If you want to grow you gotta row, bro. But one rowing exercise is not the same. Take Meadows Row, named after its inventor, American bodybuilder John ‘Mountain Dog’ Meadows*. This unilateral exercise offers some unique benefits, especially for those aiming for more upper back thickness.
* Update 10-8-2021: John Meadows has passed away at the age of 49.
ROWING THE MEADOWS
With the Meadows row, just like with the single-arm dumbbell row, you only train one side of the back at a time. You only do that at the Meadows row with a barbell, which is located in a landmine holder (which you also use for T-bar rows, for example).
You perform the exercise in a split stance, so with one leg forward. The arm on the side you are not using rests on the knee on the same side. Grab the barbell at the end with a pronated (overhand) grip and pull it straight up. Lower the bar as far as possible and repeat.
This way of rowing offers a number of specific advantages.
You can go heavier than with regular barbell rows, because there is less tension on your lower back (after all, you are leaning with your other arm). As a result, your grip strength may become a limiting factor, which you can prevent by using lifting straps.
The pronated grip puts more emphasis on the muscle groups in your upper back, especially the rhomboid and the hard-to-train lower trapezius. Proper development of these muscles is vital for the thickness of your upper back, creating the three-dimensional look that many bodybuilders lack.
With the Meadows row you also train the latissimus dorsi, but to a lesser extent than when you use a neutral grip, such as with the dumbbell row.
RANGE OF MOTION
The split stance allows you to use a greater range of motion (ROM), which produces a better stretch at the bottom of the exercise.
The more stable position, with less tension on the lower back, in combination with the greater ROM, allows you to achieve a better mind-muscle connection than with most other rowing exercises. With the Meadows row we feel the muscles in our upper back much better than with the single-arm dumbbell row.
Enough reason to give the Meadows row a chance, especially if your back lacks depth because the trapezius and rhomboideus are insufficiently developed.
In the video below, the exercise is demonstrated by… John Meadows himself! He emphasizes that your body should stay firmly in place, with a flat back, without swinging or twisting: all you do is move your elbow straight up.
For a correct execution and a good mind-muscle connection, it is best to use a weight with which you can do 8-12 repetitions (taking into account 1-3 Reps In Reserve). Do heavy rowing exercises at the beginning of your (back) training.
Most people need 14 to 22 sets per week for optimal muscle growth in the back. Divide those sets more or less between horizontal and vertical pull exercises, and don’t do more than 10-12 sets per training.