If you’re looking to build a strong back, then row exercises are a great way to increase upper body strength and muscle mass.
With many variations to choose from you’re sure to find the right one to suit your abilities and goals.
Recommended Reading – 8 Best Dumbbell Back Workout Exercises To Build Mass
In this article, we’re going to look at the Gorilla Row exercise, a back friendly alternative to the traditional bent-over row.
So, if you’d like to know more about this exercise, how to do it properly and the gorilla row muscles worked, then keep reading.
What Is A Gorilla Row Exercise?
The Gorilla Row is a unilateral compound exercise that works several muscle groups across the upper body.
It takes its name due to the stance adopted when performing the exercise.
The movement pattern of the Gorilla Row is very similar to the Pendlay row with the main difference being that you’ll be using a pair of kettlebells instead of a barbell.
Because you alternate between sides when doing kettlebell gorilla rows, this allows you to address any muscle imbalances.
When done with proper form, this upper-body exercise is a great option for those who want to lift heavy weight but keep stress on the lower back to a minimum.
Gorilla Row Muscles Worked
The main muscles worked when performing a Gorilla Row are the large back muscles including the lats, rhomboids, and traps, with secondary muscles being the forearms and biceps.
The erector spinae, rear deltoids and core muscles act as stabilizers when in the bent-over position.
When you perform any rowing exercise, you’ll be engaging your major back muscles in combination so that you can undertake the movement with a full range of motion.
Let’s look at the muscles worked in a bit more detail to understand their function when doing a Gorilla Row exercise.
Often abbreviated to the ‘lats’, the latissimus dorsi muscles are the broadest muscles of the back.
They’re also very flat and sit just beneath the surface of the skin.
As you pull the weight towards you when performing a Gorilla Row exercise, the lats contract concentrically (they shorten).
On the other hand, as you lower the weight back to the starting position, they extend eccentrically (they lengthen).
By performing the Gorilla Row with good form, you can help to build a wider and more muscular back with more definition.
Strong lats also contribute to good posture by better supporting your spine helping to prevent slouching.
The rhomboids comprise of two muscles which help to support the top of your back and shoulder blades.
It’s a deeper set muscle which sits beneath the trapezius (traps).
They work to retract the scapula, which is to bring your shoulder blades back at the top of the movement.
As you row the weight up towards your torso, they help to stabilize your shoulders helping with proper alignment.
When you improve the strength of your rhomboids, this also helps with better posture while reducing the risk of injury during certain shoulder movements.
The trapezius, usually known as the ‘traps’ is a prominent muscle group that runs down the back of your neck and along the upper back.
Each side of your traps is triangular but together forms a trapezium, hence the name of the muscle.
The upper traps work to elevate the shoulder blades while the lower traps help to depress them.
Both these movements are involved in the Gorilla Row exercise.
Well-developed traps can contribute to a more muscular appearance and better definition of the upper back.
Strong traps will also help to improve the mobility and stability of your shoulders, which is essential for many upper body movements.
The forearm muscles play a supporting role when doing the Gorilla Row exercise.
As the rowing motion requires a strong grip on the handle, this engages the forearm muscles to maintain a secure hold.
They also help to stabilize your wrists and control the movement of the weight throughout.
Working the forearms helps to improve your grip strength which is crucial not just in weightlifting but also many day-to-day activities.
The biceps brachii are a pair of muscles located to the front of the upper arm.
They act as secondary muscles during the Gorilla Row exercise.
They assist in flexing the elbow, particularly during the pulling phase of the exercise.
They also act to stabilize and support the shoulder during the rowing movement.
Involvement of the biceps helps to enhance arm strength and muscle definition.
How To Do Gorilla Rows Correctly
Get yourself a pair of kettlebells and follow the steps below to perform the Gorilla Row with perfect form.
If you don’t have access to kettlebells a pair of dumbbells will do.
Try and avoid doing it with just one kettlebell.
We find that by holding the second kettlebell with your free arm helps you to maintain the proper form by keeping your non-working side locked into place.
- Standing upright, position your feet at a shoulder-width distance with toes pointing out a little.
- The kettlebells should be on the floor, between your feet and positioned so you can take hold of them with a neutral grip (palms facing together).
- Keep a slight bend to your knees and hinge forward at your hips so that your torso lowers towards the ground. Aim to get your upper body to a 30-to-45-degree angle.
- Maintain a neutral spine with your chest up. .
- Keep your knees pointing out and don’t let them cave in.
- Take hold of both kettlebells and keep your head neutral (neither looking up or down).
- Brace your core for stability then row one kettlebell straight up towards your rib cage making sure your elbow doesn’t flare out.
- At the top of the movement, there should be a slight rotation of your upper body.
- From here, lower it all the way back down to the floor.
- Repeat the same rowing movement but using the opposite arm.
- Keep alternating in this way until you’ve completed your reps.
The Benefits Of The Gorilla Row Exercise
When compared to bent-over barbell rows, the Gorilla Row offers several benefits.
Let’s look at these.
Build A Stronger Back
The key benefit of the Gorilla Row exercise is that you’re going to vastly increase the strength of your upper back muscles.
Strong upper back muscles contribute to better posture and less change of low back pain.
Increased Functional Strength
When your functional strength gets better, your ability to do everyday things such as climbing or descending stairs, carrying your groceries or lifting objects off the ground becomes much easier.
Better Grip Strength
The importance of grip strength is often underplayed but plays a vital role in our everyday lives.
A strong grip aids with functional movements while helping to maintain muscle balance in your upper body.
Improved Spinal Health
The Gorilla Row primarily targets the muscles in your back, including the erector spinae, which run along the spine.
Strengthening these muscles can improve spinal stability and help support your spine’s natural curvature.
Boosted Core Strength
You’ll be engaging your core muscles as you perform the Gorilla row to help with stability.
By doing this, you’ll strengthen these muscles which will also improve your posture and overall back health.
Do Gorilla Rows Work Your Glutes
The Gorilla Row does not significantly engage or work the glutes.
Instead, it primarily works the muscles of the upper back.
If you’re looking to target your glutes, it’s better to incorporate specific lower body exercises such as squats, lunges, or glute bridges into your workout routine as they focus on engaging and strengthening your glutes, helping to build lower body strength and muscle.
Gorilla Row VS Bent Over Row
The key difference between the gorilla row and the bent over row is that during the gorilla row you’ll be working one side at a time and lowering the weight all the way to the floor.
When performing a bent over row, typically the weights remain suspended in the air throughout.
The gorilla row is a unilateral exercise that involves working each side individually whereas the bent over row is a bilateral movement that works both sides simultaneously.
This means if you want to address any muscle imbalances across your back, the gorilla row would be a better option.
The Gorilla Row is an exceptional exercise for building strength and size to your upper back muscles.
However, like any exercise, its true potential emerges when you incorporate it into a diverse workout routine.
Keeping workouts varied is important for ultimate fitness gains and helping to prevent muscle plateau.
So before you leave, take a look at some of other highly effective dumbbell back exercises that you can include into your training.