Dumbbell Bent-Over Row: Technique, Correct Form, Common Mistakes, and Variations

The dumbbell bent-over row is a great exercise for your back (Image via Unsplash/Cathy Pham)
The dumbbell bent-over row is a great exercise for your back (Image via Unsplash/Cathy Pham)

Dumbbell bent-over rows are one of the best exercises you can do for your back. They are effective in strengthening the upper and middle back, as well as the traps and lats. Shoulders, chest, core, triceps, and biceps are also engaged during this exercise.

You could say this is a great exercise for strengthening your upper body and improving your posture.

How to do the dumbbell bent-over row

To perform this exercise, you would need a pair of dumbbells to hold in either hand. Start with a lighter weight to first get acclimatized to the movement before using a heavier weight.

Here's how you do a dumbbell bent-over row correctly:

  • Stand straight with your feet hip-distance apart and hold the dumbbells by your sides.
  • Bend at your hip. You may allow your knees to bend slightly to accommodate your back being about 60 degrees to the ground. Keep your shoulders high and ensure your back is straight. Let your arms fall straight down and allow the dumbbells to be suspended below you, directly in line with the shoulders. Inhale.
  • Lift the dumbbells up towards your chest as you exhale. Do not raise them past your diaphragm. Draw your elbows close to the body as they bend and point upward. You may hold this pose for a few seconds to build tension in your upper back.
  • Slowly release your arms back down to the starting position while inhaling again.

Tips for maintaining correct form

As with any exercise, your form is super important. The wrong form can lead to injury and prevent you from performing even basic movements for a long time.

Here are some tips for maintaining the right form while doing dumbbell bent-over rows:

1) Brace your core

Engaging your core muscles will ensure your back is straight throughout the movement and isn’t slouching or arching, thereby impairing your performance.

2) Keep your shoulders upright

You should always maintain correct form while doing dumbbell bent-over rows (Image via Pexels/Jan Valle)
You should always maintain correct form while doing dumbbell bent-over rows (Image via Pexels/Jan Valle)

The only way you can target those rear delts and lats during your rows is to keep your shoulders tall. Letting them slouch will render this exercise ineffective and will possibly cause a pull or strain on your shoulders.

3) Keep your feet hip-distance apart

This sounds like a minor correction, but it is vital that your legs are spaced apart at a comfortable position, so you don’t sway or swing during this movement.

Maintaining balance in your body is important while performing rows so you can get the most out of them and improve overall stability.

Common mistakes

If you’re a beginner, it is likely you may not get dumbbell bent-over rows right on your very first go.

Here are some common mistakes that people perform during this exercise:

1) Bending too deep

Bending over too deep may seem like you are doing the right thing to target your back, but it doesn’t work that way. When you progress to heavier loads, performing rows when you’ve dipped too deep could cause serious harm to your back.

2) Rounding shoulders or back

Always make sure your shoulders are upright and your back isn’t slouching. This could ruin your efforts and lead to injury.

3) Lifting the dumbbells too high

While it may seem like lifting dumbbells beyond the line of your diaphragm is more effective at sculpting your back, it is not. In fact, it’s not even a dumbbell row anymore. This puts you at risk of injuring your shoulders.

Variations of the dumbbell row

Once you’ve mastered the dumbbell bent-over row, you can consider trying out these variations that may prove more effective:

1) Barbell rows

Although similar to the dumbbell row, barbell rows allow for more stability and control during your pulling movements. Plus, you can even lift heavier loads this way.

Check out the exercise in this video:


2) Single-arm bent-over row

Single-arm movements allow you to recognize which side is weaker and work on it individually. Maintaining stability while one side is at rest while the other is at work will also help strengthen the core.

Check out the exercise in this video:


3) Renegade rows

Renegade rows are a little advanced but are very effective in toning the core. These are single-arm rows performed in a high plank position.

There is a concerning factor here regarding safety, as the supporting arm is balancing on a dumbbell. One wrong move and you could end up injured.

Check out the exercise in this video:


So, that’s the scoop on dumbbell bent-over rows. Grab a pair of dumbbells and add this exercise to your next back, upper body, or even full body day.

You’re bound to have a stronger, more sculpted back in no time. Don’t forget to stretch for recovery; nobody likes a sore back.

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Edited by Rachel Syiemlieh