Bent Over Dumbbell Row Exercise Guide

The Bent Over Dumbbell Row is a compound exercise primarily targeting the muscles of the back, especially the latissimus dorsi and rhomboids. To perform this movement, one bends forward at the hips, holding a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip, and pulls the weights upward in a rowing motion towards the torso. This exercise plays a pivotal role in developing a strong, broad, and sculpted back. By engaging the muscles that retract the scapulae, it not only helps in building muscle mass but also aids in the improvement of posture by counteracting the hunched position many adopt from daily tasks like sitting at a desk. Variations of this exercise can be performed with different grip orientations or by using a single dumbbell at a time to focus on unilateral strength. 

Target Muscle Group
Upper Back
Exercise Type
Strength, High-Intensity, Balance and Stability
Equipment Required
Force Type
Experience Level
Secondary Muscles
Abs, Biceps, Lats, Lower Back, Shoulders

Step by Step Guide

Position & Grip

Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand in front of you. With a slight bend in your knees, hinge at the waist to lean forward until your torso is almost parallel to the ground. Keep a straight back, ensuring it's not rounded. Your arms should be extended fully, with palms facing your body.

Row the Dumbbells

With a firm grip on the dumbbells, drive your elbows back and up, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Pull the dumbbells towards your hips. Ensure that the movement is controlled and you're using your back muscles, not momentum, to lift the weights. Your elbows should be close to your body, and not flared out.

Return & Repeat

Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position with arms extended, ensuring you maintain the bent-over stance and straight back. That's one repetition. Continue to perform the exercise for the desired number of repetitions, typically ranging between 8-15. If you're new to this exercise, begin with a manageable weight to ensure proper form, then gradually increase as your strength and technique improve.

Here are a Few Tips to Keep in Mind When Performing this Exercise.

  • Maintain a Neutral Spine: It's crucial to keep your spine neutral and your back straight throughout the movement. A common mistake is rounding the back, which can lead to strain and potential injury. By keeping a neutral spine, you ensure that the targeted muscles, especially the middle and upper back, are effectively engaged.
  • Engage Your Core: Your core muscles play a critical role in stabilizing your body during the row. Tighten your abdominal muscles as you perform the exercise, which not only supports your lower back but also ensures a more effective and controlled movement.
  • Avoid Using Momentum: Ensure that you're using the strength of your back muscles to lift the dumbbells, rather than swinging or using momentum. This ensures that you're getting the maximum benefit from the exercise and reduces the risk of injury. Lift the weights in a controlled manner and equally control the descent.

Exercise Benefits

  • Enhanced Back Strength: The Bent Over Dumbbell Row primarily targets the muscles of the middle and upper back, specifically the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius. Regularly incorporating this exercise into your routine can lead to increased strength in these muscle groups.
  • Improved Muscular Definition: By targeting the back muscles effectively, this exercise helps in toning and sculpting the back, giving it a more chiseled appearance. This is especially beneficial for those looking to achieve a V-shaped torso.
  • Better Postural Support: Strengthening the muscles of the back is integral for maintaining an upright posture. A strong back can counteract the forward hunch often seen due to prolonged sitting or screen time, promoting better overall posture.
  • Enhanced Core Stability: While the primary focus is on the back muscles, the bent-over position requires engagement from the core muscles, leading to improved core strength and stability. This can benefit functional movements in daily life and other exercises.
  • Improved Shoulder Stability: As the exercise also engages the rear deltoids and scapular muscles, it aids in stabilizing the shoulder joint. This can lead to improved performance in other upper body exercises and reduced risk of shoulder-related injuries.