Slow Your Row: How to Properly Do Rows to Develop Back Muscles

How do you develop back muscles? This is a question I hear a lot in the gym. Many people have a hard time feeling their back muscles when doing back exercises.

I’m going to talk about some different types of back exercises. The focus will be on rows. And my answer to the initial question of how do you develop back muscles is simple: Slow your row!¬†

Slow Your Row

I’ve been guilty of this myself. But I see a lot of people pumping out reps when doing back exercise. The problem is they’re going too fast. I see this most often when people are doing rows for back. And the issue with fast-reps is you’re not getting the full benefit of letting the muscle do the work. There’s a time and place for everything, but the majority of you reps should slow and controlled.

So what do I mean by slow your row? Negatives. This means you focus on the descent of the exercise. I personally take about 2-3 seconds on the descent of each rep.

I’ll use one of the most common back exercises as an example: seated rows. You can use force to pull the weight towards you. But once you get to that point, you’ll want to take a few seconds releasing the weight back to the starting position as opposed to letting the weight carry you back to that position.

Why should you do negative reps? Slowing your row, or rather, doing negative reps, forces your muscle to do the work. It also increases the amount of time under tension for the muscle. This leads to growth and will help you develop back muscles.

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Develop Back Muscles with Rows

Rows are the types of back exercises that will develop back muscles to their fullest. This is a pulling movement which targets those muscles. Your biceps are involved to some extent as well.

There are several types of rows you can do. I’m going to list a few common ones that I do on a regular basis.

  • Barbell rows (bent-over rows)
  • Seated rows
  • Dumbbell rows
  • Hammer Strength (or any machine) rows

Barbell Rows | Back Workout | Back Exercises | Jason Stallworth |

Barbell rows are deemed as the best mass building exercise for back. If you go back to the 90’s and early 2000’s, both Dorian Yates and Ronnie Coleman swore by barbell rows. And these are two guys hold multiple Mr. Olympia titles. To me, that speaks volumes about this back exercise. You can do these with a standard overhand grip or underhand grip.

Seated rows are done seated on a cable machine. These are great for targeting your back muscles and you can also get a good stretch at the bottom of the movement. Seated rows are also great for slower, negative reps.

Dumbbell rows are one of my favorite back exercises. They’re also exhausting if you do them right. In fact, I did these this morning for my back workout (right after barbell rows). Try lower the weight slow and getting a good stretch at the bottom. You’ll feel these the next day for sure!

Hammer Strength rows are like a hybrid exercise mixing components of a machine with free weights. Another term for this is plate-loaded. These and any type of machine row will allow to perform negative reps without worrying about breaking your form, which can easily happen with free-weights. I’m not saying don’t use free weights. But don’t be afraid to mix the two, machines and free weights, for your back workouts.

Slow You Row

I encourage you to slow your row on your back workouts. This will lead to greater use of the muscle, thus develop your back muscles more efficiently. Slow, negative reps ensure there are no wasted or lazy reps.

Train with Passion,



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