Dumbbell Bent Over Row (Step-by-Step Instructions)

Dumbbell bent-over rows are a great exercise for lifters in their progression to rowing a barbell. The dumbbell bent-over row helps to develop the posterior chain muscles and reinforces a good lifting step up.

In this guide, I will go over how to perform Dumbbell Bent-Over Rows, coaching tips, common mistakes and more.

How To Do Dumbbell Bent Over Rows

Equipment Needed

  • Two dumbbells or kettlebells

Step-by-Step Instruction

  • Stand with your dumbells at your sides on the ground.
  • Hinge at the waist and bend the knee until you can grab the dumbbells.
  • Always keep a flat back, a neutral spine, and keep your eyes focused slightly down about 1 foot in front of you.
  • Take a deep breath, brace the abdomen, and pull the dumbbells in until they are in line with your torso.
  • Pause for about 1 second. Squeeze the shoulder blades and lock in the rep.
  • Slowly return the dumbbells back to the starting position (dumbbells at about the knee).

Coaching Points

This is a great movement to develop posterior chain strength. It is also a great exercise in progression to Barbell Bent Over Rows.

I would highly recommend this movement to any lifter or athlete. It develops strength in the posterior chain and can be overloaded over time easily.

The setup here is very similar to the Deadlift. With that in mind, always remember to keep a nice neutral spine. DO NOT ROUND YOUR BACK.

Another common mistake is I have seen lifters go too heavy and therefore need to “hitch or yank” into a lock-in position. Never sacrifice your form for more weight. You will get hurt eventually.

Muscles Worked

  • Lats
  • Upper and lower back
  • Biceps
  • Abdominal muscles (Stabilizing the horizontal lifting position)

Dumbbell Bent Over Row Alternatives

Chest Supported Dumbbell Row

Lie down on a bench (the angle at 30-45 degrees) with your dumbbells and perform your rows. This essentially takes all the setup out of the equation and you can just focus on rowing. This is also a great movement for anyone with a lower-body injury who still want to get rows in from a free-moving implement instead of machines.

This is also a great movement for athletes who are in season and need to save their lower backs and stay injury-free. The drawback of this movement is obviously it is not going to be specific to out-of-season athletes who play on their feet or Olympic lifters who need a strong setup.

One Arm Dumbbell Row

Grab a dumbbell and a bench. Stabilize one hand on the bench, hinge at the waist, slightly bend the knee and row the dumbbell. DB One Arm Row is a great movement for progression into barbell rowing.

This movement can easily progress with weight, tempos, or both.

Seated Row Machine

I generally do not recommend machines but in this case, the seated row machine has its place. This is a great movement for a lifter looking to get some volume in their rows after the main work is done. I do not recommend programming this machine for long. The benefits of free weights far out-weight machines in progressive overload, kinesthetic awareness, and sport-specific training.

More Links and Info

Looking for some more great exercises to increase your upper body strength? Head over to our exercise library to find exercises that can help you crush your goals. All for free.

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