How to do Pendlay Rows Correctly & Safely (Pictures, Video, & FAQs)

In this tutorial, you will learn how to do the Pendlay Row correctly and safely.

This amazing exercise will strengthen all of the major muscle groups in your upper back, as well as the spinal erectors.

Many argue that the Pendlay row is the strictest version of the traditional barbell row.

But the good news is, you don’t have to be 100% strict when doing this movement to still get tremendous benefits.

Let me show you how.

how to do the barbell row cover image



  • The Pendlay Row will help you build a stronger back, which translates over to improvements in squat and deadlift strength
  • It also improves explosive strength and power, as you need to lift the bar off the floor with every repetition
  • As a rowing variation, it also helps re-establish proper shoulder positioning that can result from poor posture and muscular imbalances


The Pendlay row is a great compound exercise that targets the following muscle groups:

  • Rhomboids
  • Posterior Deltoids
  • Mid-Low Trapezius
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Erector Spinae (Lower back muscles)
  • Forearms/Grip
  • Core Stabilizers
  • Hamstrings


  • Load an Olympic barbell on the floor with your desired weights
  • The bar should be positioned at the mid-shin level. (If you are not using Olympic-sized plates, you can place pads underneath your weight plates to get the barbell to the appropriate height.)
  • Approach the bar and set your stance at approximately shoulder-width with your feet facing forward. Your shins should almost be touching the bar
  • Bend down and grab the bar at a distance that is slightly wider than your shoulder width
alex at the bottom of the barbell row: bent over, back flat, knees slightly bent, and grabbing the barbell which is on the floor - front view
  • Straighten your back, brace your core and ensure that your spine remains neutral throughout the entire exercise
  • When looking from the side, your back should almost be parallel to the floor- this is the proper starting position
alex at the bottom of the barbell row: bent over, back flat, knees slightly bent, and grabbing the barbell which is on the floor - side view
  • Squeeze your lat muscles, take a breath and begin lifting the bar off the floor as if you are performing a deadlift
  • Once the bar has cleared the ground, begin rowing the barbell up towards your upper abdomen by driving your elbows up towards the ceiling and actively retracting your shoulder blades together
alex at the top of the barbell row: bent over, back flat, and the barbell lifted up touching his upper abdomen
  • Once the bar has made contact with your body, reverse the movement back down to the floor
  • Your spine should never change its alignment and your back angle should never go past 45 degrees
  • To make the exercise more challenging, try and keep your back completely flat



It is okay to use a little momentum to initiate the row, but it’s easy to get carried away. If your back angle is changing more than 45 degrees from the start of the lift, then the weight is too heavy.


If your back angle is changing more than 45 degrees from the start of the lift, then the weight is too heavy. Use lighter weight and focus on good form!


If the barbell is hitting your knees on the way up, then you need to work on your starting position. Simply stand slightly farther away from the barbell when setting up, and try to keep your shins as parallel as possible.

Unlike a deadlift, you do not have to keep the barbell as close to your body to have proper joint mechanics.

By The Way, Row Is Just One Of Several Compound Exercises You Should Be Doing

To see a list of all the best exercises, be sure to check out our E-book that goes over all of the best compound exercises for each body



What are Pendlay rows good for?

Pendlay rows are good for building back strength, increasing explosive power, and improving any muscular imbalances you may have in your upper body.

Pendlay rows are also great for building strength that translates into other power movements such as the deadlift, the clean and jerk, and the snatch.

What is the difference between the Pendlay row and the barbell row?

In the Pendlay row, the barbell always starts on the floor, and the repetitions are done more strictly, with a flat back. Also, Pendlay rows are meant to be done as an explosive movement, which improves power production.

Barbell rows, on the other hand, are often done from the hang position, with varying degrees of back angles and varying ranges of motion.

Are Pendlay rows harder than barbell rows?

The Pendlay row is much harder than the standard barbell row since each repetition begins on the floor from a dead stop.

As such, it is much harder to cheat on a Pendlay row than it is on a barbell row.

Are Pendlay rows and bent-over rows the same?

Pendlay rows are simply a stricter version of the bent-over row. Every repetition starts on the ground and your back remains flat throughout the movement.

The Pendlay row is not necessarily a better exercise. The bent-over row is better for hypertrophy and muscle development, however, the Pendlay row is better for strength and power development.

What is the difference between bent over rows and Yates rows?

The main difference between bent-over rows and Yates row is the back angle. In the Yates row, you lean forward to about a 45 degree angle, which takes some stress off the lower back and also allows you to use heavier weight.

Is the Pendlay row a compound movement?

Yes, the Pendlay row is a compound exercise, as it trains several muscles in the upper body as well as the lower body.

Do Pendlay rows help the deadlift?

Yes, the Pendlay row is a great exercise to improve your deadlifts as it improves your lower back, upper back, and grip strength. In addition, it also improves your static strength as every repetition starts from the floor.

Should you go heavy on Pendlay row?

Since the Pendlay row is meant to improve strength and explosive power, you can use heavier weights than you would on a barbell row. Use a weight heavy enough that you can only do 5-8 repetitions per set, but light enough that you can maintain strict form.

I go over when to use heavy weight in more detail in my post on how much weight should you lift, and different rep ranges in my sets and reps guide.

Can I do Pendlay rows with dumbbells?

Yes, you can perform Pendlay rows with dumbbells, however, you will need some mats to rest the dumbbells at a comfortable height in between repetitions.

Should my lower back be sore from Pendlay rows?

Your lower back muscles should naturally get trained from this exercise, however, the primary focus should be on the upper and mid-back.  If your low back is the sorest muscle group, then the weight might be too heavy.

Lower the weight and focus on pulling the weight with your upper body.

What grip should I use?

A wider grip will activate your lat muscles and rear delts more than a narrow grip. The narrower your grip, the more your biceps will get involved. A good starting place is shoulder width. 

What about an underhand or overhand grip?

Similar to a narrow grip, an underhand grip will train your biceps more than an overhand grip.  There is no right or wrong answer. Use the grip that feels the most natural, and alternate between the two from time to time to change up your rowing variations.

Who invented the Pendlay row?

The Pendlay row was invented by the American olympic weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay. Interestingly enough, Glenn argues that the Pendlay row is simply a bent-over row done with correct form!


  • Keep your back flat and your hips high
  • Maintain tension in your hamstrings
  • Drive your elbows up towards the ceiling


Want to know how to use this exercise in your workout routine? Check out The Best Workout Template For Busy Individuals to learn how to integrate it into your training!



Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM Certified Personal Trainers, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a resource dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals using time-efficient strategies. Their advice has been featured in My Fitness Pal, Prevention, Livestrong, Reader’s Digest, Bustle, The Active Times, and more. Learn more about them here.

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