A: All exercises are dangerous if done with incorrect technique, but some are much higher risk than others. The freestyle barbell bent-over row is one of the highest-risk exercises because the torso isn’t supported and the lower back is excessively involved. It’s difficult to keep your lower back hollowed and secure once the weight becomes substantial—just a slight slip in technique can produce a nasty lower-back injury. And the wrist positioning it imposes isn’t ideal either. (The same problems exist with the unsupported T-bar row.)
Why take such a risk with those rows when there are safer effective alternatives? Use one-arm dumbbell rows with your disengaged hand braced on an incline bench, chest-supported machine rows or prone rows. (Use a narrow bench for prone rows—perhaps, with a slight incline to it—and dumbbells rather than a barbell for a full range of motion and the freedom to find the most comfortable wrist positioning for you.) With correct technique, all of those alternatives are much lower risk than the freestyle bent-over barbell row.
Editor’s note: Stuart McRobert’s first byline in IRON MAN appeared in 1981. He’s the author of the new BRAWN series, Book 1: How to Build Up to 50 Pounds of Muscle the Natural Way, available from Home Gym Warehouse (800) 447-0008 or www