Pendlay Row: Benefits And How To Do Them

Resistance training is the only way to build more muscle mass and strength. But finding the most effective exercises can be challenging. The Pendlay row is very similar to the bent over barbell row, which has been shown to be one of the most effective upper back strength training exercises. Electromyography (EMG) and Nerve Conduction Studies have shown that the Pendlay row produces significant muscle activation and muscle contraction. We’re going to talk more about the benefits of the Pendlay row, how to do it, and why it belongs in your training program.

What Is The Pendlay Row

The Pendlay row very similar to the bent over barbell row. The only real differences are the back positioning and movement timing. Innovated by USA Weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay, this row variation was created to develop more muscular strength, power, and force for pulling movements such as snatches, cleans, and deadlifts. 

Pendlay row is considered an “accessory” movement, which will help you build more strength and assist with greater gains in other compound movements.

Pendlay Row Muscles Worked

Pendlay row targets the upper back and significantly isolates the upper latissimus dorsi as you detract your scapula as well as the scapular stabilizers. During the movement, you retract your shoulder blades moving from a protracted to retracted position, increase strength and stability, of your shoulders. The erector spinae as well as the biceps, shoulders, and core are also stimulated.

Pendlay Row Benefits

1. Strength

Any resistance training movement will help build more strength when performed with consistent progressive overload. Studies have shown the Pendlay row however, is one of the best back exercises to build a bigger stronger frame.

In a study sponsored by the American Council On Exercise, eight different back exercises were evaluated and found that the bent over row or Pendlay row, provided more muscle activation in the middle trapezius, lower trapezius, infraspinatus, and erectors, than nearly all other back exercises, activating three of the five back muscles to the greatest degree [R].

2. Core Stability

With the Pendlay row you’ll develop and build greater core strength and core stability. Holding a loaded barbell in a bent over position will require core activation throughout the movement to hold yourself with proper form and to properly lift the barbell. With greater core strength and stability, you will also gain an advantage in other resistance training movements, building more functional strength.

3. Better Form

Pendlay row benefits your posture by reinforcing your erectors and scapular stabilizers, keeping your midline braced and positioned to hold heavier weight. This can help promote better back posture, balance, core stability and strength. Your core must remain engaged throughout the entire movement, improving strength and enhancing posture and balance.

How To Pendlay Row 

The biggest difference between a barbell row and Pendlay row, is that instead of stringing the reps together with no rest, Pendlay row starts from a static position every time, similar to a box squat. Setting the barbell down each time you perform a rep. You are also positioned with your back parallel to the floor straight over the barbell at nearly a 90 degree angle, as opposed to a 45-60 degree with the bent over barbell row.

  • Load a barbell with a moderate weight that can be lifted for volume
  • Using a pronated grip (palms facing down), slightly bend your knees and bring your torso parallel to the ground. Bend at the waist, while keeping the back straight and ore braced.
  • Keep your head up and hang the barbell directly in front of you as your arms hang perpendicular to the floor and your core.
  • Keeping your core and midline braced, breath out bringing the barbell up keeping your elbows close to your body and in line with your knees.
  • Retract your scapulae, squeeze at the top of the lift, and pause.
  • Inhale and slowly lower the barbell or EZ bar back to the starting position, on the ground, then pause.
  • Repeat for the prescribed number of reps. 

Pendlay Row: Takeaway

Building your back requires strength training movements that can stimulate multiple muscle groups. Pendlay row is an effective compound movement that can greatly benefit your training by increase strength, muscle mass, and core stability. Although used as an accessory training exercise, you can greatly increase your athletic performance and strength with this movement. 

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Walter Hinchman

Walter Hinchman

Walter Hinchman is the Founder and CEO of Swolverine. He is a NESTA and ACE certified trainer and holds a Masters Degree in Business and in Finance and Economics.


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