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  • Writer's pictureGoliath: High Performance

5 Row Variations

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

Hey Goliath family! Performance Coach Jaco here for another addition of #WisdomWednesday

This week we’ll be diving into 5 Back Row variations as I’ve noticed myself making these progressions and regressions lately in my training to suit various different clients’ abilities. 

Before we start let’s do a quick warm up:

90/90 Hip Circuit  2 sets / 10 reps / each way.

Bird Dog + Dead Bug 2 sets / 10 each side

Cat Cow 2 sets / 10 reps

Wall Scaps 2 sets / 10 reps

RKC Breath Planks 2 sets / 5 exhales

Scap Push ups 2 sets / 10 reps

Now each variation offers its own pros and cons and I’ve ordered them from most supported to least. You’ll notice that all of these variations will all target the same muscles of the back in different ways. Other supporting muscles will come into play and we will cover those when we get there. 

For the most part, muscles worked in the back row complex are: 



Rear Deltoids

Latissimus Dorsi

Erector Spinae 



Both Teres minor and major 

Biceps Brachii 

Muscles of the Lumbo Pelvic Hip Complex, also known as the “core” or the “belt”

Variation 1: T-Bar Row 

This is the most supportive variation as you gain stability by pushing the calves into the pads and resting your body weight onto the bench. You’ll notice me talk about the angle of the pull in all variations and for this one you’re pulling at a 45 degree angle against gravity. Isolation is what separates this one from the rest as most of the body is supported and only the torso should be moving.


That heavy weight is going to want to pull your shoulders forward. Resist this as much as you can and if you can’t reduce the weight. 

Keep the elbows tight and lead the movement with the elbows.

Keep the chest engaged and limit extension of the upper back. 

Because gravity is at play, isometrically hold at the top of the movement to reduce momentum and gravity pulling that weight away from you. Be in control the whole way through. 

Variation 2: Cable Seated Row . 

With this guy, the LPHC, or “Core” gets involved a bit more because you take away that steady base of the T Bar bench and recreate said steady base by pushing the feet into the foot rest, and creating tension in the glutes and hips to keep the back aligned and engaged. The angle of the pull is parallel to the ground, however because of the cable pulleys, the actual weight still travels straight up and down against gravity. You’ll notice a trend in keeping your scapulas retracted and shoulder rolled into alignment. 


Push into the foot rest with the lower body

Keep the core engaged to neutralize the lower spine

Keep the elbows tight to the side.

Big squeeze from the scapula at the end of the lift.

Control the weight on the way back, no momentum. 

Variation 3: DB Incline Bench Supported 3 Point Row (Split Stance)

The split stance here provides stability by allowing you to shift your body weight into that front leg and into the bench via the straight arm. Have the back leg be the same side that you’re pulling to allow for adequate range of motion. This is a progression as again the base of support changes and the demand for stability gets put onto the lower body some more. The angle is similar to that of the bar however there is no isolation in that the dumbbell demands some additional supporting muscles to ensure the path of the movement is achieved, as opposed to the predetermined path of the T Bar.


Shift the weight into the front leg and into the bench. Back leg for balance and support

Hinge at the hip and keep the tension throughout the lower body.

Strong grip on the DB, keep tension in the forearms, biceps and shoulders.

Pull the weight in line with the belly button, and to the side.

Keep the elbows tight into the sides.

Avoid any “jerking” movements and be in control all the way through.

Yet again, prevent the bottom heavy weight to pull the shoulders out of position.

Variation 4: Flat Bench Assisted Row. 

The flat bench is a similar set up however this one requires a bit more hip extension in the form of the hip hinge. Play around with your stance and try to find your optimal position. The position you feel the strongest in. Again push your weight into the bench and lock in that shoulder. The angle of this pull is now straight up and down against gravity and as such, requires more motor control and strength demand from the muscles. Think the higher the angle, the easier the pull. Imagine standing straight and pulling parallel to the ground to now being parallel to the ground and pulling straight up.



Hip hinge into an optimal strength position. 

Push the weight into the bench via the shoulder complex. 

Keep the scaps retracted and keep that weight hovered above the ground. Touching the weight to the ground every time would break upper back form.

Keep the core engaged and strong to maintain the hip hinge.

Pull the DB into the belly and to the side.

Elbows tight. 

Variation 5: Barbell Bent Over Row 

This will be the most advanced lift of the 5 as it is a full body movement. On the others there was some sort of aid whether it be the support of the T Bar Bench, Strength gathered from the split stance, Tension from the hip hinge or feet pushed into the foot rests. The barbell row is our compound movement, meaning that is is a multi joint, multi muscles lift. Your ankles and knees are loaded, hip is hinged and is absorbing all weight as opposed to some of it being held up by a bench, your whole arm is contracted as you hold that loaded bar in place and you move at the elbow to start the pull. This lift calls in all the troops.


Ensure that you are comfortable and strong in the hip hinge as there is more weight transferred to the area as opposed to support systems like a bench, or split stance.

Keep tension in the legs and core as to allow the upper body to do the work.

Use the angle of the quads as a “runway” for the bar and pull into the belly.

Isometrically hold the weight at the top as to limit gravity and momentum to pull the weight back into the ground, compromising the back.

Watch those scaps and shoulders and keep the back engaged and upright, relative to your hinge angle. 

This model of progression and regression allows us to train the same complex in a way that suits our clients abilities. It also serves as a method of variety, to make sure that we are not doing the same movements over and over and over again. Add some variety to your next pull session and give us some feedback on what you think! 

Are you or someone you know interested in working with us? Reach out to us to book your FREE consultation and let’s start your journey with a conversation! 

Shoot me an email at or on Instagram! 

Thanks for tuning in! Until next time, 

Jaco Labuschagne 

Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach

Goliath High Performance Training. 

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