Barbell Rows: ‘Cheat’ Technique for Massive Strength and Size Gains

If you train with me you quickly learn that I am religious about lifting with proper technique. As a matter of fact, Brute Force Strength Rule #1 is: Perfect your technique on every lift; regardless how long you have lifting, continuously look for ways to improve your form. When you lift with proper form, you will generally lift more weight and reduce your chance of injury.

The barbell row, however, is an example of an exercise that you can effectively use some cheating to increase your strength and size. When done correctly you can lift more weight and complete more reps than you can with strict form without significantly increasing the risk of the exercise.

When should you use the cheat technique?

  • At the end of your sets to complete additional reps that you could not otherwise complete
  • To finish off your workout with a set at a weight that you cannot complete with strict form
    • Should be a slight, incrementally higher weight increase used to prepare you for heavier lifts

When should you avoid using ‘cheat’ techniques?

  • If you’re new to the barbell row, first learn and perfect proper technique without using any cheating
  • If you have issues with your lower back or similar physical limitations, I’d recommend against cheating on barbell rows

Barbell Row ‘Cheat’ Technique:

  • Set up for the lift just as you do for your proper barbell row
  • Perform as many reps without cheating as you can – keep your upper body stable, minimize use of momentum
  • When you need to employ the cheat technique, just as you start to bring the bar up, bring your upper body upwards slightly to start the bar moving (rotation is at your hips)
  • Once the bar is moving, use the bar’s momentum to help complete the lift as you simultaneously lower your upper body back down to the starting position


Using cheat for additional reps:


Using cheat for additional weight:


If the end of your set starts to resemble a combination of a shrug and an upright row (a ‘shrow’), it’s time to set the bar down and step away.


  • Do not use a weight you are unable to safely support in the rowing position
  • Make sure you are able to maintain a flat back and straight spine throughout your set

    Shrow Factor 10...


2 Comments on “Barbell Rows: ‘Cheat’ Technique for Massive Strength and Size Gains”

  1. Edward says:

    I think a lot of people get caught up with form and never do cheat reps. But, I definitely think doing them at the end of a set with good form can be a good thing. Do you do this with other exercises as well?

    • The Ripper says:

      I think you can do cheat reps on Barbell Rows relatively safely if you follow the guidelines I’ve laid out, and keep the weight reasonable. Remember that the bulk of the work should still be done with proper form – your entire workout should not be based on cheat reps.
      You really need to be careful about doing cheat reps on the big lifts, but there are ways to overload the big lifts as well, such as forced reps, partial reps & lockouts, using bands & chains. If you are overloading, make sure you have the overloading planned out in your program – again your entire program shouldn’t be based on overloading, and you should perfect your form before using overloading approaches. Overloading weight on a lift with improper form is a great way to get hurt.

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