How to do a Towel Row

What is a Towel Row?

A Towel Row is a clever exercise that allows you to strengthen the pulling muscles in your upper body. They work your back and bicep muscles just like Pull-Ups and Inverted Rows do, but Towel Rows are generally easier to perform and can add exercise variety to your upper body routine. And all you need is a towel and some type of structure that can bear your weight as you pull against it. The thicker the towel and the lower you place it on the post, the harder the exercise will be, and the thinner the towel and the higher you place it on the post, the easier it will be. 

The following muscle groups are engaged by the Towel Row:

  • Back
  • Biceps

How to Do a Towel Row (Instructions):

Start by standing near a post/pillar with a towel. You can also use a doorknob for this exercise, by opening the door and pulling the towel up and around both sides of the doorknob. While grabbing the towel with both hands, extend your arms and sink down into a high squat position. Place your feet in front of the post. Pull your body towards the post with control and keep your knees bent, back straight and core tight. Slowly extend your arms back to the starting position. Repeat.

Trainer Tips for the Towel Row: 

  • Progression (make harder)
    • Use a thicker towel. This will make the movement more challenging for your forearms.
    • When you pull yourself in towards the post, hold the position for 2 seconds, and then return to the starting position. 
    • Perform the movement slowly. Count to 2 on your way in and count to 4 when you return to starting position.
    • Move move the towel to a lower position on whatever you use for towel rows (post, pillar, door, etc…). You will need to move your feet farther in front of you the lower you go. 
  • Regression (make easier)
    • Use a thinner towel. This will make the movement easier on your forearms.
    • Move the towel to a higher position on whatever you use for towel rows (post, pillar, door, etc…). 
  • Application:
    • Do a “Ladder” workout with towel rows.
      • A “Ladder” is a workout that is comprised of  ascending and descending repetitions. For example:
        • Perform one towel row, then rest. Perform two towel rows, then rest. Keep ascending until you feel like you are going to fail. Once you reach the failure point (let’s say 8), rest, then perform seven towel rows, then rest. Descend until you are back at one.
Towel Rows are used in the Layman’s Fitness 12 Week Bodyweight Program, which you can learn more about here.