The Bent Over Row is a great exercise and when done properly, there is none better to work the back and some static work for the legs but the Reverse Row is a far safer option. The Reverse Row is also better for teaching clients to concentrate on getting their shoulder blades together and therefore is a great prerequisite for doing Pull Ups. So if you compare these exercises –
- The safety factor is one of the key reasons I prefer to use it with clients as there is a greater chance of lower back strain using the Bent Over Row. Also it is another vehicle to teach a Supine Plank as the major area to build strength for most people who are starting out with a Resistance regime is their weakness in the Core. Reverse Row is a better option in teaching them to stabilize their Core.
- The biggest fault with the Bent Over Row that most people make other than rounding their back is that they do not complete the movement fully. This is due to them not being able to contract the muscles between their shoulder blades (called Rhomboid muscles) and this is a fault in most people not being able to do a full Pull Up (in that they only lift their chin to the bar). So the Reverse Row is a more concentrated movement in teaching them to squeeze their shoulder blades together, push their elbows towards the floor and complete the movement properly by touching their chest to the bar. (See second picture above).
- The Reverse Row is sometimes confused with a variation of the Bent Over Row with a Reverse Grip (palms facing towards the body as in the picture below). But even though you can use various grips with either exercise you get a more complete movement by using an Over Grasp Grip (palms facing away from the body). With the Reverse Row there is less tendency for someone using momentum to fully pull their chest to the bar as compared to the the Bent Over Row where they will shorten the movement by pulling the bar to their lower abdominals. This cuts out using their Rhomboid muscles where, in touching their chest to the bar in the Reverse Row, it forces them to use these muscles. The reason it is so important is in a balanced development of strength and in better posture. Because we spend more time in the sitting position in our working day these days there is more likelihood of developing a rounded Upper Back so teaching people to work these muscles is very important as part of general health.
- There are more variations in using the Reverse Row as compared with the Bent Over Row, the ultimate variation would be placing your feet on a Swiss Ball while performing a Reverse Row, which destabilizes the movement and increases its intensity.You can do a Bent Over Row on a Wobble Board to create the same effect, but it is a far more dangerous exercise to perform.
Obviously you can introduce the Bent Over exercise into your resistance exercise program, but only after ensuring that the Core muscles are functioning properly and use an Over Grasp Grip at first rather than the variation demonstrated below.