Kroc Rows 101: How to Do Them Properly?

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: November 24, 2023
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Kroc rows are excellent heavy dumbbell-pulling variations used to develop power and strength in the upper back muscles.

It is crucial to perform Kroc rows in your back training if you are an athlete, competitive bodybuilder, or powerlifter looking to develop serious feet of strength.

Based on my experience as a certified personal trainer and 20-hour research, I pulled the most important information regarding the Kroc rows technique, its benefits, and variations you can use.

After reading the article, you will know how to perform Kroc rows, their benefits, and the best alternatives you can use in your back training to grow traps and lats.

Quick Summary

  • To perform Kroc rows correctly, you must hinge forward, place one knee forward for better balance, perform biceps flex and shoulder extension, and keep your abdominal muscles active during the whole exercise.
  • Athletes and powerlifters widely use the Kroc row and belong to the horizontal pull movement pattern.
  • If you want to build serious back strength and power, add Kroc rows into your back workouts since they are the best-pulling variation in building explosive strength in the horizontal pulling movement patterns.

What Is the Kroc Row?

A person doing Kroc rows at the gym

The Kroc row is a unilateral rowing exercise targeting the upper body muscles such as the trapezius, posterior deltoid, and latissimus dorsi.

Kroc rows were invented by a professional powerlifter and bodybuilder Matthew Kroczaleski looking for a way to perform heavy-weight rows without injuring himself and still experiencing the hypertrophy and strength benefits.

This is how the Kroc rows were born, and when performing the same, ho w much weight you use is the most important thing.

The smaller range of motion at the shoulder joint and compensatory movements of the whole body will allow you to lift more weights.

There is no point in performing high-reps/small-weight Kroc rows because the nature of the exercise is to use as much weight as possible to help develop power and strength.

"Did you know you can increase back strength by doing back rows? Of course, you did. However, did you know that a stronger back is at the root of nearly every “strength” movement in strength, power, and fitness sports?"

- Mike Dewar, Certified Personal Trainer

How to Do the Kroc Row

A person doing Kroc Row workouts at the gym

To execute Kroc rows correctly, you can use any amount of weight, but there is little to no point in using smaller weights because this lift aims to build explosive strength and develop hypertrophy [1].

However, if you are doing Kroc rows for the first time, I would advise using a smaller weight to get the feeling of performing the technique correctly and without injuries.

Here is how to do the Kroc rows:

  1. Pick a dumbbell of the appropriate weight. If you are doing them for the first time, pick 40% of your one rep max, and if you are more experienced, feel free to pick more than 87.5% of your 1 rep max.
  2. Place the flat weight bench or a ply box with a height of your hips.
  3. Place the dumbbell on the ground in front of the plyo box and put your non-working arm (in this instance, left) on the plyo box.
  4. Put your left leg in front and your right leg back so your right knee is almost fully extended. This is the three-point starting position of the Kroc row.
  5. Start the exercise by picking the heavy dumbbell from the floor with your right hand.
  6. Start rowing the dumbbell with your right arm towards your hips. When you start to row, use the power of your whole body to move the dumbbell faster and closer to your body.
  7. Pulling the dumbbell with your right hand, compensate with your body by leaning backward and then explosively running your body towards the dumbbell to shorten the distance it needs to travel until the end range of motion.
  8. Immediately bring back the dumbbell to the starting position and repeat for no more than 5 reps if you are doing the set for building strength and power.

Form Considerations When Doing the Kroc Row

A person doing Kroc Row muscle workouts at the gym

There is no proper form when doing Kroc rows because the exercise was created to feature the compensatory elements to lift more weights.

However, I advise you to ensure a couple of things with each repetition to stay safe and avoid injuries.

The first rule is always keeping your back straight and in line with your head.

Placing your spine in a compromising position should never be the intent of an exercise [2]. You can experience severe back problems, setting you back from working out months ahead.

In addition, you should never do Kroc rows last in your workout session because you will often overtrain and not purposefully place your body in a compromising position [3].

When you lack focus, energy, and concentration, your body will do everything to execute the movement, but it won’t care how it got to complete it.

Also, never fully extend the back leg in Kroc rows because you may hurt your anterior or posterior knee ligaments.

Always slightly flex your knee to ensure the cartilage and ligaments remain safe.

Kroc Row Muscles Worked

A person with good trap and back muscles flexing outside

The Kroc rows will target the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and posterior deltoid muscles. It is similar to the regular unilateral pulling variations, but the Kroc row differs in one thing.

You will use the momentum of your whole body to complete the movement.

This will force additional muscles and joints in your body to work together and execute the movement.

If you perform the compensatory lift with your torso, the additional muscles that get activated are hip extensors [4].

These muscles will allow the momentum to be created for the horizontal pulling motion that follows. Hip extensors include the glutes, hams, and erector spinae.

In addition, the shoulder stabilizer muscles of both working and non-working arms will help stabilize the body while the horizontal pulling motion is being executed.

Benefits of Kroc Row

A person with good back muscles flexing

Here are the most notable benefits of Kroc rows.

Better Upper Back Muscle Development

The most important benefit of doing Kroc rows is the strength and hypertrophy you develop.

Kroc rows are performed almost always with heavy weight, forcing your upper body back muscles such as traps, lats, and delts to develop and grow.

However, like with any other exercise, if you want to ensure continual muscle development, always use the principle of progressive overload [5].

This means increasing the reps, sets, or intensity for each following lifting session.

Read More: Best Upper Back Exercises

Increases Grip Strength

If you do heavy reps with dumbbells, you will increase your grip strength.

The more weight you try to pull, the stronger your forearm muscles must be to keep the dumbbell in your hands and balanced.

Heavy reps with Kroc rows will ensure proper forearm development and boost grip strength almost immediately.

Correcting Strength Imbalance Between Sides

A person with proportional muscles doing dead hangs

Unilateral exercises are the best for correcting muscle imbalances across the whole body.

For instance, if you have thoracic or lumbar scoliosis, you will be asked by a qualified practitioner and therapist to strengthen one side of your body and stretch the other [6].

This is only possible if you incorporate meaningful and logical unilateral exercises.

For example, if your right shoulder is slightly lower than your left, you may perform unilateral variations of specific exercises to correct your posture and balance out the shoulders.

These are the main principles of kinesitherapy, the science of healing your body through movement.

Improved Spine and Core Strength

Heavy Kroc rows require serious abdominal and hip extensor strength.

Abdominal muscles such as rectus abdominis, obliquus internus, externus, and transversus abdominis are all necessary to keep your spine fixed and prevent injuries.

On the other side, the hip extensor muscles, as mentioned earlier, are necessary to help the compensatory movement of Kroc rows to execute effectively.

Also Read: Best Core Exercises for Men and Women

Kroc Row Programming

A gym coach writing down on a clipboard at the gym

To incorporate proper programming with Kroc rows, here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Strength - To program Kroc rows for strength, you must use strength training principles such as progressive overload and advised sets, reps, rest intervals, and basic supercompensation principles. The range of reps you should aim for is between 1-5. The number of sets is not less than 4. Rest intervals should be set between 2 and 5 minutes.
  • Power - To program for power, you must follow the same principles as for strength, but you should lift a slightly lighter weight and aim to move the dumbbell at the greatest velocity possible. The sets and rest intervals remain the same, but you shouldn’t perform more than 3 reps since everything above that isn’t as powerful and has enough velocity to evoke power effects.

You should allow up to 48 hours of rest for the same muscle group before hitting them with the new workout session.

"A big, strong back is a statement. Whether you want to look more muscular, perform better under the barbell, or simply feel better on a day-to-day basis, you need to train your back, and you need to do it properly."

- Austin Current, Certified Personal Trainer

Kroc Row Alternatives

A person at the gym preparing to do Kroc Rows

Here are the best Kroc row alternatives.

Single-Arm Dumbbell Bent Over Rows

These are essentially very similar to Kroc rows, but they don’t feature the compensatory movement for the torso.

How to Perform a Single-Arm Dumbbell Bent Over Rows

  1. Pick a dumbbell of appropriate weight so you can perform up to 8 reps without resting.
  2. Place a plyo box as high as your hips in front of you.
  3. Place the dumbbell in front of the box and put your left arm on the plyo box to have a stable base.
  4. Your right foot should be slightly extended backward and your left foot closer to the box.
  5. Start the exercise by lifting the dumbbell and rowing it towards your right hip.
  6. When the dumbbell reaches the level of your hips, hold that position for one second and reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for 8 reps, 4 sets, and rest for 3 minutes between the sets.

Related: Best Dumbbell Exercises: Workout Routine to Build Muscle

Seated Twisting Cable Row

A person doing Seated Twisting Cable Rows at the gym

Seated twisting cable rows are excellent for hitting all three planes of motion, including the transverse plane.

How to Perform Seated Twisting Cable Rows

  1. Load your favorite cable machine with the appropriate weight to perform at least 6 rows with one hand.
  2. Sit at the cable machine and attach the machine in your right hand.
  3. Start the exercise by pulling the cable towards your middle torso, slightly above your hips.
  4. When the cable approaches your stomach, twist your trunk on the right side and pull the handle.
  5. When you reach the end range of motion, reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for 6 reps with each hand, 3 sets, and rest for 2 minutes between each set.

Related Posts:

Single-Arm Dead-Stop Row

The dead-stop row is a good alternative to save your grip strength.

This is useful if you have multiple pulling exercises, one after another, and you wish to have enough forearm strength for each.

How to Perform Single-Arm Dead-Stop Rows

  1. Pick the dumbbell of appropriate weight so you can perform up to 8 reps.
  2. Use the same setup as for the first alternative exercise and assume the three-point starting position.
  3. Start the exercise by rowing the dumbbell towards your right hip.
  4. When the dumbbell reaches the level of your right hip, reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
  5. Put the dumbbell on the floor and repeat the whole process.
  6. Repeat for 8 reps, 4 sets, and rest for 90 seconds between the sets.


Who Is the Inventor of Kroc Row?

The inventor of the Kroc rows is the bodybuilder and powerlifter named Mathew Kroczaleski. Jim Wandler, the powerlifter and inventor of the world-famous 5/3/1 training system, saw Mathewy perform a unique rowing variation, which later got named the Kroc rows.

What Is a 3 Point Row?

The three-point row is a single-arm dumbbell row variation that requires three holding points. Usually, you will use an adjustable incline bench, flat bench, a dumbbell rack, or a plyo box to put one hand on and the feet behind, acting as the three-point row system.

Are Dumbbell Rows Good?

Yes, dumbbell rows are good. Regular single-arm rows and bilateral Kroc rows are excellent upper-body strengthening exercises that induce hypertrophy for shoulder blades, posterior deltoids, trapezius, and latissimus dorsi muscles.


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