Should You Barbell Row As Much As You Bench Press?

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Last updated on August 25th, 2023 at 04:45 pm

You’ll often hear about the chest/back balance, which is probably why you’re wondering whether you should row as much as you bench.

So, I would hazard a guess the reason you’re thinking about this is that there’s quite a difference between how much you bench and row.

But, is this really something you should be worrying about?

Should you be doing more of one exercise and less of the other?

Allow me to explain what you need to know about rows and bench press.

Most people will typically row 12-21% less weight than they bench. The main reason for this is that your body is braced and supported by the bench whenever you bench press. A better comparison would be the incline bench press to the bent over row. If you find that you can row as much as you bench, this may indicate “cheating”, typically caused by starting rows with momentum from your legs.

You Should Bench Press More Weight Than You Row

That’s right! You should actually bench press more than you row.

In fact, according to’s comparison between bent over rows and bench press, men should be rowing up to 12-21% less weight, whereas women should be rowing up to 18-21% less weight.

A better comparison would actually be between the incline bench press and bent over row.

There are 3 main reasons why you flat bench more than you row, and I’ll cover these now.

Bench Press is “Supported”

When you bench press your body is braced and also supported by a sturdy bench.

However, when you perform bent over rows you have to leverage your lower back to provide support.

In effect, you simply have to lie on a bench, then lower and then press a barbell upwards when you bench press.

Okay, I’ll admit there’s more to it than that, but you could almost say that the bench press exercise is actually aided by the bench.

However, when it comes to rows, it’s just you and the barbell.

So, the only form of stabilisation you get with rows is provided by your lower back, and there’s only so much that it can do.

Do You Bench Press More Often Than you Row?

Whether you want to admit it or not, most people will prioritize the bench press over rows.

Let’s face facts, the bench press is the most “bro” lift there is, i.e. “How Much Do You Bench Bro?”

For some reason we are all attracted to the bench press and it’s probably one of the most performed exercises in the gym environment.

Realistically, we should pull approximately twice as much as we push, but in truth, this rarely happens.

So, it’s a simple cumulative effect over time – the exercise you perform more often is generally the one you’ll get stronger at.

Bench Press Back Arch and Leg Drive

Now, some people will say that arching your back and driving with your legs when benching is cheating.

But, it certainly isn’t, and these are both legitimate ways to help you bench more weight.

Okay, there may be a case for overdoing it, but you can still use both these things to help provide leverage whenever you bench press.

Unfortunately, there is nothing similar that you can do when rowing, and if you did, I would consider this cheating.

Are You “Cheating” in an Attempt to Row More?

Now, even though I’ve said that we should all bench more than we row, there are those who claim that this isn’t true.

In fact, there are even people who say that they actually row more than they bench press.

However, simple physiology and biomechanics tells us that it would be extremely difficult to achieve this.

I will actually go as far to say that those who row more than they bench press will be cheating.

Basically, when you perform bent over rows, you will activate the legs, glutes, and hips to some effect.

This simply comes down to your body position.

But, you can actually create momentum by starting rows with your legs.

Sometimes this may not even be noticeable to you, but I can guarantee that anyone watching will immediately see it.

Once you get yourself into the bent over row position your body should stay completely still.

The only movement will be in your hands and arms.

However, I will say that you should always lead with your elbows, rather than your hands, when you row.

Nevertheless, you’ll often see people perform a slight “bounce” movement when they row.

This is simply momentum being created by their legs, and unfortunately means that you’re not rowing with strict form.

I will also say that I frequently see people stop the barbell about 3-4 inches away from their chest when rowing.

This is about the time that the smaller, stabilising muscles need to retract the shoulder blades, and the lats go into full contraction.

So, if you’re someone who’s stopping just short of your chest when you row, this indicates either a weakness in the lats and stabilising muscles, or that you’re rowing with too much weight.

The One-Arm Dumbbell Row Anomaly

Things are a little different with the one-arm dumbbell row.

I would hazard a guess that most people one-arm row more than they dumbbell bench press.

If not, it’s more or less equal.

Additionally, you’ll typically find that when the weight of your one-arm row is doubled that this is very close to your flat bench press weight, if not more.

However, you have to consider that the one-arm dumbbell row is also supported, much like the bench press, which explains this “anomaly”.

When you one-arm row you’ll typically have one hand and one knee on a bench.

This now means that the row is supported and braced by a bench rather than your lower back.

I will also say that it’s easier to cheat with one-arm rows than it is with bent over barbell rows.

I’ve already mentioned the momentum that is typically created by the legs to “cheat” the barbell row.

However, as your body weight is supported during one-arm rows you can use momentum and body English much more safely.

The same use of body English during barbell rows will usually involve using the lower back.

And you definitely don’t want to be using your lower back to help you row more weight.

Are Your Forearms & Grip Affecting Your Row?

Something else to consider is your forearm and grip strength.

And this is especially true if there’s a huge disparity between how much you row and how much you bench.

I’ve mentioned the 12-13% difference, as quoted by, but I’m sure there are many of you who notice a greater discrepancy between the two lifts.

For the vast majority of us, our forearms and grip will fail well before our back muscles.

So, in effect, your mind tells you to put the weight down, and this is well before your back has even been tested.

In other words, you may not be rowing with the same intensity as you bench.

I know that many people use wrist wraps when they row, although personally, I’ve never been a fan.

You may also find that your grip is affected if you don’t deadlift regularly.

Plus, many of us hardly ever train our forearms and grip.

Whereas, those who do regularly train them, do so in an attempt to help with the big compound lifts, e.g. deadlifts and bent over rows.

So, it could be the case that your bench press is regularly improving, but your back is never trained with the same intensity.

Therefore, your back muscles will stay the same strength, or perhaps, get even weaker.

Final Thoughts

So, as you can see, you should actually be benching more than you row.

In fact, it is estimated that you should row approximately 12-21% less weight than you bench.

There are various reasons for this, although the most common is simply that your body is braced and supported when you bench press.

Additionally, you have the option to use back arch and leg drive when you bench, and most people typically bench press more often than they row.

So, you could say that bent over rows are the more “strict” of the two movements.

If you find that you are rowing an equal, or perhaps even more, weight than you bench, this could be down to poor form and the use of body English.

Then again, if you row significantly less weight than you bench press, this may point to weak lats, forearms, or grip.

If you want to take your muscle-building, strength, and even fat loss to the next level then you want to check out the workout program created by fitness entrepreneur and bodybuilder, Frank Rich, Massthetic Muscle.

1 thought on “Should You Barbell Row As Much As You Bench Press?”

  1. Hey Partha, you have opened up my eyes to this one. I was under the impression that after legs the back was the next strongest body part, then chest, shoulders and arms.

    However, when I think about it when using the static row machine where my chest is placed against the bench I am not able to row as much as I can with the cable row machine. I suppose as you say there is a bit of cheating going on with the rest of the body helping out to get bent rows and the like a little momentum.

    I would say though that the lats are considerably larger than the pecs and when developed properly look amazing, just look at Lee Haney or the current Mr. Olympia Big Ramy. So it’s most important to put in as much effort to develop them as well as the more favored pecs.


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