Here we go again with the undescriptive exercise names. The Yates row is a barbell bent-over row, but with your hands supinated (palms facing up). That’s basically it. It’s not called a “supinated bent over row” or “reverse bent over row” because it was popularized by the bodybuilding great, Dorian Yates. And I guess, we like to name things after people or Eastern European countries like the Bulgarian Split Squat.
However, while this is a simple change and I’m being snobby, this slight change can make a big difference in the exercise by targeting slightly different muscles.
Here’s a quick little demo if you don’t know what I mean.
Like all rows, especially one where you’re bent over, the main priority will be to set yourself into a stable position to protect your low back.
1. Approach the barbell with your feet hip-width apart
2. Brace your core like you’re about to get punched. This is key for protecting your lower back.
3. Hinge at your hips like a deadlift and pick up the bar with an underhand (supinated) grip.
4. Hinge at your hips again so your back is at about a 45-degree angle.
5. Initiate the movement by pinching your shoulder blades back
6. Keeping your shoulders down and back, pull your elbows back
7. For added contraction, pause at the top for 1-2 seconds, then lower it back down.
8. Repeat for 8-12 reps, as this is a good range for hypertrophy, which is the typical goal of Yates Row
9. At the end of your set, hinge your hips again like a deadlift and place the weight down. The last thing you want to do is tweak your back after doing the whole set with perfect form.
The common mistakes for Yates Row are the same as you’ll see for any bent-over row.
If you go too heavy, you’ll need to jerk the weight up. Slow down and reduce the weight.
In order to get to the top of the movement and get their elbow back further, trainees will dumb their shoulders forward in order to do so. Often this is subtle. That’s why it’s important to initiate the movement with the shoulder blades, and keep them pinched as you row up.
One of the downsides of any free weight row is the weight is harder to lift at the top, because for the row movement that’s where the muscles are weakest. That means we have a hard time feeling the movement at the top. If you’re having trouble activating the lats and getting the proper range of motion, check out this guide on lower lat training or this guide on how to improve your mind-muscle connection.
Rowing in general has all kinds of benefits that I won’t go into in too much detail here. Basically, rows are the main exercise to train our back, and just because you can’t see your back muscles, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train them. In fact, because of society we tend to underuse the back muscles and overuse the front shoulder and pec muscles which can lead to all kinds of problems. This is why we’ve gone as far as to make the case that you should row twice as much as you press.
If we’re specifically talking about the Yates Row, with the hands supinated, this is going to place more of the tension of your biceps and lats, and less on your rear deltoids. This is not necessarily better than a traditional row, it’s simply different. If you find you have a hard time contracting the lower lats, or are looking to target the biceps during your back training, the Yates Row is a great option for you. In general, I find this is most people, so I prefer it over the traditional barbell bent over row for almost everyone.
When we supinate our hands, our shoulders tend to retract. In fact, when we inhale, the natural downstream movements involve both of these actions, so they’re coupled together. Performing the Yates Row, you’ll be a little more upright, and this can help you pull the shoulder blades back, and improve your back contractions even more.
The underhand grip can be awkward for people, especially if you previously have wrist issues. That’s why I personally would prefer to use a dumbbell or TRX row rather than any kind of barbell row because you can rotate your grip as you row. This provides a bit more safety on your joints and also allow you to target the muscles at varying angles.
That said, if it’s comfortable, the Yates Row is a fantastic exercise, and generally a better choice than traditional bent-over rows because they facilitate a safer posture.
The Yates Row doesn’t need to be a staple of your training program. However, it can be great to use for a 4-12 week phase to give your body a new exercise. The key to breaking plateaus is to, well, do something different, and tackling the back muscles in a different way can do just that. For example, we include the Yates Row in one of the 4-week phases in The Super Hero Workout.
You can use a straight barbell. However, an EZ curl bar may feel more comfortable, especially if you have wrist problems. If the EZ curl bar also presents challenges, I would switch to a different row movement, like a dumbbell row or landmine row.
This is an it depends answer but I’d also probably not. Luckily, we have a whole article on everything you need to know about weightlifting belts.