Bent Over Rows and Back Pain: Fixing common mistakes

The key to rehabbing a bad back is knowing what is causing the pain and making sure that what you’re doing in the gym isn’t making things worse. Today, we are going to break down the bent over row and target common mistakes back pain sufferers typically make. The point of this article is to put your mind at ease when it comes to doing this exercise right. If you are constantly getting weird tweaks in your lower back or something just doesn’t feel right when doing the barbell bent over row. I am going to go over the most common mistakes people make as well as how to fix them and a couple alternative exercises. 

When it comes to getting into actual weight lifting when you’re dealing with back pain, I need you to understand one thing. Just because it’s an exercise doesn’t mean its good for you to be doing. Not all movement is good for a lower back injury. First, focus on your root cause and gradually introduce the weights back in. If the barbell bent over row is a staple in your program, listen up!

 

Grip variations when doing the bent over row.

 

The first thing I want to cover (that I didn’t mention in the video) is your grip on the bar. In the video, I show an overhand grip which is just one way of doing it. The bent over row is about feeling rather than maximum weight.  You want to be able to activate the shoulder blades and draw them together.  Which grip you use doesn’t really matter for the sake of this article. Odds are if you’re reading this you’re trying to combat a lower back injury, so you need to focus more on doing it right and pain free over anything else.

Overhand Grip

The Underhand Grip

 

The underhand grip tends to be a little easier on the shoulders, so if you have a lower back issue and shoulder pain, this is a safer and more comfortable way of pulling. Again, one way is not the only way. Try both and see which one allows YOU to have more control of the weight.

 

How to do the bent over rows while dealing with back pain

 

Today I want to direct you to a video I put together showing you the breakdown of what most people do wrong with this exercises. Watch till the end because I go over two alternative exercises to the barbell bent over row that you can integrate into your workout.

 

Some key points I want you to take from the video.

 

1 – Before you hinge at the waist and get into the “bent over” position, lock in your core first. Don’t make the mistake of hinging then bracing as you begin to do the first rep. Prepare your body for the work before it’s done, don’t just react to what’s happening.

2 – Be intentional about the exercise. Take 100% of the momentum out of the exercises and focus on the contraction of the muscles being worked, the brace on your core and your breathing cycle. It seems like a lot but as you practice you will get better and better.

3 – Don’t hesitate to switch to one of the alternative exercises I give at the end of this video. Nothing says you have to do the traditional bent over row to get a good back workout in. Don’t trade ego for pain. It’s not a good long game tactic.

 

 

The key to being able to continue to progress with your lower back injury and workout is to pick your exercises wisely. The last thing you want to do is make things worse or keep things inflamed to the point where the rehab portion of your training wont ever work. Don’t let your favorite exercise keep you from beating your back injury. Play it smart and think long term!

 

Another great video on the topic of bent over rows is by a respected pro athlete trainer and Physical Therapist Jeff Cavaliere. In this video below he shares the common misconception with arm height and muscle activation. He takes two, side by side videos of him doing the same exercise and asks which one is right and which one is wrong. I bet you can’t point out the one thats wrong before he tells you!

This video gives some great background on the best way to use the scapula movers to successfully do this exercise as well as saving your shoulders while doing it.

 

What is your history with this exercise? Do you find yourself making these mistakes and dealing with lower back pain? Let me know your experience in the comments below!

 

Share this article is you know some people who have terrible form in the gym! You could save their back!

 

Thanks!

 

William


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