Yates Row – What You Need to Know

Want a back as broad as six times Mr. Olympia winner, Dorian Yates?

Okay, so if you don’t know who Dorian is, the secret is in his surname. He popularized the Yates Row (underhand barbell row) technique. Yates row workouts let you lift heavier weights than the usual barbell row. More important, these compound movements keep your lower back safe from injury. It’s all about keeping your spine neutral and not straining the neck muscles. 

Dorian Yates Doing Yates Row
Dorian Yates Doing Yates Row

Use the Yates Row, along with popular Olympic lifts, as a tool for back building and strengthening.

Popular Yates Row FAQs: 

What muscles does yates Row work?

First, let’s look at the lats (lattisimus dorsi, which is laterus [side] and dorsal [back]). This is the largest muscle in the upper body. It stretches from the pelvis, up the edge of your lower and side-back, ending under the top of the arms. It’s the most powerful muscle in your back.

Next, are the traps (trapezius). This is another large set of muscle fibers that come from the back of the head. over to the shoulders. They’re divided into three: top, middle and lower. Each has a different function for the shoulders. Whenever you shrug your shoulders, you’re using your traps. 

Their basic functions are: 

  • Upper traps turn and tilt the head. 
  • Middle traps assist the shoulder blades up. 
  • Lower traps assist the shoulder blade down.

Why don’t stronglifts use Yates Row?

Standard Barbell Row
Standard Barbell Row

Stronglifts are a set of exercises that are there to quickly increase your strength. Whilst muscles that get stronger do increase in size, this takes time. The Strong-lift programs do include barbell lifting, usually the barbell row. This varies from the Yates Row in the stance and the hold, so it works on different muscles. 

Yates Row, although it uses barbells, is a shorter more intense workout than the standard barbell row The results of muscle bulk are quicker. There are quite a few differences between Yates Row and Barbell Row:

  • With the Yates Row, you will stand more upright, with an inclined torso. Whereas with the barbell row the torso is perpendicular to the ground. 
  • With the Yates Row, you will also use an underhand grip (supinated). For the barbell row, your palms will be pronated. Find out more on the difference of grips
  • Standard barbell rows focus also on forearms and use the wrist more. Whereas Yates Row will concentrate much more on your lats and the use of the biceps.

How often can you perform Yates Row?

There is no right answer to this question because it depends on the individual. 

For instance, some prefer to train hard but not as often. Indeed, Dorian Yates was known for training only 4 days a week. His sessions lasted around 1 hour but were very intense and hard.

Other lifters may train 6 days a week but focus on different muscle groups at each session. As Yates Row focuses on the lats and traps, it depends on how fast you want to go. 

The lats will grow faster if you perform constant training with heavy weights, pushing the muscle fibers beyond normality.

Traps respond well to very heavyweights that will expand the muscle fibers.

  • A Yates Row session should consist of 3 sets to include 8-12 reps.
  • If you’re wanting speed, then look at dropping the weight but do more, such as 4 sets to include around 15-20 reps. 

It’s good to give muscles a rest when you’re working them hard. It’s recommended that strength training should be done 2-3 times a week. For more advice to help you work out your own needs, have a look at this useful health article

Also Read:   Does Cycling Build or Lose Muscle Mass?

How-To Perform The Yates Row

Step 1

You can also do a version of the Yates row with dumbbells, but we’re focusing on the barbell Yates Row. To lift the barbell off the floor, take a hold of the bar with an underhand grip so your fingers are facing upwards, not down.

Feet should be slightly apart, aligned with the shoulders. Ensure your toes point slightly forwards and outwards. Hands to be held at a point on the bar that is wider than the shoulder line. Your back needs to be in straight and not hunched.  

Step 2  

As you ready to pull the bar upwards, allow your torso to lean slightly forward from the waist. Keep your back straight and your face forward. Now, flex the torso and bend the knees slightly. Keep the bar close to the shins as you lift.

Elbows should only have a slight bend to them as the bar hangs in front of the thighs. Don’t take any strain on your neck and ensure your head stays aligned with a straight back.  

Step 3 

the wrists, as if rowing, moving your hands upwards and pulling the bar up towards the stomach. Head still looking forward and knees slightly bent, though not enough that they are taking the strain of the weight. Nor should your forearms or biceps be taking the main strain. That job is for the lats in your back and traps in your shoulders, as discussed earlier.

Step 4 

Now, it’s time to take the bar back down. The elbows will extend slightly as you lower the bar but don’t go all the way to the floor. Start to pull it back up again by repeating the process. You should be feeling the strain in the shoulders and lower back as you lift upwards (the concentric movement).  

Step 5 

Do not hold your breath throughout a rep. Instead, take in a deep breath as you lift upwards, and exhale the air as you lower the bar down again. 


There are many row exercises and they’re often named after the weight lifters who use them. For example, not only do we have the Yates Row, but there’s also the Pendlay Row named after Glenn Pendlay.

Another rowing exercise is the bent-over row. In this technique you won’t stand upright as you pull up the bar, you’ll be bent over all the time. The Bent over row is similar to the Pendlay Row. 

By choosing the Yates Row, you will be transferring all the strain into the lats and taking it away from the biceps. Stretching the muscle fibers of the rhomboids means you are automatically building up the back.

The Yates Row versus the Barbell Row is easier to carry out. It’s down to the change in the grip that forces different muscles to act. This grip also forces the elbow into the sides and facilitates pulling the bar towards the waist.

It’s said that the Yates Row is more prone to injury, but that’s only if you don’t do it right. If you have weak areas or present injuries, you should use protective sportswear. If you already have a knee injury, consider using an ice machine to alleviate the pain. Don’t forget to do some warm-up exercises so injury is less likely.

To maintain all that muscle mass that you’ve worked so hard for, try BCAA powder supplements. There’s no difference between the formula for women and for men, only how much you take. 

This article was last updated on June 6, 2022 .

Written by
Steve Theunissen

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