Unilateral rows are an effective exercise for strengthening imbalances between sides, leading to improved muscle development and stronger bilateral rows. However, as the dumbbells become larger and more awkward, progressing in the exercise becomes more challenging. That’s where the Meadows Row comes in, a variation created by the late John Meadows, former IFBB bodybuilder and head coach of Mountain Dog training. The Meadows Row uses a landmine setup with a thick barbell sleeve, allowing for more loading and less awkwardness.
The Meadows Row is an outstanding exercise for the entire back, especially for targeting the hard-to-reach lower lats. However, some lifters may face grip strength issues and lower back fatigue. This is where the modified Meadows Row comes into play. By placing the non-working hand on a weight bench, the lifter gains more stability and experiences less lower back fatigue.
Gareth Sapstead, CSCS, physique training specialist, Olympic coach, and the author of Ultimate Abs, published by Human Kinetics, presents this modified Meadows Row exercise.
The Modified Meadows Row
“Unique features, including an angled bar path and variable resistance, characterize many landmine strength exercises. The strength curve of the rowing action is such that you’re weakest as you pull closest to your chest. As you row the landmine bar towards your chest, it unloads slightly, meaning that the exercise loads you most where you want it and least where you’re weakest.
This makes landmine rows easier on the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints.
The sleeve of the bar is thicker to grab and will challenge your forearms and grip strength. The Meadows Row is great not only for athletes and developing crushing grip strength but also for anyone looking to build the size of their forearms, and it trains the entire upper back and posterior delts,” explains Sapstead.
How To Perform The Modified Meadows Row
The modified version takes more time to set up and obviously requires more room and equipment, so be aware of these factors before starting. The weight bench should be set perpendicular to the landmine bar setup, and the bench should be positioned close to the end of the barbell without hitting it in the upward motion.
- Step over and straddle the bench with one leg on either side. Place your non-working hand in the middle of the bench with your arm supporting you. Hinge back and grab the end of the barbell with an overhand grip and neutral spine.
- Initiate the rowing action by contracting your back, driving your elbow up towards the sky. Squeeze your back muscles hard at lockout and control the eccentric phase.
Modified Meadows Row Benefits
Meadows rows and modified Meadows rows target glenohumeral horizontal abduction (arm moving horizontally towards the middle of the body) more than many regular row variations. This movement is more challenging to control than shoulder extension and also provides more engagement for the rear delts and upper back compared to other row variations.
The modified Meadows Row involves placing the non-working hand on a bench to support the lower back. This support reduces lower back fatigue and further emphasizes the muscles used during the rowing motion. The decreased fatigue, combined with the focus on the upper back, lats, and posterior delts, results in greater back muscle activation and less lower back pain. This variation is excellent if your lower back is sore or if you’re targeting or fatiguing your lower back elsewhere in your training.
Sapstead suggests that this row variation works perfectly as your “heavy” back-day row. Performing three to four sets of six to ten reps per side is effective, depending on your goals and training phase.