you will be stronger in all of your other lifts is because a strong upper back will give you a solid foundation to press off of while it will also give you a strong place to place the bar during exercises like back squats.
The strongest benches, squatters and deadlifters all have strong upper backs and they all do a lot of rows.
So initially you will be getting stronger and putting on more slabs of muscle all over your body because the Pendlay row will help you lift more weight on your other exercises, its a win-win.
PHENOMENAL UPPER BACK BUILDER
Besides from heavy Deadlift variations, the Pendlay row is a great upper back builder and will add slabs of mass on your back if you eventually work up to some good numbers.
If you could eventually work to 1.5x your bodyweight for a set of 5 then your upper back will be a lot bigger. This means that if you weigh 200lb then a 300lb Pendlay row will be very sufficient.
GOOD CARRYOVER TO YOUR DEADLIFT
The Pendlay Row builds explosive starting strength from the floor which will have a great carryover to your Deadlift numbers. If you could row 315lb to your ab region then imagine how easy it would be to Deadlift 495lb? I am a big advocate of doing deficit Deadlifts to improve starting strength in the Deadlift but the Pendlay Row could be a great addition as well.
LESS STRESS ON THE LOWER BACK = FASTER RECOVERY
Since the movement is more concentric based, it literally goes up for 1-2 seconds and then it comes back down on the floor which makes it easy on the lower back because it is only under load for a brief moment. If you were doing squats, deadlifts and overhead presses all weak then your lower back may be a bit fatigued to do barbell rows, but I guarantee you that it is still able to do Pendlay rows.
The eccentric part of the lift can usually contribute to more soreness, but since the Pendlay row doesn’t utilize the eccentric part then you can basically work on pulling heavy without extreme DOMS which means that you could then increase the volume and/or frequency throughout the week if you want to.
FUN EXERCISE TO DO WHEN YOU’RE ANGRY
Last but not least, the Pendlay row just looks badass and it’s super fun to do when you are angry, in a bad mood or even excited. I personally find that pulling is more enjoyable than pushing, but I still like to push as well too.
I argue that the Pendlay Row is one of the best rowing variations out there and if you do it properly then you could reap all of the benefits with little to no downsides, its just that effective. Give the Pendlay Row a try in your next program and tell me what you think because I think that you will really enjoy it.