How to Properly Perform the Dumbbell Bent Over Row Exercise

Work the Back and Shoulder Muscles in One Action

The bent over dumbbell row is widely considered to be one of the best muscle building exercises for the back and also for the shoulders. It works both areas well and has been know to improve overall strength and also build muscle. However, an individual needs some experience with weight training before getting into the bent over dumbbell row exercise.

The lifter's back should be kept straight throughout the exercise. The amount of weight used for the bent over dumbbell row should be moderate until you are confident you back is strong enough to handle increased weights.

Find out more about weight training terminology and exercise descriptions if you need any additional background information before you try the bent over dumbbell row.

Here are some additional dumbbell exercises.

How to Do The Dumbbell Bent Over Row: The Starting Position

Racks of dumbbells.
Racks of dumbbells. UFO/Getty Images
  1. In order to perform a proper bent over dumbbell press, stand with legs at a comfortable distance apart. Typically, the legs should be about shoulder width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing the body.
  2. With a dumbbell in each hand, bend over, keeping the back as straight as you would for a deadlift or squat; 45 degrees is about right.
  3. Like the legs, the dumbbells should be kept at about shoulder width apart.

How to Do the Dumbbell Bent Over Row: The Exercise Description

The bent over row.
The bent over row. Milan Markovic/Getty Images
  1. Brace the abdominals, keep the back straight and lift the weights straight up then down again in a controlled manner.
  2. While lifting, the arms should go no higher than parallel with the shoulders. Slightly lower than the shoulders is fine. Breathe in to start. Breathe out on effort.
  3. While lifting, try to keep the wrists from excessive extra movement down or to the side.
  4. Do not squat down and up after the initial pose. No movement of the legs occur throughout the exercise.
  5. Remain bent over until all repetitions are complete.

How to Do the Dumbbell Bent Over Row: Points to Note

The bent over row builds muscle in the back and shoulders.
The bent over row builds muscle in the back and shoulders. Westend61/Getty Images
  • The bent over dumbbell row is an advanced exercise with a reputation for building back and shoulder muscle. However, you need to ensure you have a strong lower back and previous experience in weight training before adding this particular exercise to your program.
  • You must keep the back straight and not curved over and the shoulders square throughout the exercise.
  • You should not raise the weights beyond the line of the shoulders nor bend the wrist excessively up, down or to the side.
  • You should keep the dumbbells at shoulder width apart in the lift.
  • Do not lift heavy weights with this particular exercise unless you are experienced and trust your strength, shoulder joints and back.
  • Shoulder impingement can be a problem with heavy weights and, or, poor form. If pain or inflammation occurs, cease the exercise.

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