The two major movements with weights our arms perform to a large extent involve 'pushing' and 'pulling'. Because a majority of the pushing exercises are done in front of the body, it developes the chest, shoulders as well as the muscles behind the back of the arms, or the triceps. An example of the pushing movement is the flat bench press.

On the other hand, the pulling movement engages the back of the body, including all of the muscles in the back as well as the front of the arms, including the forearms and biceps. Despite being ignored by many because you aren't able to see the back muscles most of the time, they are crucial to the overall health of the body, including the posture you attain or assume throughout a given day. From a cosmetic standpoint, a shapely back allows clothes to fit even better.

The bent-over row is one of the best exercises to give your back the aesthetic shape of a V. Back muscles can be difficult to train as it requires the perfect form and technique, but when done in isolation, they return positive results. The muscles in the back, in fact, allow your arms to function properly, using the muscles in the wings on either side of the spine to extend, stretch, lift or pull with efficiency.

Named after the movement one performs while rowing a boat, the bent-over version requires the body to remain still while the back and arms do the work. It is also said that the amount of pulling exercises must match the amount of pushing exercises you are doing overall, as it helps maintain balance between the front and back of the body.

  1. Benefits of bent-over row
  2. How to do the bent-over row
  3. Common error and precautions
  4. Takeaways

Specific exercises like bent-over rows target many muscle groups like the back and shoulders. The upwards movement of the weight strengthens your arms and torso, which improves your functional strength. Both a barbell or a pair of dumbbells can be used to perform this exercise. In addition to that, the bent-over row provides:

  • Overall strength to the upper body.
  • Makes it easier to perform pull-ups and lat pulldown workouts.
  • Helps increase stability in the body and improves grip in the hands.
  • Improves posture and helps prevent problems like back pain.
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This exercise requires you to assume a foreward bending stance where your back is almost parallel to the ground, which can be tough on the back. To avoid workout injuries, warm-up your body with low-impact exercises meant for the back. Chest expansions, pull-ups, chin-ups, push-ups and arm rotations are great exercises to activate or stretch your back muscles.

Muscle worked

  • Back
  • Shoulders

Equipment required

A barbell or a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells.


Intermediate (trainee)

Sets and reps

3 sets of 15 reps each

How to do single-arm dumbbell row

  • Put your left leg on the bench and hold the bench with your left hand just ahead. Keep the back straight.
  • Your right leg should be right beside, planted firmly on the ground.
  • With your right hand, hold the dumbbell and straighten out the arm as far as it goes down.
  • Keeping the back straight and left side of the body anchored, pull your right hand up by bending the elbow.
  • The elbow should finish right beside your body as your back remains straight.
  • Lower the dumbbell slowly back down to the starting position. This is one rep.

To progress your workout capability try to practice more intense variations of the bent-over row such as:

  • Double arm dumbbell row: In this stance, grab the dumbbells in both hands and follow a similar movement. This does not require the use of a bench.
  • Barbell row: Hold the barbell with an overhand or underhand grip depending on your comfort. Now pull the barbell up towards the mid-section of your body.
  • Machine row: It is an assisted variation in which your torso lies on a padded cushion. You may find a bent-over row machine at your neighborhood gym. Put your torso on the designated platform of the machine. Hold the specific handles in both hands. Pull the weight towards you and release it back slowly.

Tip: Do not put pressure on your arm to lift the weight; instead, try to use your lats for pulling up to make the most of the exercise.

Exercises that involve the 'rowing' movements aren't the easiest to execute or to master. Here are some of the common errors one can see with the bent-over rows.

  • Because one side of the body is anchored and the other is doing all the movements, at least during the single-hand row, there are some technique issues that may creep in. Some tend to pull the weight and take their elbow behind and above the line of the back. The movement only has to finish right next to the body and not extend beyond.
  • To gain additional momentum to bring the weight up, some tend to swing the weight with the arm to bring it back up, which can also lead to injuries. The more stable the body remains, the more it will impact the targeted muscles in the body.
  • Your legs play an important role in this stance, so plant your feet and keep them stabilised throughout the movement during two-handed rows. Some can complain about back pain while performing this exercise, which is why performing the strict movement is essential to keep the back in good shape and health. It is always a better idea to perform movements like these under the supervision of a trainer.
  • It is strongly recommended to avoid this exercise if you already have back or shoulder pain. Consult your doctor before performing any exercise.
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Rowing movements are excellent for developing the back muscles and helping you achieve more proportion between the front and the back of the body. Only performing pull-ups or lat pulldowns doesn't develop all of the muscles in the back, as different angles of approach are needed to target a muscle group.

One must, however, exercise caution before performing exercises that target the back muscles as not only do they require perfect form and technique to execute, they aren't meant for those with underlying problems in the muscles involved.


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