In an article I wrote the other day, about being able to train very effectively with not much more than a barbell, some weight plates, and some dumbbells, I got asked for variations of rowing exercises as the person asking could only think of seated rows on a cable, bent over barbell rows, and single arm dumbbell rows.
When it comes to variations with just a barbell and dumbbells the list is almost endless when you think of the different grips and the different angles you can use. Whilst the movement is essentially the same, the changes in grip or angle will recruit different percentages of certain muscle groups. For example, the single arm dumbbell row performed with a neutral grip will recruit the lats a bit more than a single arm dumbbell row with a pronated grip, which recruits more the scapula retractors.
Barbell rowing exercises:
Bent over BB row pronated mid grip, supinated grip, snatch grip
Prone row pronated grip, supinated grip, snatch grip
Incline prone row, 20 degree, 45 degree, all grips
Inverted rows, can use BB, Rings, TRX
Dumbbell rowing exercise:
DB bent over row, all grips
Single arm DB row, neutral grip, pronated grip, arch
You could train for a very long time without having to double up on any of the exercises listed when you consider all the possible variations.
In general, I prefer DB work as it allows for a greater range of motion and can help balance out left v right discrepancies. I also prefer chest supported variations as you can focus more on the working muscles in comparison to a bent over row where you have to also focus on contracting the glutes and hamstrings as well. This doesn’t mean I never do a normal bent over row. But I like people to have good body awareness before they do them.