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Row Variations for a Big Back and Monster Grip

Rows for a Big Back and Grip

Hey everybody.

Recently, I ran a poll on my Facebook page and I wanted to see which of three videos you preferred.

Between “Never before Seen Sledge hammer Exercise,” Row Variations for a Big back and Grip,” and “How to Bench without Nagging Wrist Pain,” Rows for Back and Grip won out by a solid margin!

Thanks for voting, and make sure to add me as a friend on Facebook, because I plan on doing this more down the line.

Rows are an excellent exercise for packing on muscle on your back. This muscle not only helps fill up your tee shirt, but it also helps balance out the strength ratio between your pushing and pulling power, helping you maintain better shoulder health.

But many do not realize that Rows can also be used to build Grip Strength. Especially if you have access to a variety of handles, you can use Rows to load up your lats, as well as strengthening your hands and Forearms.

Equipment Used

Loadable Dumbbell (Olympic Plates)

My favorite implement to use for heavy side rows is a normal loadable dumbbell that takes Olympic plates. You can really load these up. As you will see in the video, I go from 112 to 212 lbs. I usually just load 25’s on it, as opposed to adding 10’s. I will usually hit 2 sets at each weight. The last set with 212 is only a partial range of motion. I pull it as high as I can without using a ton of body english and then get into the next variation.

Inch Dumbbell

Before my open hand strength gets too severely wasted, I go to the Inch Dumbbell. I don’t get my reps up as high as I want to in this clip. I’ve done a lot better in the past. When you try this or something similar, you will see that keeping a Grip on the handle while your elbow bends over the course of the range of motion is tougher. This increased challenge is what makes Rows with Grip Implements so great for athletes to do. It is very similar to a wrestler grabbing the wrist or ankle of his opponent and trying to pull it in close to him.

Plate Loadable Thick Handle Dumbbell

I’m not sure where i got this dumbbell, but the loading area is for standard plates. For that reason, I have three 25-lb plates loaded on each side and I never take them off. It’s more likely that you will train thick bar rows with something like this, since Inch Dumbbells are so hard to come by. You’ll notice right away it is much easier to deadlift a thick bar dumbbell than it is to row it, because of the elbow bending during the range of motion.

Shot Loadable Thick Handle Dumbbell

This dumbbell comes from Steve Slater at and it is awesome. The day I got it, I loaded it up with steel shot as heavy as I could get it. It’s roughly 127-lbs which makes it great for Rows and many other dynamic lifts like Hand-to-Hand Pops and Clean + Press. The lighter weight also allows you to get that open hand work in while also getting lots of reps, so some emphasis shifts back to the Back / Lats / Delts / etc.

No Thick Bar Implements?

If you don’t have the above equipment, you might try Fat Gripz. These handles pop right onto your dumbbells and barbells and provide a removable thick bar handle.

Also, if you join The Grip Authority, I’ll show you how to make an instant thick bar handle for less than $5 that are even tougher on the Grip than Fat Gripz.


A few things to remember when doing Rows like this:

  • Variety = Results: It is good perform a variety of movements. For instance, I sometimes use different handles with my Lat Machine for Pull-downs and Seated Rows.
  • Form is Key: I try to stick with good form. If I find myself having to throw the weight, I like to just shut the set down. This way I don’t jerk something loose in my shoulder and feel it for the next 6 months. Cheat reps are something you will have to decide upon yourself, but I don’t like doing them anymore, myself.
  • Stick in a Heavy Set: I like to work in heavy sets, like the 212-lbs on the Olympic Loadable Handle and the Inch Dumbbell. Going super heavy like this makes everything else feel way lighter. I still stick with strict movement though, to avoid tweaking something.

Rows are awesome. I do them quite often in my training. I just love how they make me feel, and what the heck, if it feels good, do it, right?

All the best in your training.


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7 Responses to “Row Variations for a Big Back and Monster Grip”

  1. brent Says:

    great stuff. I think I have a habit of going too light on rows and it’s holding me back. I’ll be adding in some thick handle work and more weight after watching this.

  2. coach mike Says:

    Great post! Single arm rows are my all time favorite! But I do crazy version you did not list. I have a rope with a loop in the end that is about 30 inches off the ground.(adjust for height) I put my wrist through the loop so it takes grip out of the formula. My knee’s stay locked at 90 degree’s and torso stays tight. I am suspended facing up with my feet on the ground. Here is the hard part. Hold a dumbbell in the free hand at the shoulder.Make it as heavy as you can get a few reps(3-5). It forces you to use your abs like crazy. An Olympic rower showed me this move years ago. It rocks!

  3. Donnie Says:

    Awesome stuff, the new Grip4orce grips are insane also. The STIFF Grip4orce version will make your forearms scream for sure. I like these grips due to the increased challenge and also not bad to just squeeze on.
    Keep up the work man

  4. Jedd Johnson Says:

    That sounds seriously bad-ass bro.

  5. Mike T Nelson Says:

    Good stuff guys!

    Does anyone know where I can get a plate loaded DB handle?

    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  6. Jedd Johnson Says:

    I got mine from Dick’s.

  7. Isaac Says:

    Working out in below freezeing weather and haveing to wear thick gloves to protect from frost bite works? Also roleing a folded handtowl around the bar where you grip works pretty good too? Gripping something bigger helps, right?

    Thanks for the tip on the pvc. Thats something I will for sure do.

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