Rows are an essential part of any good training program. While the bentover row is prescribed most often, it may not be the best variation for everyone.
The bentover row can put a great deal of stress on the lower back, partly because most people do it wrong. Some will turn it into a full-body pull rather than targeting just the back. We've all seen (and heard) that one guy in the gym aggressively pulling the barbell up to his neck.
A simple fix is to start with supported rows. Chest-supported rows, specifically, give you all the benefit of the row, but without the lower-back stress or injury risk, and it requires no additional set-up other than having an adjustable bench.
Barbell Chest-Supported Row
You can do the chest-supported row with a barbell or dumbbells. Just grab a bench. Set up the exact angle or position desired. This will allow you to build strength from specific joint positions and build up your back from several different angles to ensure balance.
Some other variations include:
Barbell Underhand Grip Chest-Supported Row
Dumbbell Chest-Supported Row
Dumbbell Single-Arm Chest-Supported Row
Dumbbell Alternating Chest-Supported Row
Dumbbell Opposite Iso Chest-Supported Row
Dumbbell Chest-Supported Isometric 6-1 Row
This is a great upper body finisher. The chest-supported position allows you to keep the movement honest and get the most out of each rep.
Begin by holding the dumbbells in an isometric squeeze at the top for 6 seconds. Then lower the dumbbells, do 1 rep, and row them back to the top isometric position for 5 seconds. You'll continue this, dropping a second per rep, until you've reached 1 second.
This series is brutal. You can also run through the series going from 8-1 or 10-1.
Cable Chest-Supported Row
Remember, rows are a must for anyone wanting to look and actually BE strong. The bentover row isn't a bad exercise, it just may not be the most appropriate. Try giving your row a little support and you might even find that you prefer the stricter, more isolated counterpart instead.