When it comes to activating lots of muscles with one single weightlifting workout, few can compare to the dumbbell bent over row. This all-star body resistance exercise fires up multiple muscles in the body to help you build muscle, increase stability, and burn fat. Learn how to do dumbbell bent over rows — and how they can help you and your fitness goals. Just make sure to get your doctor’s approval before beginning any new exercise routine.
The Dumbbell Bent Over Row: An Intro
The dumbbell bent over row is a compound free-weight exercise. That means that it engages multiple muscles in one movement.1
Because multiple muscles and joints work together at the same time, a compound exercise (like the bent-over row) may help your body burn more calories and build lean muscle mass. Compound exercises also recruit your core muscles to stabilize movements, which can help support stronger abdominal muscles. Basically, you can expect a whole lot of bang for your buck with an exercise like the bent-over row.2
Muscles Worked During The Bent-Over Row
Your upper and mid-back muscles will carry a majority of the load as you lift for the bent-over row exercise. For example, you will work the trapezius and rhomboids that run up your spine to the base of your neck and control your shoulder movement.3 In addition, you will also work:
- Other back muscles, like the latissimus dorsi.
- Arm and chest muscles, such as the biceps and pectoralis.
- Shoulder and trunk muscles, like the deltoids.4
Potential Benefits Of The Bent-Over Row
Tony Horton includes the bent-over row with dumbbells in his workout routine for a number of reasons. First, it supports and helps strengthen the muscles required for one the body’s most common movements: pulling. It also reinforces the back muscles that promote optimal posture.5
The Unique Potential Of Dumbbells
Dumbbell rows may give you a distinct training advantage over the barbell version. That’s because the dumbbell is a unilateral tool that gives you a greater range of motion. This allows you to extend the full length of the muscle path, which better engages your lats and rhomboid.6
Dumbbell rows may also put less stress on your lower back when compared to barbell bent-over rows. That’s because dumbbells require less tension in your stabilizer muscles to lift.7
Dumbbell Bent Over Row Instructions
These are lifting instructions for the most basic version of the dumbbell bent over row. Focus on your form. When you learn how to do dumbbell bent over rows with proper technique, it should offer you the best results.
Note: Always speak to a physician or personal trainer before beginning any new weight training exercises.
Instructions For The Exercise
- Start in a standing position with your feet about shoulder width apart. Grab hold of a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral, overhand grip.
- Bend forward at the hips until your torso is nearly parallel with the ground. In the bent-over or hinged position, your arms will hang down with your palms facing in.
- To begin the exercise, lift your elbows up toward your torso until they are parallel with your back. Pull your shoulder blades back through the movement.
- Pull the weights up toward your chest. When your elbows are in line with your torso, hold briefly, then lower the weights back to the starting position.
- Repeat for 8-10 reps.8
Try A Few Different Techniques
You can adjust the focus of this full-body workout to different areas of your back with some slight variations. For example, pull the weights up higher toward your chest for extra gains in your upper back muscles. Or, lift toward your waist to get a stronger workout in your lower mid-back.9
You can also increase the difficulty of the bent-over row by using an underhand grip instead of overhand. Hold the dumbbells horizontally, so that they’re parallel to your shoulders, with your wrists facing forward. This will give your biceps and lats an extra bit of attention.10
One-Arm Bent-Over Row
You may also like to learn how to do dumbbell bent over row variations like the one-arm row. Using one weight for a one-arm dumbbell row can help focus your effort on the lats and traps. It also ensures that each side of your body gets equal attention. Here’s how to do it.
- Stand next to a bench, and place a dumbbell on the ground.
- Place your left leg and hand on the bench. Your upper body should be parallel with the bench.
- Reach your right arm down, and pick up the weight with your palm facing in. Keep your arm extended down and your back straight.
- Lift the weight toward chest height by using your back and shoulder muscles. Stop and hold when your arm is in line with your back.
- Lower the weight slowly. Repeat for 8-10 reps, then switch sides.11
Avoid Common Mistakes
To get the most out of your bent-over row and to prevent injuries, you should focus on form. These are some of the most common mistakes when doing bent-over rows with dumbbells. Check them out, so you can recognize and avoid these errors.
Bending Over Too Far
You want to avoid bending over too far when doing the dumbbell bent over row. Leaning more than about a 45-degree angle can place strain on your back.12
Many people lift their elbows high up above their back when lifting the dumbbells up to their chest. This can put unwanted stress on your shoulder joints. That’s why it’s important to only lift up until your elbows are in line with your torso or an inch above.13
Too Much Weight
Avoid the temptation to speed up the process with heavy weights. Go for light dumbbells that allow you to focus on your form. These slow, controlled movements with lighter dumbbells can be more beneficial than lifting lots of weight with poor form.14
The Dumbbell Bent Over Row: Big Gains From One Exercise
It’s tough to compete with the bent-over row in the efficiency and impact departments. This one full-body strength training workout targets your back, shoulders, arms, and core. Multi-zone impact like that means you may also burn extra calories and build lean muscle. That’s why Tony Horton makes dumbbell bent-over rows a regular part of his workout routines.
To achieve maximum results with this classic lifting exercise, you want to practice perfect form. The instructions above can guide you through best practices and teach you the most common mistakes. Follow along to start enjoying all the great potential benefits that can come from this powerful and dependable exercise. But again, make sure to first get your doctor’s approval.
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