How To Do The Pendlay Row Properly

The Pendlay row is a unique variation of the barbell row that was developed by Glenn Pendlay, a weightlifting coach.

It is considered unique because unlike the traditional barbell row, its reps begin from the ground and your upper body remains stationary the whole time so that only your arms and the bar are moving.

Here’s how to do it properly:

  • Stand in front of the barbell and align your midfoot underneath the middle of the bar.
  • Keep your posture tall and your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your knees slightly and position your shoulders over your hips with a neutral neck position.
  • Pre-tension your core, hips and shoulders by breathing in and out before lowering the bar.
  • Hinge at the hips and begin to bend your knees and hips to lower your body. Make sure your shins are vertical and your chest parallel to the floor.
  • Using an overhand grip, grab the barbell and engage the back muscles by rotating your shoulders outwards. Your hips should be at a higher position than your knees and the weight plates on the bar should be touching the floor. This is the starting position for all reps.
  • Begin the upward motion by squeezing your upper back muscles and pulling the barbell towards the lower part of your chest using your arms and lats.
  • Allow your elbows to travel behind you and be at about 45 degrees from your torso.
  • As you pull the barbell towards your body, your shoulders should retract naturally.
  • Maintaining the rowing alignment, extend your elbows and allow the bar to travel toward the floor until the weight plates touch the ground.
  • Pause for a few seconds before you begin the next rep.

WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE PENDLAY ROW WORK?

LATISSIMUS DORSI

The latissimus dorsi is a large muscle that covers your middle and lower back and helps in flexing your arms.

The Pendlay row helps train your lats through by flexing your shoulders under heavy load.

SPINAL ERECTORS

These muscles work together to stabilize your spine and keep it in a neutral position during the Pendlay row.

Since your body is hinged over throughout the exercise, the spinal erectors and your core have to work overtime to create a lot of tension so that your spine remains rigid during the rep.

HAMSTRINGS

When you are performing this exercise, your hamstrings work in an isometric fashion to hold your body in the correct position.

If you do it correctly, you’ll feel an intense stretch on your hamstrings.

BENEFITS OF THE PENDLAY ROW

INCREASES BACK STRENGTH

This exercise activates several muscles on your upper and lower back, including your trapezius, latissimus dorsi, spinal erectors and rhomboids when done with proper form.

By encouraging hypertrophy of these muscles, it can help develop a stronger back.

VERSATILITY

You can practice the Pendlay row using an underhand grip or by switching the weight to a pair of dumbbells or a kettlebell for a change.

IMPROVES LIFTING ABILITY

This movement can significantly improve your ability to perform other lifting exercises such as the deadlift.

When doing it, you experience the kind of tension you get when you perform the deadlift since it makes you train your body to be resistant to heavy load.

ALTERNATIVES TO THE PENDLAY ROW

DEADSTOP DUMBBELL ROW

The deadstop dumbbell row allows you to generate a high power output, while recruiting the same muscles as those worked by the Pendlay row.

It is also unilateral, meaning it can help improve muscle asymmetry or imbalances caused by doing exercises that do not work each side independently.

Here’s how to do it properly:

  • Bend on one knee on the bench, in front of your hip. Your opposite leg should also be bent slightly and firmly planted on the floor under the other hip.
  • Grasp the head of the bench firmly to get yourself into a more stable position.
  • Let the dumbbell sit low in one of your hands and wrap your thumb around its handle.
  • Begin the row movement from the floor by focusing on letting your elbow travel behind you as you pull the dumbbell handle to the side of your hip. Your elbow should be at an angle of 90 degrees at full flexion.
  • Guide the dumbbell down until your elbow is fully extended to complete the rep.

CLEAN PULL

Like the Pendlay row, this movement is effective in increasing power output.

Steps:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Set your hips a bit lower than you would when doing a deadlift.
  • Using a hook grip, grab the bar as you build tension in your back and load the hamstrings and glutes.
  • Move the bar with control until you reach under your knees.
  • Increase the speed past this point while driving your traps up and your hips in the direction of the bar.
  • Do as many reps as you want.

PENDLAY ROW MISTAKES TO AVOID

STANDING UPRIGHT

It is common for most lifters to stand upright after the first few reps of this exercise.

This happens mostly when the weight is so heavy that it forces them to use momentum.

If you are one of these people, you’ll not be very pleased to know that this negates all the work you are doing during this rep, as this exercise heavily depends upon you keeping your back flat for its effectiveness.

Instead of using a load that is too heavy, use an appropriate weight that you can control so that your back remains flat.

This not only maximizes your gains but also minimizes the risk of injury.

ROUNDING YOUR BACK

When you round your back, you put unwarranted pressure on your spine and put it at risk of injury.

It could also ruin your posture because of loading your spine in a position where your back is flexed forward.

USING YOUR ARMS

This could happen when you use too much weight such that you begin to use your arms to gain momentum, which then shifts the focus from your back muscles to your biceps.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Pendlay row is a perfect substitute for the barbell row when you are looking to improve your power output while effectively targeting the back muscles.

If you ever get tired of the conventional barbell row, consider trying it as an alternative.