Build Up Your Back With The Incline Dumbbell Row

Build up your back with the incline dumbbell row

This move will build massive lats – and help to perfect your form for other similar exercises

NO GOOD BACK day is complete without incorporating some kind of row. These pulling exercises attack your back muscles while safeguarding your shoulders. To get a little more out of your basic variations, level it up a notch with the underrated the incline dumbbell row (also called the incline bench row and chest-supported dumbbell row).

This simple variation on the standard dumbbell row will fire up your back in new ways, and it’ll make you stronger when you do those more common dumbbell rows, too. It’s a key way to mix up your back training and attack your lower lats. Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. and senior editor Brett Williams, NASM are here to show you exactly how to execute it so you can reach your full gym potential.

The incline dumbbell row seems like a simple move, but to get the most out of it, you need to understand its subtleties. That means understanding your body position on the bench (no, you don’t get to just slump over), and owning every rep. Read on for the rundown:

How to do the Dumbbell Incline Row

  • Set your bench up to a 45-degree angle. Sit down on the bench with your chest on the pad top, feet planted. Squeeze your core and glutes.
  • Pick up your dumbbells. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Drive with the elbow first, pulling it towards the ceiling and back towards your ribcage. Don’t lift the chest off the bench.
  • Squeeze and pause at the top for a few seconds.

Follow these tips from Samuel for more detailed form cues.

Torso never rests

Eb says: The bench is helping you find a different angle than the standard dumbbell row angle, an angle that’ll help you focus in on your lower lats more, and pull with more control. That doesn’t mean relaxing on the bench. Instead, create a sturdy, rigid frame before you’ve even done a rep. Your glutes should be squeezed, you should be breathing your abs into the bench, and you should be flexing your upper and mid-back muscles so your shoulders can’t slump forward.

Never lose chest contact

Eb says: The bench is also there to keep you accountable. Your chest shouldn’t be relaxing on the bench, but it should always be in contact with the bench for the duration of the set. By forcing your chest to always remain touching the bench, you insure two things. First off, it means you’re not going to over-arch through your lower back. Secondly, it’s going to force your mid-back muscles to initiate the rowing motion. If you rock your chest up and down, momentum takes that away from your mid-back muscles, and you miss the full virtue of the exercise.

Stay out of your traps

Eb says: Focus on rowing down and back, and on rowing with your elbows. Don’t try to come too high up on this row, because it’s not necessary. Think of rowing until your upper arms are parallel (or just slightly higher) than your torso. Row too high, and you won’t actually be “rowing” to get up there; instead, you’ll be using velocity generated at the beginning of the motion to continue driving the arms upwards. Your rule of thumb on the incline row is to row as high as you can squeeze and hold. If you row up, and your upper arms shift back downwards because you can’t squeeze and hold, then you rowed too high.

Benefits of the Incline Dumbbell Row

As nice as it is to have a big chest and big arms, it’s important to balance your workouts. That means you’ll want to train your posterior (your back) just as much as you train your anterior (your front). Incline dumbbell rows help train the upper portion of your back, which is vital to proper posture, supporting the spine, and preventing injury.

Muscles trained by the incline dumbbell row

The incline dumbbell row is going to hit a few more muscles than your traditional rows. You’ll use upper and mid-back muscles like the rhomboids, traps, and upper lats. The move also hits the lower-lats, “which is somewhat under-appreciated in some of our other back exercises,” Samuel says.

How to Add the Incline Dumbbell Row to Your Workouts

Try to incorporate this movement into your routine at least once a week – like on your back or pull day. Make it your second or third exercise in your workout, and use it to work with heavier weights than you might for other rows, since you have the chest support. Aim for 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.

This article originally appeared on Men’s Health US.

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