Yates Row: How To Grow A Wider Back in 4 Steps

The Yates Row is an underrated exercise that leads to phenomenal back growth. It allows you to move more weight than a normal barbell row and at the same time keep your lower back safe.

The Yates Row was popularized by Mr Olympia award winner Dorian Yates. Dorian built a awe inspiring physique that you just can’t match. His methods of training style are unique to him and there’s a reason why current bodybuilders want to emulate his body.

Are Yates Row good?

Rowing is the bread and butter of building a thick, voluminous back. Just as the bench press is to the chest, rowing is the same to the back.

Yates Rows are effective because they hit many muscles in your back at the same time. This is called a compound movement.

Your back is made up of many muscles, including your lats, teres major and minor, rhomboids and your traps. You have to adapt your training to hit every muscle optimally if you really want to grow.

Primarily, the Yates Row utilizes your lats, upper back and trapezius muscles. Since the exercise uses a barbell at about shoulder width grip, the exercise really emphasizes the width and broadness of your back.

What are Yates Rows?

The main difference between the Yates Row and a normal standing barbell row is that the Yates’s Row is much more upright and has an underhand grip. By using an underhand grip (supinated), you’re focussing less on using your forearms, less wrist pain, and can really focus on contracting your lats. We can work your lats more efficiently when our arm path follows our ribs.

If you really want to build a full, awe-inspiring back that gets attraction from any angle, you will want to incorporate the Yates Row into your next workout.

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The Problem With Bent Over Barbell Rows

This is a good one. I get asked this all the time in the gym: “Easton, which one is better??”. Here’s the best answer: it depends.

Bent over rows with an overhand grip work your upper back, such as your lower traps, rhomboids, rear deltoid and teres major. Bent over rows strengthen muscles surrounding the back of your shoulder and neck, especially your traps and rear deltoid muscle.

While bent over rows does work your lats, the big triangle-shaped muscle, we can target our lats better with an underhand grip.

Do you want a wide and thick back, starting from your hips all the way to your shoulder? Do the Yates row then.
Do you want a stronger upper back? Do the normal overhand barbell row then.

How do I do the Yates Row?

As mentioned earlier, the Yates Row is similar to the bent-over barbell row with a few technique changes.

Remember: keep your spine and back neutral! Look straight ahead, don’t strain your neck either.

Dorian yates row
  1. Grab your barbell and keep your feet at a shoulder width. Make sure you have proper balance here since you’ll be standing upright and have no back support.
  2. Now, instead of grabbing the bar over the top, use an underhand grip so that the palm of your hand is facing the ceiling. Place your hands at about a shoulder-width: you don’t want to go too narrow (which means you might be doing drag curls instead) and you don’t want to go too wide.
  3. Now the rowing part! Lean forward (hinge at your hips!) at approximately 10-20 degrees, you should be able to look straight forward without majorly changing your posture. Brace your body by bending your knees. This will help stabilize your body as you row.  
  4. Now row the barbell towards your hips, somewhere in between your pelvis and your belly button.  

If you have access to a weightlifting belt, don’t be afraid to use it! It can help you brace to protect your spine and lower back.

By using a weightlifting belt, it will also increase the amount of inter-abdominal pressure, allowing for explosive workouts.

Should I use lifting straps while rowing?

Using lifting straps can help you get a better mind muscle connection

If you have problems with forearm grip, you may want to look into using lifting straps. Lifting straps are nothing to balk at either, and many look down on using them in the gym. With straps, you will be focusing less on your forearm work and can really concentrate on the contraction of your lats. Your grip can be the limiting factor in lifts like rows and pull-ups, making it difficult to complete sets later in the workout.

You want to use your hands as hooks with any back work exercise.

If you want to focus on the mind-muscle connection and less so on your forearms, I recommend these lifting straps from Amazon:

Great value and they don’t burn your wrists either. I use those specific straps all the time in the gym, from rows to farmers walks.

How many reps do I do for the Yates Row?

This is the age-old question: how many reps should I do for the best back growth? There really is no 100% correct answer, and this goes for any group of muscles. Some muscles respond better to high-volume training, while some other muscles grow when you overload it with weight.

A compound exercise like a barbell row is very fatiguing as well, it’s not something your body can take doing all day. Systemic fatigue can build up, and you’re tired before you finish your third set.

As I mentioned earlier in the article, your back is made up of many muscles. It’s a large muscle group that required different angles and approaches to hit everything equally. As such, each muscle requires its own specialized training.

Your lats best respond to both high volume training, as well as heavyweight exercises. The trapezius muscle best responds to heavy-ass weight with a full contraction.

With that in mind, you’ll want to aim between 6-12 reps with a minimum of 3 sets. If you aim for 12 reps and fall short with 10 reps, you’re still in the range you want to be in.

What about the Yates Row and Smith Machine?

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The smith machine has its place in exercises, but the Yates row isn’t one of them. You can’t entirely hinge and row the bar towards your hips on the smith machine.

For an alternative, you’re better off doing a bent over row with your chest facing the floor. Row the bar towards your chest, flare your elbows, and you’ll nail your traps and rear delts.

Yates Row vs T Bar Row

These are two different back exercises that use different muscle groups of your back.

The T Bar row will primarily hit your back with an emphasis on upper and lower traps, rear delts and teres major.

As opposed to the Yates row which will hit the lower part of your lats. Both exercises work your back but in different areas. This is mainly due to the hand placement (wide vs narrow, underhand vs overhand).

What about high reps with the Yates Row?

If you want to really pump up your back and fill it with blood, drop the weight to a comfortable amount and let’s aim for 15-20 reps with at least 4 sets. Really concentrate on the stretch of your lats on the way down, as well as on the way up.

Since you’ll be in the higher rep range, do not sacrifice form to complete this exercise.

You can seriously injure your lower back if you’re not careful with this hard-hitting exercise. Remember not to lean too far forward when rowing, otherwise, this will put unnecessary strain on your lower back and also spine. Especially during back exercises, you will want to protect your spine at any cost (you only have one of them!).

For an added bonus, place your hands an inch past shoulder width.

On the way up, flair your rhomboids by pointing your elbows up the wall. This is a fantastic alternative to hit your traps and rear delts at the same time.

This will allow you to hit a different group of muscles using the same exercise, simply just by changing where you place your hands on the barbell.

Conclusion

Follow the steps I outlined and I guarantee it will contribute to your back development. If you’re looking to change up your back routine, check out Meadows Rows as well. Now get out there, load up some plates and start rowing!