There is no one-size-fits-all best grip for the bent-over barbell row, whether you’re a woman or a man.
But there are guidelines for getting the most out of this back-dominant compound exercise.
A variety of grips can be used for the bent-over barbell row, which has gained popularity among women.
The bent-over barbell row works the following muscles:
• Middle and lower back/core
• Biceps, forearms, shoulders
Because the forearm muscles are involved, the gripping action is important.
As women become stronger via an overall strength training regimen, their grip will become stronger.
When a woman becomes fatigued enough to stop her set of bent-over barbell rows, it isn’t because she lost her grip.
It’s because the larger upper-body muscles involved with the movement have become depleted.
Women who love the deadlift know that sometimes, the grip of one or both hands gives out, forcing an end to the set.
They also know that a mixed grip (one hand over, one hand under) makes it possible to pull more weight and/or more reps, and virtually solves the problem of losing the grip.
So the first grip variation for the bent-over barbell row is the mixed grip. Few people think to do this, but give it a try. If it works so well for the deadlift, why not the bent-over barbell row?
The mixed grip will greatly help alleviate any problems a woman has with “burning” wrists or wrists that feel weak when doing the bent-over barbell row. A mixed grip will also allow for a heavier weight.
Other Grips for the Bent-Over Barbell Row
Most people are seen using an overhand (pronated) grip. This is fine and shifts emphasis onto the forearms and away from the biceps.
Widening the grip will bring in more of the lats, teres minor and infraspinatus (the last two being rotator cuff muscles).
You may also want to try an underhand (supinated) grip (first image). This shifts emphasis away from the forearms and onto the biceps.
You can do all three mentioned here or stick with your favorite one or two, but here’s a fourth type of grip: thumbless.
This will strengthen the other four fingers. In fact, take this a step further and use only your index, middle and ring fingers.
You’ll need to use a lighter weight, but this will force your fingers to become stronger than if you were only using all five fingers.
FatGripz are rubber devices that you easily slip onto a bar to increase the diameter of the bar.
The bigger the diameter, the less your hand/fingers can wrap around it.
This means your grip must work harder to lift the same amount of weight. Slip on FatGripz at the point of the bar where you’d normally place your hands.
Then do a set (at the weight you normally use) and note how much more difficult it is to hold onto the bar as the set progresses.
You will really feel it in your forearms. Squeeze the FatGripz as tightly as you can.
You will need to reduce the resistance to complete the same number of reps if you normally use a weight that makes more than 8-12 reps impossible.
Summary of Bent-Over Barbell Row Grip Options for Women
There is no “best” option; only what works best for you and your goals.
But I’d say the best thing is to mix up these options rather than sticking with just one all the time. And try the FatGripz. FatGripz aren’t just for men
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.