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pendlay rows forms and tips

Pendlay Row – What is it?

In the early 2000s1, American Olympic weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay was working with one of his clients on back strengthening exercises. While assisting the weightlifter through a simple barbell row, he spontaneously instructed him to keep his back parallel to the ground and then arch it aggressively when lifting. Other weightlifters picked up on the variation, and by the spring of 2006 it had been officially dubbed the ‘Pendlay row’.4

Pendlay himself insists that he didn’t invent the move, and that it’s simply a barbell row done correctly.1 In a 2017 interview he explained, “If anyone asked, I just called them barbell rows. In fact, years later when people started calling them Pendlay Rows, I resisted it, and said again and again, it was just a strict barbell row. But calling them Pendlay rows just never died out.”1

The Pendlay row is a back-strengthening exercise for weightlifters, powerlifters, and other types of athletes. The variation of the barbell row that Pendlay invented is a better move for strengthening back muscles specifically for pulling moves like snatches, deadlifts, and cleans.2 This move is sometimes called the ‘Dead-Stop Row’ because it’s performed from a dead stop. It’s an extremely effective exercise for building muscle mass and increasing your strength in general.3

Pendlay Row

The Pendlay row is a series of simple moves, as follows.5,2

Starting Position:
• Begin with the barbell on the ground.
• Use a double-overhand grip on the bar.
• Keep your torso parallel to the ground.
• Arch your lower back and bend your needs a little.
• Protract your shoulders.

The Pull:
• Grab the barbell with a grip of a shoulder width.
• Pull it to your chest explosively. It should be in the area between your chest and belly button.
• Don’t allow your shoulders or hips to move forward.
• Put the barbell back on the floor in a controlled manner.
• Continue with repetitions.

The form and technique of this move is quite difficult to master and takes careful and controlled practice over months sometimes to get it right. It’s highly recommended that you learn the technique from a trainer who really knows how to do the move well. Continually doing this move wrong can lead to an injury, which you obviously want to avoid.

Pendlay Row Form

You should never perform a Pendlay row without warming up your muscles, or you can really hurt yourself. It’s best to begin with a total body warm-up and stretch first. Then start to focus on the muscle groups you’ll be using for the rows, like your back and shoulder muscles. After that you can start doing the Pendlay rows but starting with lighter weights and working your way up.

pendlay rows tips and form

Here are some additional tips for success at doing Pendlay rows:

• When you pull the bar towards you, pay specific attention to the speed of the bar. Don’t be afraid to yank it as explosively as possible.2
• There are two possible head position variations that you can use while doing the Pendlay row. One is simply looking straight forward, and the second would be compressing your neck. Practice using both and see which suits your preference.2
• Back pain develops when you round your back while doing the Pendlay row. This compresses your spinal disks, which is very painful. To prevent this issue, focus on keeping your back as flat and neutral as you can.7
• When you pull the weight forward, keep your head in place. Make sure it doesn’t move forward with you.8
• When you do this move, your back should be doing the bulk of the job. If you notice that your hips are taking a lot of the weight, that means the barbell is too heavy for you right now. To get the most out of this exercise, lower the weight and then start again.7

Athletes Who Can Benefit from Pendlay Rows

Pendlay rows benefit three types of athletes specifically: weightlifters, powerlifters, and cross fitters. The move benefits each of these groups in specific ways.

• For weightlifters, the primary goal is to increase lats and lower back strength. The Pendlay row increases the muscles that are required to do weightlifters’ pulls.2
• Powerlifters do a lot of deadlifting, and that requires additional focused training on the back and hips. The Pendlay row provides this needed training. When in the bent position, it can also help to stabilize the spine and lumbar.2
• For cross fitters, the Pendlay row can help prevent future injury because of its focused practice of the hips, lats, and lower back. Naturally, it will also enhance their barbell lifts.2

To get the most out of a workout, athletes often prefer to combine their workout routine with a selection of supplements. These supplements can include pre workouts to be taken before the gym, post workouts for muscle recovery, and testo products like Delta Prime, to naturally support testosterone production.

Pendley Row vs Bent Over Row

The Pendlay row and the bent-over row do have some very basic differences. The Pendlay has your torso parallel to the ground. When you carry out the big pull, you’re aiming towards your sternum. With the Pendlay row, the rep always begins from the ground. You go back to starting position after every time.6

With the bent-over row, your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the ground. When you pull the barbell, you aim for your lower-middle abdomen. With this row, you don’t hold the barbell as wide as if you were doing a Pendlay row. You can hold on to the bar right outside your knees.6 After you pull the barbell to your abdomen, pause, take a breath, and then lower the barbell carefully. When your arms are straight, you can begin another rep. Don’t put the barbell down. With the bent-over row, you continue to hold the barbell through each rep.9

Both the Pendlay row and the bent-over barbell row target the latissimus dorsi, which are the big muscles in your back that are located parallel to the spine on either side. Both moves are used to increase the strength and power of the muscles in your back.6

The Pendlay is more effective than the bent-over row and offers some concrete benefits. The move uses the correct form while the bent-over row is often done using the wrong form. When you do the Pendlay row you strengthen your learning of the correct form. It also puts much less pressure on your lower back, since you place the barbell back on the ground after each rep instead of holding onto it. Naturally, this decreases your chance of injury. The Pendlay also develops both your core and functional strength.9

Sources Cited

  • 1Boly, J. (August 2017). Glenn Pendlay Explains the History Behind the Pendlay Row. Barbend. Retrieved online at View Reference
  • 2Dewar, Mike (December 19, 2018). The Pendlay Row – How it Benefits Your Training. Barbend. Retrieved online at View Reference
  • 3Dewar, Mike (December 25, 2018). Pendlay Row vs Barbell Row – Which is Best for Strength? Barbend. Retrieved online at View Reference
  • 4Google Trends, Pendlay Row. Google. Retrieved online at View Reference
  • 5Herman, Scott (Jan 2019). 1 Exercise for Wider Lats & a Bigger Back! Pendlay Row 2.0. Muscular Strength. Retrieved online at View Reference
  • 6Johnson, Jolie (No Date). The Difference Between Pendlay Rows and Barbell Rows. Retrieved online at View Reference
  • 7Mehdi (November 2018). How to Barbell Row with Proper Form: The Definitive Guide. Stronglifts. Retrieved online at
  • 8Pendlay Row Video Guide (2019). Muscle and Strength. Retrieved online at View Reference
  • 9SJ (June 2016). Pendlay Rows – The Mass Building Back Exercise You’re Missing Out On. Ignore Limits. Retrieved online at View Reference