Friday Roundup: Better Bent-over Rows and 21’s

In this week’s roundup I’m sharing a few exercise videos that will help you rock your workouts. It’s not unusual to find reputable-looking videos demonstrating extremely poor form. That’s because a huge majority of exercise videos suck. It’s not just that they’re poorly made; many videos teach improper technique. At best, following their advice can slow down your progress. At worst, it can cause you to hurt yourself.

Before I show you my favorite bent-over rows video and bonus technique for overloading your upper body, here’s a word from our sponsors (me).

You need a workout plan, not just randomly strung-together exercises, to get mo’ muscle and strength. A workout plan (or program) is structured and lasts for a period of weeks or months. Changing exercises/workouts too often will ultimately waste your time. Become educated about how to design an effective training program or get personal training (tip: I create killer training programs!).

So feel free to integrate these exercises into your overall training program, but stay with them long enough to see results.

Which Bent-over Rows are Best?

Sexy purple people eater?Let’s just get this hyphenation thing out of the way, shall we? While not quite the One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People-Eater, the “dumbbell one-arm bent-over row” is a compound adjective that should be hyphenated. Ok? (Did you know there’s a sexy purple people-eater costume? Still waiting for a sexy dumbbell costume.)

English lesson aside, bent-over rows are also a compound exercise that trains the muscles of the mid-back (rhomboids, mid-traps, lower traps, and rear delts). It also hits the latissimus dorsi and biceps and is one of the best exercises for building strength and muscle in your back.

You’ve probably seen bent-over rows done a lot of different ways. But my favorites are Jordan Syatt’s one-hand-on-a-bench version and Nick Tumminello’s free-standing version for core stabilization (however, there’s room for error with the free-standing version and you could strain your lower back if you don’t already have good core strength).

I also love barbell wide-grip bent-over rows, but I wouldn’t recommend them if you have shoulder issues.

Take a look at Jordan’s tips for putting your hand on a bench here:

Bicep 21’s for More Than Biceps

You may have heard of using 21’s for overloading your biceps during curls. You bring the barbell halfway up for seven reps, bring the barbell only halfway down for seven reps, and then do seven full reps, all without rest.

Strength expert Nick Tumminello took 21’s a lot further in this article, which shows how to use them for your lats, delts, and pectorals, too. I tried the lat pull down version and nearly died.

The burn! You’ll have to use a lot less weight than normal for 21’s.

Incidentally, this video shows fantastic form for lat pull downs. I saw a guy in the gym the other day who was literally making lat pull downs a gymnastics event, leaning waay back and popping back up. Fun to watch, but he probably wasn’t hitting his lats at all.

That’s it for this week – enjoy your workouts and let me know how you’re crushing it!

This article originally appeared on

18 thoughts on “Friday Roundup: Better Bent-over Rows and 21’s

  1. I’m a visual person and learn best by seeing and reinforcement – so thanks for these great videos! I appreciate all of the excellent information and resources you share with us each week. 🙂


  2. This is great! I am still very much a newbie when it comes to strength training, so I do rely on videos from reputable sources to help me with my form! When putting together a strength training program, do you recommend people work with a trainer, use a program from a book, or what?


    • Creating an effective program is almost impossible unless you have the knowledge or guidance, so I definitely recommend using a book or personal trainer to help you. (Will add this to my post, thanks!)


  3. I’m like you; I want everybody to do everything properly and with good form! (That’s the reason why I rarely share other people’s workout posts; especially those who aren’t fitness professionals).

    Thanks for sharing these great videos! I’ll be passing them on too!


  4. Great post Suzanne as always!!! I just wrote that form post Wednesday about how a lady thought I was a dancer cause my posture was so good. I told her I am sure it was from all my years of lifting but being so careful with my form! 🙂

    Love the videos! I always see crazy stuff in the gym & on those lat pulldowns for sure.. too much weight & crazy form!

    I used to do 21s with all kinds of exercises too. I don’t do them as much – time to do them again.. 🙂

    Thx for sharing this!


  5. Thank you for these videos and oh my goodness yes form is important! There are always people at the gym that I see with poor form and it makes me cringe! It’s like a car wreck you can’t look away from. I am one of those random people as you know, but I am working on getting more routine and less random. 🙂


  6. Great videos, I definitely need to incorporate more of these into my workouts, actually I need more strength training all over. 21’s used to be my favorite, I think I will have to learn to fall back in love with these.


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