Pendlay Row Vs Bent Over Row – Which Is Better For You?

Depending on what you want to accomplish with your strength training, it’s important to choose the right rowing variation when you go to lift weights at the gym.

Though there are many similarities between pendlay rows and bent over rows, they do each have their own advantages and disadvantages that can make them better or worse choices depending on what you’re trying to get out of your exercise program.

This blog post will examine the differences between pendlay rows and bent over rows, so you can decide which one is best for your needs.

Are Pendlay Rows The Same As Bent Over Rows?

One of the most frequently asked questions in regards to weight training is whether or not pendlay rows are comparable to bent over rows.

While both of these exercises can be used as a method of increasing muscle mass, they differ drastically in their mechanics and execution.

Understanding exactly how they differ is important when deciding on which exercise will be more beneficial for you to perform.

So, here’s what you need to know:

For starters, it’s helpful to understand that with either exercise, you’ll have better results if your form is perfect.

So long as proper form is maintained during each set and rep of either movement, there shouldn’t be any reason why one type of row should lead to different results than another.

Simply put: even though pendlay rows and bent over rows are very similar in appearance and almost indistinguishable from one another when first viewed through videos online or while observing them being performed by someone else who isn’t an expert weight lifter (in other words: almost everyone).

The main difference between the two being a pendlay row starts from the floor, so there is a great focus on keeping your back straight and your core engaged.

Each rep goes back to the floor again but you don’t release the bar until you are finished with your set.

Where as a bent over row you start with the bar hanging in your hands at about knee height.

You won’t need to bend over as far for this variation and you won’t need to go all the way to the floor again between reps.

Are Pendlay Rows Harder Than Bent Over Rows?

In a sentence, no.

Because bent over rows and pendlay rows are both compound movements that train similar muscle groups (upper back, posterior chain), they will have similar training effect on your body.

In other words, performing one exercise will get you very close to results as performing another.

However, while they may be equally effective when done correctly, their individual form makes them look quite different.

That’s where pendlay rows vs bent over rows differ.

You wont be able to go as heavy with a pendlay row and it is not as easy to cheat your form as you are at a sharper angle you really need to be switched on more for a pendlay row.

Are Seated Rows And Bent Over Rows The Same?

pendlay row vs bent over row - woman-performing-a-seated-row

Although seated rows and bent over rows seem very similar, there are actually some differences between them.

Seated rows primarily target your biceps and other back muscles while also using your hamstrings, quadriceps, and abs to help you maintain stability.

On the other hand, bent over rows primarily target your back muscles (specifically, your latissimus dorsi), but they can also help increase strength in your arms.

In addition to using a barbell as part of their exercise routine, many bodybuilders perform both seated rows and bent over rows in order to optimize overall muscle growth.

So yes—although there are some differences between these two exercises—seated rows are often considered a variation of bent over row.

Related Post: Best Cable Machine For Home Gym

5 Pendlay Row vs Bent Over Row: Differences

Both of these exercises are a form of row, which is an exercise that focuses on muscles in your back.

Which is better for you depends on what you want out of your training.

Most experts suggest that it’s good to perform both bent over rows and pendlay rows during your workouts.

Let’s take a look at how they’re different, so you can decide which one fits best into your training program.

  1. Trunk Angle
    The big difference between pendlay rows and bent over rows is that when you perform a pendlay row, your body angles toward perpendicular to your torso, making it easier to target your upper back muscles. When you’re doing a bent over row, however, you keep your body in line with it, making it a better exercise for your lower back and posterior deltoids. If you’re looking for greater isolation of those upper back muscles in particular, pendlay rows are probably better for you than bent over rows; if you want to work both areas of your back at once, though, bent over rows are preferable.
  2. Arm Position It’s also worth noting that during pendlay rows, your arms form 90-degree angles to your body as opposed to being parallel to it. Because they require less stabilization from other muscle groups such as your core and legs, they tend to be harder than bent over rows—just because there’s less else going on means more energy has to go into stabilizing your movement. So depending on how strong you are in other aspects of weightlifting—specifically in terms of core strength and leg strength—pendlay rows might just be too challenging for you unless you modify them slightly.
  3. Grip Grip width is another detail where pendlay rows are different from bent over rows. In most exercises, you want your grip to be somewhere around shoulder width; that’s not true with either kind of row, though. For a balanced workout across your whole back, make sure that your grip isn’t any wider or narrower than shoulder width when doing either kind of row: Wider can put excessive strain on your shoulders while narrower allows more emphasis on one side or another.
  4. Body Position Another thing to keep in mind when comparing these two kinds of rowing exercises: They’re performed differently even before moving into stance position. During a pendlay row, you stand upright with your feet together and take an athletic stance, so your knees bend ever so slightly instead of locking out. During a bent over row, on the other hand, you lean forward until your torso is almost parallel to the floor and plant your feet far apart—so far apart that some people have trouble keeping their balance during one—before taking hold of whatever barbell or dumbbell handle(s) best suit(s) their training goals.
  5. Exercise Selection Your own personal preference is probably going to dictate which variation you should use more often based on what you’re training for.
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Which Is Better For You?

That’s going to come to do to your individual training goals.

Next ups let’s break down each movement more so you can make the best decision for you.

But don’t rule out using both in your training program.

What Is A Bent Over Row?

pendlay row vs bent over row - a-group-of-people-performing-bent-over-rows

A bent over row is a weight training exercise that targets your back, biceps and traps.

This popular movement can be done using dumbbells or barbells, both of which have their advantages.

You can also try a machine-based bent over row, but it’s important to be sure you are doing it properly to avoid injury.

Overall, bodybuilders swear by barbell rows as an effective way to add mass to your back and arms.

How To Do Bent Over Rows

Stand with a barbell in front of you on the floor.

Lift it up using your legs, keeping your back straight and slightly bent.

Bend forward until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor; keep back straight and knees locked, arms extended.

Bring the bar up toward the chest until elbows are nearly fully extended, palms facing the floor.

lowly lower weight to starting position and repeat set as desired.

To make exercise more challenging, add more weight or perform sets for timed periods.

Muscles Used In Bent Over Rows

pendlay row vs bent over row - women-performing-dumbbell-bent-over-row

When performed correctly, bent over rows target most of your upper back and rear shoulder muscles.

Because you’re pulling with your arms in a curved motion across your body, you also work many of your core muscles as well.

So when you do bent-over rows with good form, they can be an effective full-body exercise.

If you have lower back problems, however, bent over rows are not a good option for you; they require quite a bit of spinal flexibility to perform properly.

Common Mistakes With Bent Over Rows

Bending at the hips instead of keeping your back straight.

This allows you to use more weight, but it also puts unnecessary stress on your lower back, making it harder to achieve a full range of motion and keep proper form.

What To Do Instead: Make sure you’re bending at your knees, not at your waist. This helps keep pressure off your lower back and makes it easier to keep things moving smoothly.

Another common mistake is using bad technique when doing repetitions; over time, doing bent-over rows incorrectly can result in an injured neck or sore shoulders and back.

What To Do Instead: Keep your head up, eyes forward, and watch your elbows as they move throughout each repetition—they should always move in sync with your hands/wrists as you row.

If there’s any deviation from that path of motion or if you notice any pain in your body during or after exercise (or if something just feels off), stop immediately.

For example, starting slow and working your way up in weight will be safer than trying to lift heavy weights for high reps right away.

Also, make sure you’re taking breaks between sets—at least two minutes between heavier sets will help reduce injury risk.

Related Post: 6 Best Anterior Chain Exercises

Benefits Of Bent Over Rows

A good starting point for any exercise is to know exactly what you are working on and why.

With that in mind, we can talk about some of the benefits of bent-over rows.

One of its main benefits is that it directly targets your back muscles.

The bent-over row focuses on a major muscle group in your upper back called your latissimus dorsi or lats for short.

In fact, an extensive study conducted by researchers at Edith Cowan University and published in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research concluded that when performing a single arm bent over row with a dumbbell, individuals could produce strength gains compared to other forms of lat exercises such as barbell and machine pullovers, but also had less range-of-motion limitations compared to many traditional variations.

What Is A Pendlay Row?

pendlay row vs bent over row - man-performing-a-pendlay-row

A Pendlay row is an exercise named after legendary powerlifter Glenn Pendlay, who popularized it.

This movement has been a staple in powerlifting programs for decades and also makes its way into various CrossFit WODs as well.

It’s part of what allows elite strength and conditioning coaches to develop lifters who can boast tremendous deadlift numbers while also boasting excellent backs.

On paper, you might think that a bent-over row is essentially the same thing – but it’s not.

These are two different movements that have their own unique characteristics which make them both worth doing at some point in your training career.

The main difference between a pendlay and a standard bent-over row is, the barbell starts from the floor each time with a pendlay row.

This is going to force you to have your back more parallel to the floor. It also stops you from using too much momentum in reps.

How To Do Pendlay Rows

To perform a pendlay row, you’ll need to grab a barbell with an overhand grip that’s just beyond shoulder width.

Keeping your chest lifted and back straight, hinge forward at your hips until your torso is roughly parallel to the floor; then, lift the barbell up by contracting your lats and bringing your elbows towards each other.

You need to maintain control throughout the movement as well as well as keeping your core braced and your back straight.

That’s one rep. This type of variation will increase muscle activation in both movements and provide even better results than either exercise alone would.

Related Post: 15 Kettlebell Back Exercises – Improve Strength And Posture From Home

Muscles Used In Pendlay Rows

The Pendlay row is an exercise that focuses on your lats, lower back, glutes, and biceps.

The rows will target these muscles due to their high volume repetition aspect.

Because of the fact that you are repeating a lot of movements in a very short period of time, you really start to feel it in your muscles towards the end of each set.

Your biceps get hit hard with Pendlay rows due to having to hold onto such a heavy weight while lifting it up over and over again.

Due to your core also being engaged throughout each set, you can easily build up some solid abs by doing sets of 15-20 reps consistently.

Common Mistakes With Pendlay Rows

If you’re using a weight that’s too heavy, chances are you’ll struggle to execute perfect form on a regular basis.

If your sets and reps aren’t improving—or if they get worse—chances are it’s time to drop some weight.

Another common issue is that people use a non-negotiable grip:

Your index finger should point toward your feet when you have an underhand grip; toward your face with an overhand grip.

Using a thumbless grip can also throw off the alignment and make things harder than they have to be.

A few more minor issues include not keeping your core engaged and not squeezing at peak contraction.

This helps stabilize and move you into the proper position for each rep.

Benefits Of Pendlay Rows

If you’re looking to work on your back muscles, then it’s a good idea to incorporate rows into your routine.

Both bent-over and pendlay rows primarily focus on building your latissimus dorsi (lats) and rhomboids, which are muscles that can help strengthen your back.

Generally speaking, bent-over rows are easier than pendlay rows because they have a shorter range of motion.

Final Mop Up

These two row variations are great exercises for building a bigger back, whether you want to do them with a barbell or dumbbells.