What are Pendlay rows?

A variation of the barbell rows, a Pendlay row is an exercise that targets muscle groups throughout your body, particularly the back and the posterior chain.

The Pendlay row exercise gets its name from its creator, an Olympic weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay. He is credited with not just preparing hundreds of lifters for the sport, but also this famous modification of the barbell row. The difference between the two i.e. barbell row and Pendlay row lies in how you position your body, your movement, and your range of motion. 

Pendlay row form is considered to be strict since it places intense stress on your back making its muscles respond and ultimately grow in size. 

Pendlay rows work on these muscle groups:

  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Hamstrings
  • Spinal erectors
  • Forearms
  • Abs
  • Glutes
  • Traps
  • Deltoids

How are Pendlay rows done?

Merely knowing how to do Pendlay rows is not sufficient. Since it is an exercise where you use weights, it is essential to be mindful of the correct technique. 

Follow these steps to learn how to maintain the correct Pendlay row form. This is the traditional form of this exercise, also known as the barbell Pendlay row or BB Pendlay row.

  1. Stand in front of the barbell with your back straight. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and slightly bend your knees.
  2. Your head and neck should be in a neutral position. Keep your arms on the sides while slightly bending your elbows.
  3. Keep your chin tucked in throughout the movement. 
  4. Activate your shoulders, core, and hips as you inhale and exhale deeply.
  5. Hinge slowly from your hips and knees and start lowering your body towards the barbell. 
  6. Bring your chest parallel to the floor and grab the barbell with an overhand grip. Remember to engage your back muscles and rotate your shoulders outwards.
  7. Begin raising the barbell by squeezing your shoulders.
  8. Pull the barbell towards the lower part of your chest by keeping your elbows 45-degrees away from your upper body. 
  9. Retract your shoulder blades and keep your upper arms in line with your body.
  10. Lower the barbell and place it on the floor.
  11. Pause at the end of this downward movement before starting the other rep of your BB Pendlay row. 

Sets and reps of barbell Pendlay row: You can start by doing 2-4 sets of 8-10 reps. 

Which are some Pendlay rows variations?

Here are some of the most effective variations of Pendlay rows: 

  1. Dumbbell Pendlay rows: As the name suggests, the dumbbell Pendlay row is done following the same procedure as the traditional form of this exercise, but with a dumbbell. 
  1. One-arm Pendlay rows: This is a unilateral variation of the Pendlay rows and is done using a single arm at a time. This can be done using a dumbbell or a kettlebell. 
  1. Underhand grip Pendlay rows: While the traditional Pendlay rows are performed using an overhand grip. However, you can change your grip and target a new set of muscles. For instance, for better bicep activation and strength, try the underhand grip. 

What are the benefits of Pendlay rows?

Including Pendlay row exercise in your workout regime has several benefits. These include:

  1. A Pendlay row workout is an excellent exercise to improve muscular strength. It improves muscular hypertrophy and builds a stronger back by activating muscles such as the trapezius, rhomboids, spinal erectors, and Latissimus Dorsi. 
  1. A stronger back improves your performance in compound lifts, athletics, and day-to-day activities, making it one of the most important Pendlay row benefits. 
  1. As compared to other back exercises such as the lat pulldown or dumbbell row, you have a machine to stabilise your movements. Whereas, in Pendlay rows, you use your body to begin each rep in a stationary position. When practised regularly, this exercise improves your body stability.
  1. People who sit for long hours in front of a screen or drive for long almost always suffer from back problems. This usually occurs due to the underutilisation of the lats and other back muscles. One of the most important Pendlay row benefits is that it activates these muscles and reduces pain and tension in the lower back.
  1. This exercise requires a minimal setup. For Pendlay row barbell and some weights are required. This makes it easy to include this exercise in your workouts at home.
  1. Since it helps build lean muscle and burns calories, it is a great weight loss exercise. This not just gets you an aesthetic toned-up appearance but also prevents the risk of obesity-related problems. 
  1. This is a versatile exercise. There are several Pendlay row alternatives and variations available that can be modified according to your age, flexibility levels, and general health. 
  1. Not just powerlifters and weightlifters but also lifters in the general population and fitness athletes can perform Pendlay row alternatives and variations.

How to do Pendlay rows safely to avoid injuries?

Now that you know how to do Pendlay rows, it is essential to know some safety tips to avoid injuries and reap the benefits of this exercise. 

These things relate to Pendlay row technique, form, and timing:

  • While this exercise fits into a variety of workouts if you want to lift heavy weights while doing this exercise, try to do it early on in your session.
  • Don’t use too much weight while doing the Pendlay row barbell or dumbbell workout. This may lead to fatigue or injuries. Starting with lower weights and building your momentum, reduces the risk of injuries.
  • A tip to maintain a good Pendlay row technique is to never round your back as it may lead to injuries. Instead, keep your back engaged in a flat and neutral position.
  • If you have a history of pain or injuries, don’t start the Pendlay row workout without consulting your doctor.


The Pendlay row is an extremely effective exercise to help you build a sturdier back and improve your workout performance. However, it is essential to learn this exercise from a qualified trainer to enjoy its benefits while preventing injuries.  

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May 12, 2022

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