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

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Last updated: May 24, 2023

I often encounter fitness clients who don’t like the Meadows row exercise, but when I go through the proper way of doing them, the majority of them come around to the fact that they can be a lot more effective than a standard one-arm dumbbell row.

The problem is that you have to get the setup for the Meadows row perfectly right.

Otherwise, you could end up targeting the wrong muscles.

So, we decided to put together a comprehensive guide for this unilateral exercise.

I’ll also give you a few Meadows row variations to spice things up.

Quick Summary

  • The main concept behind the Meadows row is using a landmine setup and a staggered stance to isolate back muscles more effectively. 
  • These pulling exercises were invented by IFBB bodybuilder John Meadows, hence the name of these single-arm row variations.
  • Meadows rows are a great way to build muscle in the upper back as you can add more weight than with a one-arm dumbbell row.

How Do You Do The Meadows Row? 

A man doing meadows rows workout in the gym

You do the Meadows row by using a staggered stance setup with a landmine attachment for a barbell.

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 [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

The Meadows row will work muscles in your arms, shoulders, back, and legs.

Compared to the single-arm dumbbell row, the Meadows row will build muscle in both the upper and lower body because of the position at the start.

And lifting unilaterally throws your body off balance forcing it to engage your core as well.

All of this adds up to a fantastic compound rowing exercise with a simple adjustment to the way you position your body.

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 [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 [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.

Proper Meadows Row Form 

A man doing a proper meadows row form

Before I get to a variation, let me just reiterate the importance of proper form to avoid injuries.

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

For anyone who likes having some Meadows row alternatives to mix into the upper body bodyweight workouts, I did find an interesting one during our 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.

Reshape Your Upper Body With A New Training Approach

I highly recommend that you start doing the Meadows row on a regular basis to adjust any muscle imbalances that you might have.

Once you get the form right, you’ll notice that it works much better than your regular rows.

I also suggest that you invest in one of the high-quality pre-workouts we tested: 

These can boost your strength and endurance enough to add a few extra pounds to your workouts, and that will become noticeable in your progress.


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