What is a Kettlebell Row? (5 Exercises to Start)

Posted on February 17th, 2022 to Barefoot Training

Kettlebell workouts have grown to be a popular component in strength training. These weights are easy to handle and maneuver, while also offering a plethora of creative exercises. A common exercise within a given kettlebell workout is the kettlebell row. This exercise does an impressive job of targeting the upper back and biceps. Throw in a few different movements and the exercise becomes even more beneficial for different muscle groups. Here is a closer look at how to do a basic kettlebell row, as well as five popular variations to work into your strength-building plans.

What is a kettlebell row?

A kettlebell row is a basic strength-training exercise done with a kettlebell weight. You can do this exercise with just one kettlebell (one-arm row), but two kettlebells allow you to work both arms simultaneously just as you would if you were actually rowing with a barbell or cable machine. Beginners do usually prefer starting out with a single kettlebell and one arm at a time, because this can be easier to handle than working two kettlebells at once while maintaining the proper form.

What muscles do kettlebell rows work?

Kettlebell rows primarily work the upper traps and rhomboids, as well as the ole biceps and I mean who doesn’t love a nice bicep pump!? When you are doing single kettlebell rows instead of double, your core will light up because of the instability factor of having the weight on one side of your body. This same principle would apply for any single arm press as well. Of course, different variations can require the use of different muscle groups.

How to Perform a One Arm Kettlebell Row

When doing kettlebell rows, your form is especially important. Engage your core, try to keep the spine and neck straight, and always pull up with your elbow, keeping the shoulder in a downward position. A great tip is to think about pulling your elbow toward your front pocket. The basic rowing movement looks something as follows:

  1. Stand with your feet apart at about hip-width with the kettlebell on the floor between your feet
  2. Squat and pick up the kettlebell with one hand, brace your core to support its weight
  3. Support yourself by holding a chair with the unused hand
  4. Hinge at hips, bend forward, keep your back straight, and keep the arm holding the weight straight down
  5. Bend your arm at your elbow to lift the kettlebell in a backward, rowing position, rotating your wrist in the process
  6. Straighten the arm and elbow to lower the kettlebell back down

Other Kettlebell Row Variations


Kettlebell rows can be done in quite a few other ways, including the double arm kettlebell row. The double-arm kettlebell row requires the same technique as the single kettlebell row, but you are using two kettlebells and alternating arm movements much like you would do while rowing. A few other variations include:

Good Form Start with Proper Posture

Each kettlebell row variation has its own little nuances when it comes to form. For example, gorilla rows involve holding the same stance as you would during a deadlift while you row, which builds more tension and requires more leg and hip stamina. As you move progress to more advanced variations of the exercise, you will be required to have adequate balance and stability. When barefoot, both your balance and stability are much greater because your feet can grip the floor and provide a strong stable base to perform any movement. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to have good deadlifting socks to maintain secure footing.

Want to know more about finding deadlift socks and why barefoot workouts can be more beneficial? Here’s a good guide on the best deadlift socks for strength training. Be sure to check out our collection of footwear at Pedestal Footwear to suit up your soles before a workout.

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