post Meadows Row: How-To (Proper Form for a Sculpted Back)

Meadows Row: How-To (Proper Form for a Sculpted Back)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: January 27, 2024
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Many clients initially hesitate to try the Meadows row, but with correct technique, they often discover its superior effectiveness compared to the standard one-arm dumbbell row.

The key is in the precise setup of the Meadows row, which is essential for targeting the right muscles.

To assist, I've compiled a detailed guide on this unilateral exercise, complete with various Meadows row variations for added diversity in your workouts.

Quick Summary

  • The Meadows Row exercise, using a landmine setup and staggered stance, is designed to effectively target and build muscles in the upper back.
  • Proper execution involves a staggered stance with one end of the barbell secured in a landmine attachment, ensuring the activation of the correct muscle groups.
  • Slower movements during the Meadows Row increase muscle development and time under tension, as highlighted by research in The Journal of Physiology.
  • In my opinion, the Meadows Row is an invaluable addition to any strength training regimen, offering a unique combination of muscle engagement and versatility that is hard to match with other exercises.

How Do You Do The Meadows Row? 

A man doing meadows rows workout in the gym

In my coaching experience, I've found that using a staggered stance with a landmine attachment is key for a successful Meadows row.

Some people try to do it with a loose barbell, but this can cause the bar to slip and impact the muscles worked.

Here’s the correct way to do it:

  • Set up a one of the quality barbells for your home gym with a reasonable weight load at one end and the other end of the barbell secured by the landmine attachment.
  • Get into a staggered position with the forward leg and foot perpendicular to the bar.
  • With your knees slightly bent, lean forward and rest the outside elbow on your forward knee, getting yourself into a hinge position.
  • Use an overhand grip with the other hand to grab hold of the end of the barbell and start to engage your core.
  • At this stage, make sure you have a perfectly neutral spine alignment, as you don’t want to risk lower back injuries [1].
  • Pull the bar up as far as possible while pulling your shoulder blade back and flaring out your elbow (consider using lifting straps for heavy loads).
  • Hold it at the top of the movement for a second or two, and then slowly lower the bar back down again.
  • Make sure you make this a slow movement for better muscle development for a longer time under tension, according to The Journal of Physiology [2].
  • Aim to do three sets of six to ten reps to achieve maximum results.

Related post: John Meadows Workout and Diet: Review

What Muscles Do They Work?

A man with good back muscles

From what I've seen with my clients, the Meadows row is excellent for targeting the arms, shoulders, back, and legs.

Its unique starting position enables more comprehensive muscle development in both upper and lower body regions, unlike the single-arm dumbbell row.

Additionally, its unilateral nature challenges balance and core engagement. This adjustment in body positioning transforms it into a versatile compound rowing exercise.

My physio also gave me a rundown of the different muscles that you target:

  • Forearms: By having a larger weight and thicker bar, the Meadows row will have an impact on your grip strength [3].
  • Biceps: The upward pulling action will also flex your elbow joint, and that will engage the biceps.
  • Deltoid: Because of the forward leaning position, more of the force will transfer to the rear delts, according to the Physiopedia [4].
  • Lats: These are the muscles that run along the side of your torso, and you should feel these engage with the Meadows row variation because of the slight off-balance [5].
  • Traps: The trapezius is the muscle group at the upper center of the back, and unilateral exercises are a great way to fully engage it [6].
  • Erector Spinae: These are the long muscles running parallel to your spine, and strengthening them will improve your posture during exercises, according to the Physiopedia [7].
  • Quads and Glutes: Finally, you should start feeling the strain in your quads and glutes, especially in the forward leg, where the Meadows row should transfer most of the weight.

The reason I recommend these to a lot of bodybuilders is that the body position and movement should mean that there isn’t too much stress on the shoulder joints. 

And that should help to improve shoulder health and strength without doing damage.

Specifically beneficial for individuals with lower back concerns, the Meadows Row, when performed with proper technique, can strengthen the lower back muscles, aiding in injury prevention and improving spinal stability.

Proper Meadows Row Form 

A man doing a proper meadows row form

In my training sessions, emphasizing proper form has always been crucial to prevent injuries.

Avoid common form mistakes in Meadows Row, like using momentum or incorrect posture, by focusing on maintaining a stable core and controlling the weight throughout the exercise, ensuring effective targeting of the intended muscle groups.

With the staggered stance and positioning, you will reduce shoulder joint stress, but as you hinge forward, you could end up with strain on the lower back.

“Squatting and lifting weights often require the body to lean forward. To find a neutral spine when you’re doing a move like this, simply align your stacked pelvis, rib cage, and head to the torso angle your move requires.”

- Daniel Bubnis, M.S.

It’s critical that you keep a neutral spine for each set, and if you’re just getting started with the Meadows row, then try doing it with a low weight first.

Once you’re ready for heavier loads, start using the recommended weightlifting straps to provide a bit more grip and wrist support.

And rather than increase the Meadows row volume or weight, try to experiment with slower reps.

Alternative Variation

A man doing a meadow rows

In my own workouts and when coaching, I've explored some Meadows row alternatives to mix into the upper body bodyweight workouts, I did find an interesting one during the research.

The one I would recommend for athletes who have built up a lot of core strength already is to do this exercise while standing on one leg.

Yes, that means getting into an ice skater’s pose, and I suggest picking a lighter weight. But the added struggle with balance will further engage more muscles.


What Is The Benefit Of The Meadows Row?

The main benefit of the Meadows row is that it corrects strength imbalances between the left and right sides of the body. When you’re transferring weight to one side, it has to work a lot harder, and that will ultimately help to achieve a more balanced physique.

What Is The Most Important Muscle In Rowing?

The most important muscles in rowing are the upper thigh muscles, along with the shoulders and upper back muscles. These work together to achieve full movement, and you will see great improvements in these areas with different rowing variations.


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