Barbell Pendlay Row: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and More

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
November 27, 2022

The barbell Pendlay row is a barbell row variation that completely removes momentum from the equation since every rep begins in a dead-stop position. The lifter cannot use their hips and glutes to initiate the row but instead must engage the lats, traps, rhomboids, biceps, and forearm muscles to pull the bar off the floor.

Glenn Pendlay, a level 5 accredited weightlifting coach for the USA, came up with this variation of the barbell row. Pendlay developed this exercise to target his back strength and muscular development in preparation for pulling exercises when he was competing in powerlifting. The increase in power one acquires from doing the barbell Pendlay row carries over to other workouts, including cleans, snatches, and deadlifts. 

So, instead of the core and lower back muscles being engaged in a static way, as they would be when doing bent-over rows, they will be able to learn how to build tension in those muscles as soon as each rep starts with the Pendlay row.

How to Perform the Barbell Pendlay Row

Stand in front of the loaded barbell. The toes should be situated exactly beneath the bar, and the feet should be about hip-width apart. To achieve a flat-back position, tense the core slightly, push the buttocks out, and bend from the hips with the knees slightly bent until the body is parallel to the floor. 

pendlay row

Reach down and grab the bar with an overhand grip, positioning the hands so that they are slightly wider than the width of the shoulders. Retract the shoulders and, using explosive force, pull the barbell in the direction of the body, hinging at the elbows and shoving them behind the back while simultaneously tightening the core muscles.

At the top of the movement, quickly lower the weight to the ground and return to the starting position. When doing a Pendlay row, the negative or eccentric phase of the action does not matter in the same way as it does when performing bent-over rows.

Muscles Worked by the Pendlay Row

The latissimus dorsi, also known as the lats, is the primary muscle group that is worked during the Pendlay row. In addition to that, the muscles that are located between the shoulder blades play a significant role. Included are the teres major and minor, as well as the rhomboids, traps, and erectors.

pendlay row

Because this is a compound exercise, it requires movement from the shoulder and elbow joints. Therefore, some activation of the biceps and posterior deltoids also occurs.

Benefits of the Barbell Pendlay Row

Enhance Explosive Strength

The rate of force development (RFD) measures how quickly an athlete can make the force needed to do a task. RFD is the rate at which the contractile components of the muscle may create force. It is defined as the speed at which maximal voluntary contraction of the muscles can occur.

Maffiuletti et al. conducted research in which they found that the results of rate of force development outcomes have substantial functional effects on participants' abilities due to their temporal consistency with respect to both athletic endeavors and everyday activities.

Due to the stationary starting posture on the floor, the Pendlay row calls for a significant amount of explosive force to aggressively draw the bar towards the lower chest. In addition, the eruptive strength requirement for the pulling motion acclimates the body to rapid force building and high power output at the beginning of the pull.

On-demand Core Activation

The muscles of the trunk and hips that wrap around the spine, abdomen, and hips are collectively referred to as the "core." The proper load distribution throughout the spine, pelvis, and kinetic chain depends on the core muscles' strength. They keep the spine from having to carry too much weight and are needed to move weight from the upper body to the lower body.

Stability and balance at the core are essential for improving performance in most sports and everyday activities. Athletes need to have strong hip and trunk muscles to keep their core stable while doing the movements required for their sport. 

When a person's center of gravity is suddenly moved away from their base of support, they need to react quickly to tighten their core to facilitate an effective transfer of force. At the same time, they change their posture to avoid losing their balance and move their center of gravity back to a stable base.

When starting a Pendlay row, the body is parallel to the floor, and the core is engaged to a certain degree to keep it that way. However, the core needs to tighten even more at the very beginning of the lift for the explosive force to lift the bar effectively. This immediate tightening of the core muscles teaches the body how to react quickly during short bursts of strength to maintain a stable base of support and efficiently transfer force.

Pendlay Row Mistakes to Avoid

Avoid making these typical missteps while increasing resistance so that one may get the most out of the Pendlay row. They may come up at any point, which makes the exercise simpler. However, the workout's efficacy is diminished due to these mistakes.

First, one should perfect the Pendlay row form with a lesser weight before moving on. The static starting position requires a little getting used to on the first few occasions. Also, when the bar is at a dead stop, the muscles must work harder to overcome the resistance, which may cause them to utilize other body parts to lift the weight.

The body should be almost parallel to the ground and stay that way for the whole movement. One may feel the urge to elevate the back and shoulders in relation to the hips, but if they do so, they'll be sacrificing form and giving the lower back a lot of problems. It is essential to maintain the correct trunk alignment in order to make this exercise as beneficial as it can be. When exhibiting compensatory movements to pull the weight up, like changing how the trunk is positioned, lessen the load for the exercise.

When doing the Pendlay row, the optimal distance the upper arms should be from the body is at a 45° angle. Flaring out the elbows puts the shoulders in an awkward position and directs more of the effort into the delts and biceps than the lats. 

Differences Between the Bent-over Row and the Pendlay Row

Although these variations target similar muscle groups, they differ in form and execution. The starting position is where you will see the most significant difference between a bent-over row and a Pendlay row. 

For each rep of a Pendlay row, the bar must be explosively lifted off the ground. This requires the person doing the exercise to have a wider range of motion and more explosive power. When doing bent-over rows, the starting position for the lift is a hinged stance, in which the bar is suspended off the ground. 

The form is another essential aspect contributing to these variants' differences. When performing Pendlay rows, the body is positioned such that it is parallel to the floor; however, when performing bent-over rows, the body is bent at an angle of about 60 degrees from the hips.

For the bent-over row, one has to maintain a constant degree of tension on the muscles located in the abdominal region and the back throughout the whole routine. On the other hand, to do a Pendlay row, one's body must learn to activate both the abdominals and the back simultaneously at the beginning of the lift.

Additionally, they both train the muscles a bit differently. Bodybuilders prefer the bent-over row because of its effect on hypertrophy. This is due to the muscles being under pressure for a more extended period and being able to tolerate a more significant volume with this exercise. On the other hand, the Pendlay row is a favorite among powerlifters because of its ability to develop explosive strength that carries over to other weightlifting techniques.

Final Thoughts 

Lifters will not be able to capitalize on momentum while doing Pendlay rows since they will have to lower the bar to the floor for each repetition. The exercise forces the body to maintain a strong trunk alignment and engage the core at the right time to transfer force to the bar. This helps build explosive strength and breaks plateaus in bent-over rows and other weightlifting exercises.

By adding bent-over and Pendlay rows to your workout routine, you can boost your power, strength, and size all at once. Both of these workouts are excellent in the different ways they train the muscles. 


1. Maffiuletti NA, Aagaard P, Blazevich AJ, Folland J, Tillin N, Duchateau J. Rate of force development: physiological and methodological considerations. European journal of applied physiology. 2016 Jun;116(6):1091-116.

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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