Chest Supported Dumbbell Row
The Best Back Exercise You're Not Doing
By: Zack Mathews, NASM - CPT, CES, & PES. PN-L1
The chest supported dumbbell row is one of my favorite exercises because it falls in the category of exercises that are low risk, high reward.
That’s the category you want to be in for longevity in the gym. If you are constantly doing movements that are low risk, you aren’t going to hurt yourself and have to take time off.
Today you’ll learn how to do a chest supported DB row, what muscles are being worked, and get answers to the most frequently asked questions.
- How To Do A Chest Supported Dumbbell Row
- Chest Supported Row Muscles Worked Breakdown
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Ideal Sets & Reps For Chest Supported Dumbbell Rows
- Set your bench at a 30 degree angle. This is usually the second notch on most benches.
- Place your dumbbells at the rear of the bench on the legs (if your bench has them) so they get a small boost off the ground.
- Get your chest on the bench and get high enough so your head and neck are over the top of the bench.
- Your feet can either be on the ground or you can put your knees on the bench (like the video above) and have your feet up in the air.
- Grab the dumbbells and extend your arms out straight.
- Begin your row movement by pulling the weight up as you squeeze your shoulder blades together. Imagine that you are trying to pull your elbows back towards your hip as you row the dumbbells.
- Squeeze for one second at the top of the movement and then take 2 - 3 seconds slowly lowering the weight back to the start.
- That’s your first DB chest supported row!
Any row variation means that your back muscles are going be the primary mover in the exercise. The main back muscles being worked in a chest supported DB row along with the secondary muscles include:
- Latissimus dorsi, aka your lats.
- Trapezius, aka your traps.
- Rhomboids. This is a smaller muscle in the middle of the back.
- Biceps. These are a secondary muscle but are still being worked in this exercise.
Frequently Asked Questions
Although they are both row variations, the chest supported dumbbell row is drastically different than a barbell row.
For starters, your hand position is different. With a DB chest supported row, your hands are in a neutral position, meaning your palms are facing one another. This is an advantageous grip position for shoulder health. For a barbell row you take an overhand grip, which isn’t as good for your shoulders.
Next up is the core and hamstring stability and activation that a barbell row works. Since you are in a hinged position, your hamstrings are lengthened and you also don’t have any support so your core has to help stabilize you.
This is why it’s common for people to hurt their back on barbell rows. No core support + people lifting too heavy with bad form = an injury waiting to happen.
A chest supported row on the other hand allows the bench to provide stability so you can focus on working the muscles in your back.
Additionally, a DB chest supported row is a great exercise to use as a superset with a push movement. For example, using one bench, you can do a chest supported row and then lay your back on the bench and do dumbbell chest press.
It’s a great way to do your workouts while keeping your work area small.
You should be doing chest supported dumbbell rows because it’s a safe, joint friendly, and effective exercise that builds muscle.
Like I mentioned in the question above, the bench allows you to take out the core stability element so you’re less likely to hurt your lower back in this position.
Also, dumbbell are generally safer for the shoulders than barbells so you are getting another advantage point for the joint friendly, safe exercises.
Yes an incline dumbbell row is the same as a DB chest supported row. Some people like to call an incline dumbbell row when you put the bench at a 45 degree angle but at the end of the day, as long as you are on the incline of the bench, it’s the same movement in my books.
The best chest supported dumbbell row variations are exercise that will keep your chest on the bench and are joint friendly.
My favorite variations are batwing row variations including holds, one arm batwing rows, and alternating dumbbell batwing rows.
If you want to start exploring more exercises that move away the chest supported bench but are still rows and fall under the “pulling” category, check out The Best Dumbbell Row Variations.
To recap, chest supported dumbbell rows are an amazing exercise because they are joint friendly and still build muscle in your back.
The main muscles that get worked are the lats, traps, rhomboids, and biceps.
Use this exercise as part of a back workout , upper body workout, or full body lift. 3 sets of 10 - 12 reps with a 1 second squeeze on each rep will be a great start. Increase the weight once you can do all 3 sets in that 10 - 12 range.