The dumbbell row is one of the classic back exercises that will always be relevant. It is simple, beginner-friendly, effective, and fun to perform.
Read on to learn how to do the exercise, its unique benefits, and much more.
Let’s dive in.
How to Do The Dumbbell Row
- Grab a dumbbell and walk over to a flat gym bench.
- Hold the weight in your right hand, place your left knee on the bench, lean forward, and plant your left hand on top.
- Position your right arm straight down with your elbow extended.
- Bring your shoulders back, engage your abs, and take a breath.
- Row the dumbbell, bringing your elbow to torso level, and feel the squeeze at the top.
- Slowly lower the weight by fully extending your arm.
- Once finished, place your opposite knee on the bench, and do the same number of reps for your left side.
One variation you can do is holding a pair of dumbbells, leaning forward, keeping your back straight, and rowing, similar to a bent-over barbell row. These are called two arm dumbbell rows.
One Arm Dumbbell Row
Bent Over Two Arm Rows
Muscles Worked During a Dumbbell Row
The dumbbell row primarily works the upper back–-rhomboids, trapezius, latissimus dorsi (lats), etc. The biceps and forearms also contribute to the movement primarily by assisting elbow flexion.
Aside from the muscles with an active role, the exercise develops the midsection (abs, obliques, etc.). These muscles serve the crucial function of keeping your torso rigid during exercise.
Dumbbell Row Benefits
1. Great For Home and Gym Training
Few exercises are as flexible and versatile as the dumbbell row. You can pick from several variations and do the exercise at home or the gym to build your back.
We’ll share some weight recommendations for the exercise below.
2. Stronger and Wider Back
Another notable benefit is that the dumbbell row allows you to overload your back with a lot of weight, resulting in excellent strength development.
In addition, the exercise emphasizes the latissimus dorsi, the largest upper body muscle, contributing to the V-taper look everyone wants. (1)
3. Reduced Risk of Muscle Imbalances
Dumbbell rows are a unilateral exercise where you train one side at a time. As a result, both sides of your body receive equal stimulation, which is crucial for preventing muscle imbalances. (2)
The Weights You’ll Need for Dumbbell Rows
A single pair of dumbbells can work for the exercise, but we recommend having two pairs:
- One lighter set of dumbbells for smaller muscles
- One heavier set for large muscles, including the back
For example, if you’re a beginner, the lighter dumbbells might be 10 lbs and the heavier 25 lbs.
Adjustable dumbbells are also viable because you can adjust the resistance to the desired level. Even if you only have a couple of dumbbells, you can have more weight on one and less on the other, allowing you to switch between activities seamlessly.
The dumbbell row is an excellent exercise that offers numerous unique benefits. You can do it early in your training with heavier weights or finish your back workouts with high-rep ‘burnout’ sets.
Don’t forget to warm up well through low-intensity cardio and dynamic stretching before going heavy. When you first assume the position of a dumbbell row, whether one arm or two row, you need to be very careful. Always start with a weight lower than you think – always err on the side of caution. Once you feel comfortable, you can always increase the weight. (3)
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- Latissimus Dorsi Muscle. Physiopedia. (n.d.).
- Kassel, G. (2019, July 12). What is unilateral training and why is it important? Shape. https://www.shape.com/fitness/tipsContributors, W. M. D. E. (n.d.). /what-is-unilateral-training
- Warm-up exercises: Do they improve performance and reduce injuries? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/benefits-of-warmup-exercises