Ever heard of the Pendlay row?
It's a dead stop row that puts your strength to the test.
Imagine rowing a barbell towards you from the floor while in a hip hinge.
Sounds tough, right? It is.
This movement typically uses an overhand, pronated grip and involves a greater range of motion and more full body strength than other row variations.
The positioning of the Pendlay row makes the exercise more difficult to cheat than other rowing variations.
The initial pull off the ground makes it difficult to ‘throw’ the weight up.
The Pendlay row is a dead-stop row that challenges the performer to row a barbell towards them from the floor while in a hip hinge.
This movement typically uses an overhand, pronated grip and involves a greater range of motion and more full-body strength than other row variations.
The positioning of the Pendlay row makes the exercise more difficult to cheat than other rowing variations, as the initial pull off the ground makes it difficult to ‘throw’ the weight up.
You can see what how the Pendlay Rows looks like in the video below.
The Pendlay row was named after American weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay.
He was an Olympic weightlifting coach who had been coaching since 1996.
In addition to helping hundreds of athletes reach their competitive peak, he also invented this specific way to perform the barbell row, which became known as the Pendlay row.
This row variation will forever go down in strength sports history with Pendlay's name on it.
The Pendlay row isn't for the faint-hearted.
It's a powerful movement that demands good back and core strength. It challenges the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, and erector spinae.
Typically, it's used for improving back strength and power rather than for hypertrophy.
At first glance, the Pendlay row and bent-over barbell row look similar.
However, there are critical differences between the two exercises due to the differing starting positions.
The Pendlay row begins with the barbell on the floor and requires a 90-degree hip hinge so that the upper body is parallel to the floor.
The bent-over row? It only requires a 45-degree hip hinge angle, with the barbell only going down to the knees.
The greater range of motion and increased hip hinge make the Pendlay row more challenging. Most people can lift greater loads with the bent-over barbell row.
Read more about pendlay row vs barbell row here.
Pendlay rows are a challenging exercise due to both the setup and execution of the movement.
Maintaining a 90-degree requires good hamstring flexibility, and some people find it uncomfortable.
The execution of the Pendlay row requires a considerable amount of strength.
All the force must come from the biceps and the back muscles, as the dead-stop starting position means performers cannot use momentum to assist the lift.
Bodybuilders, powerlifters, and even crossfitters will find a place for pendlay rows.
This type of row is important, whether you’re building a strong back or to work on specific weak points to make them strong points for other lifts.
For bodybuilders it’ll help build a strong, well developed back.
With the correct volume, weight, and muscle contractions at the best time of your workouts, pendlay rows will help with hypertrophy.
Both types of rows, traditional and pendlay, can increase muscular hypertrophy. This is emphasized with correct hand placement, back angle and strict form.
Using momentum to row the bar may be useful in some cases to help increase growth and muscular damage but not always.
Because of its strict form, it can increase lat strength and help develop the back further than traditional row.
To be strong, traditional strength is not enough.
A decent program would have both styles of rows, traditional and pendlay rows, and both variation of rows should be cycled in at least for 4-5 weeks and prioritized over any other row.
You should determine what you’d like to improve by using a specific type of row.
It could be improving overall strength, or a specific position has a weak point that you’d like to improve on.
If staying tight with deadlifts or squats, pendlay rows can help improve this. But if you’re after overall strength and mass, using various rows at different angles can help.
Specificity to Powerlifting and Weightlifting Movements
For weightlifting, pendlay rows are a top priority for those weak positional strength in the hamstrings and back.
This strict form of rows can increase concentric and static strength, which are both important for various weightlifting movements like the snatch and clean. For squats and deadlifts in powerlifting, the pendlay rows will help increase both upper and lower strength. It’ll help with lean muscle mass and general strength training.
This is also an important lift for crossfitters because of its strict, isolated form, it can work on weak points that are often skipped on.
Pendlay rows require a strict form but although it helps isolate your entire back, it’s still a compound exercise that will help pack muscle and strength.
The bar should start from the ground, as if you were about to do a deadlift.
The first image below shows you the starting point...
The images below shows you how it looks from different angles...
See the video below for how it's done:
Pendlay rows can be incorporated into a variety of workouts. They can be used as a primary exercise on back day, or they can be included in a full-body workout. Here are a few examples of workouts that include Pendlay rows:
Focus on squeezing the lats as if there was a pencil between your shoulder blades.
I usually change the order every 2-3 weeks.
For example: one week I’ll do them in the beginning of the workout, the next week I’ll do it after the 2nd or 3rd lift, you get the picture.
The later you put this lift in your workout, the less weight or reps you'll be able to do due to fatigue.
An example back routine with pendlay rows could look like:
Remember this is not a high repetition exercise.
To get the most out of them, keep the rep range between 4-8.
If you can go for 10 or 8 perfect reps, you can probably add more weight (5-10lbs more) and start from 4 reps.
It’s better to start with 10 repetitions with light weight so you can adjust your form and practice it.
As soon as you think you’re ready, you can do 5×5 for some nasty gains.
Play around with the sets and see what works with you.
Go for as much weight as you can pull without sacrificing your form.
You can also include these rows in push pull programs like this one.
Who Should Do the Pendlay Row?
Strength and power athletes, this one's for you.
The Pendlay row is a fantastic exercise for increasing strength. Bodybuilders, too, can benefit from this exercise. It's not just for the elite, though. Intermediate lifters can also reap the benefits of the Pendlay row.
And for the general population? It's a great way to improve your posture and gym performance and minimize injury risk.
Remember, if you're new to lifting, start with seated row variations such as the cable or chest-supported rows.
Benefits of Rowing
Rowing, particularly the Pendlay row, comes with a host of benefits. Here are a few:
Bigger, Stronger Back: The Pendlay row allows you to load the bar relatively heavier weight than other back-specific movements. This can help you achieve a stronger and more muscular back.
Better Deadlifts and Squats: The ability to contract and brace your back is essential for maintaining proper posture during moves like the deadlift, back, and front squat. The Pendlay row can help improve your ability to brace your back, which can lead to better performance in these exercises.
More Pulling Prowess: The Pendlay row can help increase static and concentric strength, which are needed during the snatch, clean, jerk, and breaking through sticking points in those specific lifts.
Muscles Worked in Pendlay Rows
The Pendlay row targets large muscle groups across your body. Here are a few key muscles that get worked:
Latissimus Dorsi: Your lats are a large slab of thin, triangular muscle that spans the entire length of your back. They are involved in scapular depression and the flexion or pulling of your arms.
Hamstrings: Your hamstrings work isometrically to support you as you assume the bent over position in the Pendlay row.
Spinal Erectors: Spinal erectors stabilize your spine during this bent-over row variation.
Pendlay Row Alternatives
If you're looking for some variety, here are a few alternatives to the Pendlay row:
Seal Row: The seal row is key for lifters growing their back muscles while minimizing hamstring and low back stress.
Bent-Over Row: This rowing variation is nearly identical to the Pendlay row, except that you don't rest the weight on the ground after each rep.
Double Kettlebell Pendlay Row: This double kettlebell Pendlay row frees up your body from the constraints of a barbell. This lift also allows for greater unilateral strength and positional awareness.
Pendlay Row Variations
Looking to mix things up? Here are a few variations of the Pendlay row:
Deficit Pendlay Row: Performing the Pendlay row from a deficit grants you all the back-building benefits but with the bonus of an increased range of motion.
Pendlay Row Plus Deadlift: This complex is a great way to warm up for a deadlift session. By performing a few Pendlay rows before deadlifts, you can accumulate good volume as you build in lighter sets of deadlifts.
How to Do Pendlay Row
Here's a step-by-step guide on how to perform a Pendlay row:
Did you know there's a study that compared different rowing exercises, including the Pendlay Row and Barbell Row?
It's published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, and the findings are quite interesting.
When it comes to activating the latissimus dorsi, upper back, and hip extensor muscles, the Pendlay Row takes the crown.
But that's not all. It also puts less load on the lumbar erector spinae muscles, which means less stress on your spine.
So, if you're looking to protect your lower back while getting a solid upper body workout, the Pendlay Row might just be your new best friend.
On the flip side, the Barbell Row activates muscles across the back symmetrically.
Sounds great, right?
But hold on, there's a catch. It also puts the largest load on the lumbar spine.
This could increase the risk of back injury if you're not careful with your form.
So, what's the bottom line?
If you're all about muscle activation and don't mind a bit of spine load for strength gains, the Barbell Row could be your pick. But if you're rehabbing or want to go easy on your spine, the Pendlay Row might be more your speed.
Remember, your fitness level, flexibility, and past injuries should also factor into your choice between these exercises.
It's always a good idea to consult with a fitness professional to make sure you're doing these exercises correctly and safely.
For those who love the nitty-gritty, here's the study I mentioned. It's worth a read if you want to dive deeper into the science behind these exercises.
What is a Pendlay row? A Pendlay row is a dead-stop row that involves rowing a barbell towards you from the floor while in a hip hinge.
What muscles does the Pendlay row work? The Pendlay row works the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, and erector spinae.
What is the difference between a Pendlay row and a barbell row? The Pendlay row begins with the barbell on the floor and requires a 90-degree hip hinge so that the upper body is parallel to the floor. The bent-over row only requires a 45-degree hip hinge angle with the barbell only going down to the knees.
Why are Pendlay rows hard? Pendlay rows are challenging due to both the set up and execution of the movement. Maintaining a 90-degree requires good hamstring flexibility, and the dead stop starting position means performers cannot use momentum to assist the lift.
How do I perform a Pendlay row? To perform a Pendlay row, you need to load a barbell, take a hip width stance with your shoelaces directly under the barbell, take a slight bend in the knee and then push the hips back until you’re at a 90-degree angle with torso parallel to the floor, grip the barbell using an overhand, pronated grip, maintain a neutral spine, take a deep breath before rowing the barbell towards your belly button, return the barbell to the floor by slowly extending your arms, and repeat.
Can I incorporate Pendlay rows into my workout? Yes, Pendlay rows can be incorporated into a variety of workouts. They can be used as a primary exercise on back day or included in a full-body workout.
Who invented the Pendlay row? American weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay invented the Pendlay row.
Is the Pendlay row suitable for beginners? The Pendlay row is a challenging exercise that requires good back and core strength. Beginners may need to start with lighter weights and gradually increase as their strength improves.
Can Pendlay rows help improve my posture? Yes, Pendlay rows can help improve posture by strengthening the back muscles and promoting a neutral spine.
How often should I do Pendlay rows? The frequency of Pendlay rows in your workout routine depends on your fitness goals. Including them in your strength training routine is recommended 1-2 times per week.
At the end of the day, the choice between Pendlay Row and Barbell Row comes down to your personal fitness goals and physical condition.
Both exercises offer unique benefits, and incorporating a mix of both could be the key to a well-rounded workout routine.
Check out these resources:
FitFrek operates as an independent platform, offering comprehensive workouts, programs, routines, guides, and unbiased reviews to accelerate your progress. We pride ourselves on our honesty, delivering straightforward and candid insights. FitFrek does not offer medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment services.