Pendlay rows

I’ve been using Pendlay rows, a form of bent over row, for some time now.  I thought I’d do a quick post to explain more about them.

Who is Pendlay?

Glenn Pendlay is an experienced Olympic Lifting coach based in California.  He’s a man who knows his stuff and gets some brilliant results from the athletes who he trains.  Not only that, but he turns out athletes with amazing physiques.  You can learn more about him from the Pendlay website where there is also a collection of articles by Pendlay and others – a really useful resource for those who are doing Olympic lifting. 

Glenn did an interview for Testosterone Nation not so long ago in which he talked a bit more about the “secrets” behind how he ends up with lean and muscular athletes who pack on the muscle without related fat gain.  It’s worth noting from the interview that one of his secrets is explosive training.  The Pendlay Row is a tool in part of the armoury of explosive movements.

What is a Pendlay Row?

The Pendlay Row is a form of explosive bent over barbell row which is particularly effective for growing size in the back.  It is great for building strength in muscles needed for Olympic lifting and is really good for creating a broad muscular look across the back. 

The bar starts by resting on the ground, instead of hanging down from the arms, and then travels up to the lower chest in an explosive move without extending the hips.  In reality the only thing that should move is the arms and the upper back as the thoracic spine extends, although I find that while I’m training through a heavy weight my hips extend in the early stages of getting used to the new weight and I don’t completely relax out the thoracic spine between each repetition.

Pendlay Rows – how to do them

Rather than explaining how to do them myself, I’m going to link to an article on which contains text by Glenn Pendlay writing about how to do them.  The main “how to” highlight is as follows:

“…start with the bar on the floor every single rep. Your middle back will have slight bend to it. You pull the bar off the floor quickly with the arms, and by a powerful arch of your middle back.  You finish by touching the bar to your upper stomach or middle stomach. At no time is there any movement of the hips or knees, no hip extension at all, all that bends is the middle back and the shoulders and elbows.[…]  The bar returns to the floor after each rep. The bent row is actually best done as an explosive movement and the bar is moved fast.”

Pendlay row in videos

Here is a video of my first warm up set which I took the other week.  Since it’s my lightest warm up set (40kg) it’s easier to get good form.  Despite that, having re-read a lot of articles about Pendlay Rows it looks like I’ve still got some work to do on the relaxation of the thoracic spine at the start of the movement.

To give you a study in what less-good form looks like, here is a video of a set with my work weight (55kg, which is bodyweight).  You’ll be able to see that my first repetition is with form similar to my warm up sets.  In comparison, by the third repetition (when I’m tiring) my form is breaking down.  I am no longer able to prevent my hips from extending and the completion of the row movement is no longer achieved solely with my lats but instead has an element of shrug to it.

Read more

To finish off I’ve put together a few links to other articles and videos about the Pendlay Row which you can work through.

Have you tried Pendlay Rows and, if not, are you tempted to try them now?


3 thoughts on “Pendlay rows

  1. Ammi Post author

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one to like them so much.

    They’re working better for me than any other row variation I’ve tried (and I’ve tried plenty of weird and wacky things over the last few years). All the other variations I try you end up getting the weight heavier by using bad form but with pendlay rows poor form can only get you so far.

  2. Pingback: Monday 110612 | Emergent Fitness

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