Benefits of Supine and Pronated Barbell Rows
Barbell rows are a staple back exercise that come in two primary grips - supine and pronated. But which one is truly better for building a thick, muscular back? Let's take a deeper look at the mechanics and muscle targeting of each variation based on advice from TikTok trainer Chris Oaesthetic to determine which grip may be optimal for your goals.
Supine Barbell Row Technique and Muscles Hit
According to Chris, when performing a supine barbell row you should grip the bar with a shoulder-width overhand grip. Keep your chest lifted and back naturally arched as you hinge forward at the hips. Initiate the movement by dragging the bar vertically up your body until it reaches just below your belly button. Be sure to keep your elbows tightly pinned next to your sides throughout the movement.
With this supine grip, you place greater emphasis on recruiting the latissimus dorsi muscles of the upper back. These wide back muscles give the V-taper look when developed. You'll also work the biceps, as well as the posterior deltoids of the shoulders to a degree. The key is to row with your elbows leading the movement rather than just pulling with your arms, focusing the tension in the lats.
Pronated Grip Row Technique and Targeted Muscles
For a pronated barbell row, Chris recommends gripping the bar with a grip slightly wider than shoulder width using an underhand, pronated grip. From the hinged starting position, row the bar upward while ensuring your elbows are directed out to the sides rather than tucked in. This outside hand path challenges the upper back muscles from a different angle than a supine row.
With the pronated grip, you place more emphasis on recruiting the rhomboid and lower trapezius muscles of the upper back. These provide thickness to the mid to lower back regions. You'll also work the rear delts and biceps to a degree. Focus on rowing your elbows high while keeping tension on the back rather than just pulling with your arms.
Supine vs Pronated - Which is Best?
Both the supine and pronated barbell row variations offer value for building a thick, muscular back. The supine row allows for slightly heavier weight due to the overhand grip, making it excellent for developing overall lat size and thickness. However, the pronated row does a better job of targeting the mid to lower back muscles like the rhomboids.
Chris' advice is to incorporate both variations into your back workouts to ensure a fully developed posterior chain. He recommends spending 2 sets working each grip to maximize muscle fiber recruitment across the entire back region. This balanced approach will give you thick "3D" development from top to bottom over time.
Sample Back Workout Incorporating Both Grips
Here is a sample 2 day per week full back workout split that efficiently incorporates both supine and pronated barbell rows:
- Pullups 4 x 6-8 reps
- Seated Cable Rows 4 x 10-12 reps
- Supine Barbell Rows 4 x 8-10 reps
- Face Pulls 4 x 15 reps
- Lat Pulldowns 4 x 8-10 reps
- One-Arm Dumbbell Rows 4 x 8-10 reps each side
- Pronated Barbell Rows 4 x 8-10 reps
- Bent-Over Rear Delt Flyes 4 x 12 reps
Alternating between these two full back workouts twice per week will ensure you're constantly challenging your muscles from different angles for well-rounded growth.
Both the supine and pronated barbell row grips offer benefits for building a thick, powerful back. Incorporating both variations into your routine with 2 sets of each, as Chris Oaesthetic recommends, provides the best overall muscle fiber recruitment throughout the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, traps and rear delts. Following a split like the one outlined above is an effective way to maximize back development and see great results over time.
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