Strengthen Your Back With Meadows Row: What To Do and What Not To Do

The Meadows Row is a hard-hitting back exercise that packs on lean muscle. If you can’t feel back exercises, you need to add the Meadows Row to your workout.

The Meadows Row is named after one of my favourite bodybuilders, John Meadows. He’s an old-school bodybuilder from the United States, that has been working out since he was 13 years old. His workouts are intense and carefully planned out to get the most out of a workout. He’s one bodybuilder I admire the most because even after he almost died from his colon bursting, he just kept on going. That is what bodybuilding is all about!

The core muscles of your back are worked during any rowing exercise. You get the benefits of the full stretch on the muscle during the concentric phase and eccentric phase. Using the full range of motion is key in bodybuilding: the strength and size of the muscle will be greater where there is a longer range of motion.

What is the Meadows Row?

The Meadows Row is a single-handle back rowing exercise, performed with a T bar or Landmine press. It is a single-arm barbell row.

The T Bar by itself is a fantastic back development tool, and the Meadows Row is built upon that.

In case you haven’t seen a T Bar in your gym before, it’s a long barbell attached to a fixed platform. It provides a lot more back and spine stability than bent-over barbell rows. If you’re having issues balancing yourself with dumbbell rows, this is your next step.

Tbar Row

How Do I Do the Meadows Row?

Before you even start this exercise, I want you to warm up your back first. Go to the cable machine and start some light exercises, such as the lat pull down. The last thing you want is an injury in the gym. For a back warm up routine, I like to do some lat pullovers, either with a dumbbell or on the cables. Rotator cuff and shoulder exercises are a good idea here too.

How to Set Up the Meadows Row

Start by loading up a manageable weight on the T bar. You don’t want to go too heavy since you won’t be able to complete the full range of motion. Using too heavy of weight on any back exercise can be a recipe for disaster. You only have one spine, protect it!

Especially with this exercise, it’s too easy to load up too much weight on the bar and feel compelled to row the weight, even if it’s too heavy.

Look, you’re not doing yourself any favours putting your body in a position for injury.

You won’t get a full stretch of the muscle, and most importantly, you won’t get that pump you’re chasing.

Stand perpendicular to the bar, meaning have the end of the bar facing the side of your hip.  Grip the bar with an overhand (probated grip), and raise the side of the hip your rowing. Why raise your hip? When you raise your hip, you get a pre-stretch of your lats. This allows for a greater pump, and most of all, better muscle development.

Now the easy part: just row!  Bring the bar up as high as you can without impinging your shoulder. Start at the bottom without the plates touching the ground, then concentrate on squeezing your lats on the way up and all the way down.

If you’re having problems feeling it in your back muscles, think of your hand as a hook. When you’re rowing, drive your elbows UP the wall.

This is a mental cue I use all the time, and it really enforces the mind-muscle connection!

Should I use lifting straps?

ABSOLUTELY! This isn’t a bicep exercise. This isn’t a forearm exercise. We’re working our back! Save your forearm work for another day. When you use lifting straps, you can negate any issues you have with grip strength. It’s one variable you can cut out and help you focus on feeling the Meadows Row in your back.

These are the straps that I use, you can purchase them on Amazon. They’re affordable and are built well.

What Muscles Does the Meadows Row Work?

Since we’re using an overhand (pronated) grip here, the Meadows Row works different muscles than the Yates Row. When you use a pronated grip on a back exercise, you will mainly work your upper lats, rhomboids, lower traps and rear delts.

The benefit of the Meadows Row is that you’re able to hit many muscle groups at the same time, as mentioned above. This means a more time-effective workout since you’ll be working your ass off.

Your rear deltoid muscles are the muscles responsible for making your shoulders look defined from the back. The rear deltoid muscles add thickness to your back and give you a 3D look.

Your rear deltoid muscles are quite small in comparison so there’s no need to perform an endless number of sets to really work it.

Rowing, in general, works the rear of your shoulders. Plus, who doesn’t want to look big from behind? To add some serious mass to your rear delts, read my other article about the Best Rear Deltoid Exercises.

Another Tip for Growing a Huge Back

When you raise your hip on the side you’re rowing on, you give your lats a pre-stretch. What this means is that you can fully contract your lats during the duration of the exercise. When you start this exercise, your lats are worked from the time you pick up the bar.

Don’t believe me? Try this exercise keeping your hips on the same level and feet together. I guarantee you won’t get the same pump as you would have if you raised your hip.

If Meadows Rows just isn’t your thing and you’re looking to switch it up, check out my other article on Yates Rows.

It’s a fantastic exercise to alternate your back training with.

What if I get shoulder pain during a back workout?

If you’re getting shoulder pain when doing the Meadows Row, you’re probably flaring your elbows too wide or not standing perpendicular to the T bar. Shoulder pain is one of the most common injuries for back exercises.

Remember: form is absolutely crucial for optimal muscle growth!

Go back to the basics, and start again. Make sure you’re standing right next to the T bar and not off to the side. Lower the weight and watch your arm during the exercise. Flaring or widening your shoulder as you row up can cause issues with your rotator cuff.

A simple cue for tons of back exercises is to “lead with the elbow”. This can help you feel the contraction in your lat, versus other muscles.