What are Dumbbell Rows?

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  • Written By: Troy Holmes
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 06 January 2020
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The latissimus dorsi is the largest back muscle in the human body. The dumbbell rows are a weightlifting exercise designed to strengthen the back muscles. This exercise is completed in a series of repetitions, with each arm exercised independently. This exercise is considered a compound exercise, targeting the middle back, deltoids and latissimus dorsi.

Performing the dumbbell rows requires a weight bench or platform that can support the knee and arm. The weightlifter should kneel on the side of bench by placing one knee and hand or supporting arm on bench. The opposite foot and leg should be slightly back behind the knee line to help for support. The weightlifter should next grab the dumbbell from floor and lift in a row manner until the dumbbell reaches the rib area.

In weightlifting it is important to manage muscle balance and contour shaping for the entire body. This balance should include using multiple back exercises. Back exercises assist the body in bending, lifting, and throwing objects. The dumbbell rows are considered an excellent exercise for shaping the middle back area.

In competitive body building, it is typical to see these athletes perform a lat pose. This pose highlights the shape and size of the large back muscles. When performed properly it gives the appearance of bat wings or cobra snake shape around the upper body.


The dumbbell rows are considered a free-weight exercise. The term free weight training describes the usage of weights that a free from any hardware platform. These weights can be used for multiple exercises and give the weightlifter the added benefit of range of motion during an exercise.

When a weightlifter uses a machine to complete an exercise he is forced to complete the exercise in a specified angle and path during the extension and contraction portion of the lift. With free weights the body is forced to use additional external muscles to enable better overall balance while performing the exercise. In comparison, the machine exercises are typically focused on isolation of muscles and the free weights are used to perform compound free form motion lifts.

There are several benefits of using single arm dumbbell rows instead of cable rows, machine rows, and barbell rows. These offer a better range of motion, offer compound unilateral movement and focus on overloading of the latissimus dorsi. The dumbbell rows are an excellent exercise that can be added into the weightlifter toolbox.


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