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How to Do Pendlay Row Exercise: Benefits & Muscles Worked

Welcome to the world of strength training, where the Pendlay row exercise stands tall as a popular compound movement. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the proper form, muscles targeted, benefits, and various Pendlay row variations. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a fitness enthusiast looking to build a stronger upper body, mastering the Pendlay row will be a game-changer in your training routine.

Pendlay Row Technique

The Pendlay row technique demands precision, beginning with the setup and starting position. To perform this exercise correctly, position yourself with feet shoulder-width apart, back flat, and knees slightly bent. Now, take hold of the barbell with an overhand grip, hands just beyond shoulder width.

Initiate the rowing motion by pulling the barbell towards your chest while keeping it close to your body. Focus on engaging the upper back muscles, lats, and rhomboids throughout the movement. As you initiate the rowing motion, exhale while pulling the barbell towards your chest, and as you move back to the starting position, take a deep breath in. Avoid common mistakes like using excessive momentum or rounding your back, as these can lead to injury and diminish the effectiveness of the exercise.

Read more: Landmine Row

Muscles Worked During Pendlay Rows

The Pendlay row is a powerhouse exercise that primarily targets the upper back, including the latissimus dorsi (lats) and rhomboids. These muscles play a crucial role in maintaining posture and stability, making the Pendlay row an ideal addition to your back-focused workouts.

In addition to the upper back, Pendlay rows also engage secondary muscles like the rear deltoids, traps, and core muscles. The rear deltoids are involved in shoulder extension, while the traps assist in scapular movement. Engaging the core muscles throughout the movement helps stabilize the spine and maintain proper form.

Pendlay Rows Benefits

Incorporating Pendlay rows into your strength training routine offers a myriad of benefits. As you consistently perform this exercise, you can expect improved back strength and enhanced muscle development in the upper body. The comprehensive activation of various muscles leads to muscle hypertrophy and improved definition, contributing to a more sculpted physique.

Another advantage of Pendlay rows is the significant increase in grip strength and forearm activation. Stronger forearms are beneficial for various exercises and daily activities, making this exercise a practical addition to any fitness program. Furthermore, the compound nature of the Pendlay row contributes to overall upper body muscularity, enhancing your performance in other exercises as well.

Dumbbell Pendlay Row

For those seeking variation and versatility, the dumbbell Pendlay row provides an excellent alternative to the traditional barbell version. To perform the dumbbell Pendlay row, follow a similar setup as the barbell version, but this time hold a dumbbell in each hand.

The advantages of using dumbbells lie in their ability to challenge stability and balance. Each arm must work independently, ensuring balanced muscle development and minimizing muscle imbalances. Additionally, the ability to perform unilateral movements with dumbbells can help identify and address any strength discrepancies between sides.

Furthermore, dumbbells allow for a greater range of motion, enabling a deeper stretch and contraction during the exercise. This enhanced range of motion can lead to increased muscle activation, leading to better muscle development and overall strength gains.

Variations with dumbbells are also possible, such as performing the Pendlay row on an incline bench or adding a twist at the top of the movement to engage the obliques and further challenge the core. Experimenting with different dumbbell variations can add excitement to your workouts and help break through plateaus.

Pendlay Row in CrossFit

CrossFit athletes and functional fitness enthusiasts often embrace the Pendlay row for its effectiveness in building strength and power. Incorporating Pendlay rows into CrossFit workouts can lead to enhanced performance in other functional movements and Olympic lifts. The compound nature of the exercise makes it an ideal choice for building overall strength and endurance, which is essential for excelling in CrossFit competitions.

In CrossFit, Pendlay rows are often combined with other movements in high-intensity workouts, challenging athletes to push their limits and achieve greater fitness gains. The exercise can be modified to fit various skill levels, making it accessible to beginners and advanced CrossFit athletes alike.

Pendlay Row Machine

For gym-goers seeking a machine-based alternative to traditional Pendlay rows, the Pendlay row machine offers a viable option. This machine typically mimics the motion of the barbell Pendlay row but provides a stable platform and adjustable resistance.

The Pendlay row machine is an excellent choice for individuals with limited mobility or those recovering from injuries. It allows users to target the same muscle groups as the barbell Pendlay row while providing a controlled and guided range of motion.

Pendlay Row Alternatives

While the Pendlay row is an exceptional exercise for building upper body strength and muscle, it’s essential to incorporate variety into your training routine. Alternative rowing variations such as T-bar rows, seated cable rows, and chest-supported rows can complement the benefits of Pendlay rows.

T-bar rows are performed using a T-bar handle and a weight plate, allowing for a slightly different movement pattern that emphasizes the mid-back muscles. Seated cable rows, on the other hand, provide constant tension throughout the movement, promoting muscle engagement and hypertrophy.

Tailoring rowing exercises to your specific training goals and equipment availability can keep your workouts fresh and engaging, preventing plateau and optimizing results.

Incorporating into Your Workout Routine

Before diving into the intensity of Pendlay rows, it’s essential to warm up properly and perform mobility drills to prepare your body for the workout. Warm-up exercises like shoulder circles, arm swings, and cat-cow stretches can help increase blood flow and improve joint mobility.

Beginners should start with a lower weight to master the technique and gradually increase the resistance as they become more comfortable with the exercise. Aim for 3-4 sets of 8-10 repetitions for strength goals and 4-5 sets of 12-15 repetitions for hypertrophy goals.

Training Pendlay rows 2-3 times per week with adequate rest between sessions will allow your muscles to recover and grow stronger, promoting optimal results.

Tips for Safe and Effective

To ensure the safety and effectiveness of your Pendlay row workouts, focus on maintaining a neutral spine throughout the exercise. Avoid arching or rounding your back, as this can strain the spinal column and increase the risk of injury.

Proper breathing is crucial during Pendlay rows. Exhale as you lift the barbell, and inhale as you return to the starting position. This breathing pattern helps stabilize the core and ensures efficient oxygen exchange during the exercise.

For individuals with back or shoulder issues, it’s essential to consult with a qualified fitness professional or healthcare provider before performing Pendlay rows. They can provide modifications or alternatives that suit your specific needs and ensure a safe workout experience.

Advanced Variations

Once you’ve mastered the conventional Pendlay row, you can level up your training by incorporating advanced variations. Single-arm Pendlay rows challenge stability and require increased core engagement, contributing to enhanced unilateral strength and balance.

Explosive Pendlay rows involve explosive upward movements, promoting power development and fast-twitch muscle activation. These can be beneficial for athletes in sports that require rapid bursts of strength and agility.

Additionally, Pendlay rows with bands or chains provide accommodating resistance, making the exercise more challenging at the top portion of the movement. This helps develop strength through a full range of motion and can lead to greater muscle activation and growth.

Commonly Asked Questions About Pendlay Row Exercise

What makes the Pendlay row different from other rowing exercises?

The Pendlay row is distinguished by its strict form and starting position. Unlike other rowing exercises, the Pendlay row requires the barbell to be returned to the floor after each repetition, ensuring a complete reset and eliminating the use of momentum. This strict form targets specific muscle groups and promotes better engagement and muscle development.

Can beginners perform Pendlay rows?

Yes, beginners can perform Pendlay rows, but it is essential to start with lighter weights to focus on mastering the technique. As with any exercise, proper form is crucial for beginners to avoid injury and achieve optimal results. Gradually increase the weight as you become more comfortable and confident in executing the exercise correctly.

How often should I include Pendlay rows in my workout routine?

The frequency of Pendlay row training depends on your overall workout program and individual goals. For most individuals, training Pendlay rows 2-3 times a week with a day of rest between sessions is sufficient for muscle growth and strength development. However, it’s essential to listen to your body and adjust the frequency based on your recovery and progress.

Can I do Pendlay rows if I have back or shoulder issues?

If you have pre-existing back or shoulder issues, it’s crucial to consult with a qualified fitness professional or healthcare provider before attempting Pendlay rows. They can provide specific modifications or alternative exercises that suit your condition and help prevent further injury.

Should I perform Pendlay rows with an overhand or underhand grip?

The standard grip for Pendlay rows is an overhand grip, with palms facing down. This grip allows for a more secure hold on the barbell and engages the target muscles effectively. While underhand (supinated) grip variations are possible, they may involve a different range of motion and emphasize other muscle groups.

Can Pendlay rows help improve my deadlift performance?

Yes, Pendlay rows can be beneficial for improving deadlift performance. The exercise targets the muscles involved in deadlifts, such as the upper back, lats, and core, helping to strengthen these areas and potentially enhance deadlift strength and performance.

How long should I rest between sets of Pendlay rows?

Rest periods between sets of Pendlay rows depend on your training intensity and individual recovery time. As a general guideline, rest for 1-2 minutes between sets for strength-focused workouts and 30-60 seconds for hypertrophy-focused workouts. Adjust the rest periods based on your fitness level and energy levels during your workout.

Can Pendlay rows be performed with different equipment, such as kettlebells?

While the traditional Pendlay row is performed with a barbell, the exercise can be adapted to different equipment, including kettlebells. Kettlebell Pendlay rows can provide a unique challenge due to the shape and distribution of weight, which can engage stabilizer muscles and promote balance and coordination.

Are Pendlay rows suitable for both men and women?

Absolutely! Pendlay rows are a gender-neutral exercise that offers numerous benefits for both men and women. The exercise can be tailored to individual fitness levels and goals, making it a versatile choice for anyone seeking to strengthen their upper body and improve overall muscularity.

How long does it take to see results from Pendlay rows?

Results from Pendlay rows will vary depending on factors such as consistency, training intensity, diet, and individual fitness levels. With consistent and proper training, you can expect to see noticeable improvements in back strength, muscle definition, and grip strength within a few weeks to a couple of months.

Remember, achieving significant results requires dedication and commitment to your workout routine and overall fitness journey. Stay patient, stay focused, and the rewards will follow!


In conclusion, the Pendlay row is a powerful and versatile exercise that targets multiple muscle groups in the upper body, providing a comprehensive workout for strength and hypertrophy goals. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned fitness enthusiast, incorporating Pendlay rows into your routine can lead to improved back strength, enhanced muscle development, and increased grip strength.

Prioritize maintaining proper form and technique throughout the exercise to optimize the advantages while reducing the potential for injury. Tailor your Pendlay row workouts to suit your individual goals and fitness level, and don’t forget to embrace the various Pendlay row variations for added excitement and results.

So, are you ready to take your strength training to the next level with the mighty Pendlay Row? Challenge yourself, stay committed, and witness the incredible transformation of your upper body strength and muscularity. Happy lifting!

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