Build a Strong Back with the Gorilla Row

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Welcome to the Gorilla Row Exercise

Welcome, fitness enthusiasts and newcomers alike! Today, we’re diving into the world of Gorilla Rows, an exercise that’s as powerful as it sounds. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just starting your fitness journey, this versatile exercise can help you strengthen all major back muscles and build a strong, resilient back. So, let’s get started!

the gorilla row builds a strong back

How to Perform the Gorilla Row

The Gorilla Row is a dynamic exercise that combines the benefits of a traditional row with the added challenge of maintaining a hip-hinge position. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Positioning: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place two kettlebells (or dumbbells) on the ground between your feet.

  2. The Setup: Hinge forward at the hips, keeping your back flat and your chest up and your knees slightly bent. This is your starting position, similar to a deadlift setup or to the bent over row position.

  3. The Row: Grab one kettlebell and pull it towards your hip, keeping your elbow close to your body. The other kettlebell stays on the ground. It can be used to stabilize the upper body by pushing down on this kettlebell.

  4. The Switch: Lower the kettlebell back to the ground and repeat the same movement with the opposite hand.

Remember, form is key! Keep your back flat throughout the exercise and avoid any twisting motion.

Gorilla Rows illustrated
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Common Gorilla Row Mistakes to Avoid

The Gorilla Row is a powerful exercise that will significantly enhance your back strength and overall fitness. However, like any exercise, it’s essential to perform it correctly to reap its full benefits and avoid injury. Here are some common mistakes to watch out for:

  1. Using Too Much Weight: One of the most common mistakes is using weights that are too heavy. This often leads to a loss of form, particularly excessive upper body rotation. Remember, it’s better to use lighter weights and maintain proper form than to lift heavier weights with poor form.

  2. Not Using Full Range of Motion: Another common mistake is not fully extending the arm at the bottom of the movement or not pulling the weight all the way to the chest at the top. This partial movement can limit the effectiveness of the exercise and is often a sign of weights that are too heavy or improper form. The weight should move from the ground all the way to the chest (if possible) and back to the ground.

  3. A Hunched Back: A hunched or rounded back is a clear sign of poor form. It’s crucial to keep your back straight and engage all the necessary muscles to establish a stable platform for the Gorilla Rows. This not only maximizes the effectiveness of the exercise but also helps prevent back injuries.

  4. Excessive Torso Rotation: If performed correctly, the Gorilla Row should involve minimal torso rotation. The core, glutes, and lower back should remain engaged and tight, keeping the torso in a stable position throughout the exercise. The movement should primarily come from the elbow moving up and down, while the rest of the body remains stationary. Only the upper body may rotate slightly while lifting the weight up.

too much weight causes bad form in gorilla rows

Too much weight is one of the main reasons for bad form when doing Gorilla Rows.

Muscles Worked with the Gorilla Row

The Gorilla Row is a full-body exercise, but it primarily targets your back muscles. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Latissimus Dorsi (Lats): These are the large muscles in your back that give you that desirable V-shape.

  • Rhomboids and Trapezius (Traps): These muscles are located in your upper back and neck, helping with shoulder blade movements.

  • Erector Spinae: This group of muscles runs along your spine, providing support and aiding in movements like bending and twisting.

  • Biceps and Forearms: Although not the primary focus, these muscles are engaged when you pull the weight towards your body.

  • The deltoids: In this exercise, all three heads of the deltoids are engaged to some extent. However, it’s the posterior or rear deltoids that take center stage.

  • Lower Body: you will also have to continuously engage your glutes and hamstrings during gorilla rows.

Muscles worked with Gorilla Rows
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Benefits of the Gorilla Row

  • Core Stability: The Gorilla Row is a core-engaging exercise. Keeping your core activated throughout the movement helps to boost your overall core strength and stability, which is essential for balance and overall fitness.
  • Boosted Upper-Back Strength: The Gorilla Row is a comprehensive back exercise, targeting a wide array of muscles across your upper back. This not only helps to enhance your posture but also reduces the risk of injury. Plus, it builds functional strength, making everyday tasks like lifting and carrying items easier.
  • Enhanced Grip Strength: The Gorilla Row isn’t just a back exercise; it’s also a fantastic way to improve your grip strength. Holding a heavy weight in one hand demands a strong grip, which can translate into improved performance in other exercises like Deadlifts and Pull-ups.
  • Convenience Factor: One of the best things about the Gorilla Row is its convenience. It requires minimal equipment and space, making it an excellent option for home workouts or when you’re pressed for time. All you need is a pair of kettlebells or dumbbells, and you’re good to go!
  • Functional Fitness: The Gorilla Row mimics movements you might do in daily life, enhancing your functional fitness.
kettlebells work best for the gorilla row

Improve Lower Back Health

Lower back health is a crucial aspect of overall well-being and physical fitness. It’s not just about preventing discomfort or injury; a strong and healthy lower back supports our daily movements, contributes to good posture, and plays a significant role in athletic performance. One exercise that can contribute significantly to lower back health is the Gorilla Row.

Engaging Key Muscles with the Gorilla Row

When performed correctly, the Gorilla Row is a powerhouse of an exercise that engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

It requires you to activate your core, lower back, glutes, and hamstrings to create a stable platform for the movement. This engagement isn’t just a one-time thing; it’s something you have to maintain throughout the exercise.

This constant engagement helps to strengthen these muscles over time, leading to improved stability and reduced risk of injury.

The Gorilla Row is unique in that it forces you to maintain this muscle engagement while performing a pulling motion. This pulling motion, especially when lifting the weights off the ground, engages back muscles that are often neglected in many exercises and workouts.

These include the erector spinae, a group of muscles and tendons running along your spine, which are crucial for maintaining good posture and preventing lower back pain.

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The Gorilla Row: A Comprehensive Workout for Lower Back Health

Moreover, the Gorilla Row doesn’t just engage these muscles; it challenges them. The combination of the hip-hinge position, the alternating rowing motion, and the need to stabilize the weights all contribute to a comprehensive workout for your back muscles.
This leads to increased strength and endurance in these muscles, further contributing to lower back health.

But the benefits of the Gorilla Row for lower back health aren’t just physical.

By learning to perform this exercise correctly, you also develop a better understanding of proper form and body mechanics. This knowledge can be applied to other exercises and daily movements, helping to protect your lower back in various scenarios.

So, the Gorilla Row is an effective exercise for improving lower back health.

It engages and strengthens key muscles, promotes good form, and provides a comprehensive workout for your back. 

gorilla rows are a great exercise to improve lower back health

The Gorilla Row helps to improve your lower back health. 

Other Great Back Exercises

While the Gorilla Row is a fantastic exercise, variety is the spice of fitness life. Here are a few other back exercises to consider:

  • Deadlifts: A classic compound exercise that targets your entire back.

  • Pull-ups: Great for working the lats and improving upper body strength.

  • Bent-over Row: Another excellent row variation to target the back muscles.

  • Resistance-Band Face-Pulls: this is another perfect exercise for your upper back.

the deadlift is another great exercise for your back


Q: What Do Gorilla Rows Work? A: Gorilla Rows are a comprehensive exercise that targets multiple muscle groups. They primarily work the back muscles, including the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius. Additionally, they engage the biceps, forearms, and core, providing a full-body workout.

Q: Can I Do Gorilla Rows With Dumbbells? A: Absolutely! The exercise is often called “Kettlebell Gorilla Rows”, but if you don’t have access to kettlebells, dumbbells are a great alternative. You could also use weight plates. In any case, you should make sure that you can utilize the lower weight to stabilize your upper body by pushing down onto this weight with your non working arm.The key is to maintain proper form and control throughout the movement.

Q: Does Gorilla Row Make Your Waist Smaller? A: While Gorilla Rows help to improve your core strength, abdominal stability and improve overall body composition, they are not specifically targeted at reducing waist size. A combination of regular exercise, a balanced diet, and a calorie deficit is typically the most effective approach for waist reduction.

Q: What Are the Results of the Gorilla Row? A: Regularly incorporating Gorilla Rows into your workout routine can lead to improved back strength, better posture, increased core stability, and overall muscle growth. Additionally, unilateral exercises like the gorilla row also help to improve muscle imbalances. Results can vary based on factors like consistency, diet, and overall lifestyle.

Q: Do Gorilla Rows Work Glutes? A: Yes, Gorilla Rows do need engaged glutes. The bent-over position required for this exercise activates the glute muscles. However, glutes are not the primary target of this row exercise.

Q: I’m a Beginner. Can I Still Do the Gorilla Row? A: Yes, beginners can definitely perform Gorilla Rows. Start with a lighter weight and focus on maintaining proper form. As you become more comfortable with the movement and build strength, you can gradually increase the weight.

Q: How Many Sets and Reps Should I Do? A: A general guideline is to aim for 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps on each side. However, this can be adjusted based on your fitness level and specific goals. Always listen to your body and ensure you’re challenging yourself without compromising form.

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