Meadows Row Exercise: Build Back Muscle and Correct Imbalance
Table of Contents
- What Is the Meadows Row Exercise?
- Meadows Row: Muscles Worked
- Benefits of Meadows Rows
- How to Do the Meadows Row
- Common Mistakes to Avoid During The Meadows Row
- Meadows Row Alternatives & Variations
- Meadows Row vs. Barbell Row
- Final Words
Rows are the quintessential exercise for building and sculpting your back, but not all rowing exercises are the same. If you’ve been looking for a unique row exercise to correct imbalances while building muscle and strength without any extra stress on the spine, Meadows rows might be the best movement you’re not doing.
This article will bring you up to speed on the benefits, technique, and muscles used during this row variation. We’ll also cover how it differs from traditional row exercises like the bent-over barbell row or single-arm bench row.
What Is the Meadows Row Exercise?
The Meadows row is a unique upper-body pulling exercise that is widely considered one of the best back-building movements. This exercise leverages the use of a barbell, a landmine, and weight plates for resistance.
What Is a (Barbell) Landmine? A landmine is an attachment for the barbell, usually found in the corners of the gym. It allows you to put one end of the barbell inside while freely moving the other without the risk of it rolling away.
What Are Some of the Characteristics of Meadows Row?
- Meadows rows are generally performed in a standing position, although half-kneeling variations do exist.
- The arc of motion is slightly different than other rowing exercises but despite the difference, many people find the Meadows row to be easier and more fluid.
- This rowing variation can be programmed on a total body training day or as part of a body part split.
Given its simple set-up and safe execution, the Meadows row is easy for beginners, intermediate, and advanced trainees to do.
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Meadows Row: Muscles Worked
The Meadows Row is a powerful exercise for building muscle due to the number of muscles worked during each repetition.
This exercise is brilliant for building the middle back muscles; however, the upper body as a whole plays a part in moving the barbell from the ground to shoulder height.
The primary muscles that contribute to this movement include:
- Rotator cuff
- Posterior deltoids
The secondary muscles used during this exercise include:
- Core musculature
You might notice the muscles worked in the Meadows row exercise are very similar to other back-building barbell and dumbbell row variations.
There are many exercise variations of the horizontal pulling movement pattern that provide a similar training effect but use subtle differences in a range of motion, equipment, body position, etc.
Benefits of Meadows Rows
The following benefits of the Meadows row exercise show why it is one of the most effective back-building movements in fitness:
Unilateral Strength Training
Meadows rows are performed as a unilateral (single-sided) exercise, and unilateral training is fantastic for identifying and correcting strength imbalances between the right and left sides of the body.
Working the body one side at a time allows you to deliver a consistent training stimulus between the two sides of the body, preventing the possibility of overcompensation by the dominant side.
This can also help promote healthy posture, build a stronger core, and reinforce functional movement patterns.
Improves Grip Strength
One of the most notable differences between the Meadows row and traditional rowing exercises is the thickness of the barbell.
Instead of using the middle of the barbell where the knurling is, you will grip the end of the barbell, which is significantly thicker.
This thick grip has the added benefit of challenging and strengthening your grip. This will translate well to other exercises where grip strength is essential, like the Farmer’s Walk.
Safer For You
We’re still surprised at the number of people doing those old-school single-arm rows over a bench.
Not only is this a completely unnatural movement for your body, but according to some fitness experts like Jeff Cavaliere, it can also increase your risk for developing a hernia. This risk also increases as you raise your weight load. So, what to do?
Opt for a safer row like the Meadows row, which doesn’t require a bench or putting one side of the body on another piece of fitness equipment.
If you perform the exercise correctly, the Meadows row is also safer for the spine.
How to Do the Meadows Row
Meadows rows are a great exercise for both beginners and weightlifting veterans because of the ease of set-up, simple technique cues, and overall effectiveness.
- Position a barbell into a landmine apparatus or wedge one end into the corner of a wall.
- Load plates on the barbell.
- Stagger your stance with the end of the barbell positioned in the middle of the front foot.
- Flex at the hips and hinge forward.
- Reach down to grab the end of the barbell.
- Pull the barbell to the inside hip, keeping the elbow close to the body.
- The working side hand should rise until it’s at the waist or slightly above.
- Lower down with control.
Common Mistakes to Avoid During The Meadows Row
Like any exercise, there are a few common mistakes to be on the lookout for with Meadows rows. Here’s an overview of each and how to correct them.
Cheating the Reps
It’s essential to avoid compensating to complete your reps. If you are struggling and using momentum, that is a sure sign that the weight being used is too heavy.
If this is the case, we recommend decreasing the weight enough so that you can perform the exercise with a full range of motion. The working arm should be the only body part moving during this exercise.
Rounding Your Back
While performing Meadows rows, you should have a neutral spine, tall chest, and forward gaze.
If your back is rounded, try lowering the weight and focusing on tightening your core.
Controlled reps using the target muscles will lead to the best results. Slowing down the eccentric (lowering) phase of the exercise increases the time under tension and helps the muscles build mass and strength.
If you cannot control the eccentric portion for at least two seconds, decrease the weight.
Meadows Row Alternatives & Variations
What if you want to include multiple types of rows in your training program besides just Meadows rows? Luckily, there are several alternative exercises to Meadows rows that deliver comparable training stimulus and benefits.
The list below highlights rowing movements that use a cable machine, dumbbells, barbells, and suspension trainers.
Low Cable Row
- Sit down on the machine and place your feet on the front platform.
- Flex your knees and maintain the natural alignment of your back as you lean forward and grab the handles.
- Pull the handles toward the abdominals with the torso at 90 degrees in relation to the legs.
- Keep the torso stationary and squeeze the shoulder blades.
- Slowly bring the handles back toward the machine.
Sets / Reps:
- 3 to 5 sets of 8 repetitions
T-Bar Landmine Rows
- Position a barbell into a landmine attachment or the corner of a wall.
- Load plates onto one end of the barbell.
- Straddle the barbell slightly wider than the shoulder-width stance, hips flexed, and chest over the toes.
- Grip the T-handle and lift the barbell off the floor 8 to 10 inches.
- Using both arms, pull the barbell/weight plates toward the chest with the elbows moving behind the body.
- Stop when the hands are near the torso.
- Slowly lower the weight down until the elbows are straight.
Sets / Reps:
- 3 to 5 sets of 8 reps
- You can perform this exercise using a Smith Machine, suspension trainer, or gymnastics rings.
- Whichever you choose, arrange the equipment so that you can lie on the ground, reach up, and grab the bar, handles, or rings.
- Elevate the feet onto a box or chair, gripping your hands on a sturdy waist-height surface.
- Starting with elbows straight, pull your chest toward the hands, pause at the top, and lower back down slowly until the elbows are straight.
- 3 to 5 sets of 8 reps
Meadows Row vs. Barbell Row
While the Meadows row and traditional barbell row have several similarities and differences, we would argue that neither exercise is superior to the other.
Most importantly, both can and should be included in a workout program since the exercises complement each other and will help you in building a solid and muscular back. Incorporating each in your training will keep workouts fresh and muscle growth consistent.
The fundamental similarities between the traditional barbell row and Meadows row are that you’re using a barbell for each exercise, and there’s an overlap in the muscles used since both are pulling motions.
Beyond that, these rows are two very different exercises that are great for focusing on the development and growth of your back muscles.
Differences between these exercises include the following:
Unilateral vs. Bilateral
The Meadows row is a unilateral exercise where you work one side of the body at a time. Traditional barbell rows, on the other hand, are bilateral since you are pulling with both hands, working both sides of the body at the same time.
Both of these types of training are important for the optimal development of functional movement patterns.
Arc of Motion
The loading on the Meadows row is angled, providing a natural path of motion for the shoulder and limiting stress to the lower back.
The arc of motion during a traditional bent-over row is up and back, making it more difficult as most people tend to overload the barbell, limiting their range of motion. We recommend dropping the weight enough so that you’re able to squeeze the shoulder blades, not the stomach, as you lift the weight to your solar plexus.
During a Meadows row, you’re gripping the furthest end of the barbell on the knurling using a pronated grip (overhand). This changes both the knurling and grip challenge of a barbell. Gripping the end provides you with a significantly larger diameter (compared to the middle shaft of the barbell) to grab onto, which will challenge the grip in a significant way.
Although traditional barbell rows often use a supine or pronated hand position, most prefer supinated. While the thickness of the middle of the barbell is smaller than that of the end, people tend to go heavier on bent-over rows, presenting a different kind of challenge to the grip.
Amount of Weight Used
Naturally, a one-sided exercise will not allow you to move the same amount of weight as a two-handed exercise, but that doesn’t make it any less effective.
The Meadows row is excellent for challenging more than the target muscles; you’ll also improve your neuromuscular connections, stability, and core strength.
For the bent-over row, each repetition uses both arms pulling at the same rate. Because of the bilateral nature of this exercise, you can use more weight. However, it’s important to note that if you go too heavy, you can add stress to the lower back, especially if you have poor form.
Including a variety of pulling exercises in a workout routine will offset pushing exercises, which tend to be more common in our day-to-day routine. For example, typing at a computer or texting on a phone is an example of a forward (pushing) movement. Without pulling exercises, you can develop postural distortions like “text neck” which is a forward rounding of the shoulders.
Rowing exercises like the Meadows row also build a strong and muscular back while supporting healthy posture.
Despite being used by many long-time lifters, lots of beginners also enjoy Meadows rows because they are easy to learn, practical to incorporate into any back routine, and effective for developing the back.
- Great for beginners
- Improves grip strength
- Effective for building muscle
- Safe for your shoulders and back
- Emphasizes unilateral training benefits
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