Are you trying to grow your back but to no avail? Tried countless exercises but still not gotten the results you want? The chest-supported rows are one of the best and most highly-effective back exercises that isolate and fire up the back muscles while improving your strength in lifting heavy loads.
Incorporating Chest-Supported Rows into your upper-body exercise significantly boosts up your muscle gains as it works both your heavy load lifting capacity and muscle isolation. Moreover, this back exercise can be performed in several variations to challenge the upper-body muscle groups which we will guide you with, alongside the best tips to get the most out of your sets and reps.
This Ultimate Guide Will Cover:
- How To Chest Supported Row
- Chest Supported Row Benefits
- Common Chest Supported Row Mistakes To Avoid
- Chest Supported Row Muscles Worked
- Chest Supported Row vs Bent Over Row
- Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, & Programs
- Chest Supported Row Variations
- Chest Supported Row Alternative Exercises
- FAQs About The Chest Supported Row
How To Chest Supported Row
Step 1: Set Up Your Incline Bench
Before getting started, take the time to set up your Incline Bench. Ideally, the bench should be within the range of a 30- and 45-degree angle. The closer the bench is to 45 degrees, the easier it’ll be for you to perform the chest-supported dumbbell rows in proper form.
Step 2: Slowly Approach the Bench
Approach the bench and hold one dumbbell in each hand. Straddle the bench and rest your chest on the padded, angled portion of the bench.
Step 3: Carefully Position Your Body
This is one of the most important steps because how you position your body can significantly affect your form and ability to enjoy the benefits of the exercise. When positioning your body on the angled portion of the bench, only rest your chest and torso, not your head or neck. Your head and neck should be over the top of the bench and create one long line with your spine.
Your arms should hang straight downwards, and your shoulders should be pulled down. Release all of the tension in your upper back and shoulders, as well as your lower body. Maintain your feet flat on the floor.
Step 4: Lift the Dumbbells by Squeezing Your Shoulder Blades
Once you’re ready, face your palms towards one another and row the dumbbells up towards your ribcage by pulling your elbows back. Your elbows should drive straight back along your body and towards your chest, not to your sides. As you lift, don’t forget to exhale and make sure that your upper chest is slightly lifted off from the bench. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades as far as they can go without disrupting the neutral position of your head and neck and take a pause.
Step 5: Gently Release Your Pinch
From the highest peak of your pinch, gently lower the weights down in a controlled motion by dropping your arms back to hanging. As you perform this step, your upper chest should also return to the resting position on the bench.
Step 6: Repeat
As you complete each set, make sure that you’re keeping your entire chest resting on the bench and you’re not curving your back muscles in any way. If you notice your back starting to curve, your dumbbells might be too heavy. Use a lighter dumbbell, so you can easily maintain proper form and achieve your desired number of reps.
5 Chest Supported Row Benefits
1. Takes the strain off of your lower back
In certain row variations, such as t-bar rows, bent-over rows, and chest-supported barbell rows, people tend to improperly hunch their back, resulting in severe lower back pain and injuries. Additionally, rows performed without supportive equipment require more lower back stabilization, leading to back injuries and pain. Chest supported rows take the strain off your lower back because you’ll be using an incline bench. This equipment keeps your chest popped up and prevents it from hunching. Upright row
2. Maximizes isolation of your back muscles
Since you’ll be using an incline bench to achieve proper positioning, chest-supported rows focus purely on isolating your back muscles. As a result, your back gets more of an isolated workout than if you were to perform rows without any supportive equipment. Chest-supported rows are also a great accessory exercise to boost your bench press.
3. Doesn’t require core stability
Aside from lesser stabilization of the lower back, less-supportive row variations also require core stabilization to maintain proper form. This can be challenging for individuals who have weak cores. The chest-supported dumbbell row removes the need for core stabilization, thanks to the support of the bench. This allows you to focus more on developing your back muscles.
4. Supports upper body posture
With less strain on your lower back and spine and stronger back muscles, the posture of your entire upper body will eventually improve. When you have good posture, you’re less prone to developing debilitating injuries, such as strains and herniated disks. Additionally, good posture allows you to stand up straighter and exude more confidence.
5. Ideal for beginners and experienced lifters
Regardless of how many years you’ve spent lifting, chest-supported rows can benefit you. For beginners, this exercise helps build stronger back muscles fast and easily. Chest supported rows offer plenty of support, making it easier for beginners to maintain good form when lifting. For experienced lifters and those involved in bodybuilding, chest-supported rows allow them to focus on purely isolating their back muscles alone. This enables experienced lifters to build muscle mass.
Common Chest Supported Row Mistakes to Avoid
No deep stretching
One of the biggest mistakes people commit when performing chest-supported rows is not stretching the scapula (or the shoulder blades) at the start and end of each set. If you want your muscles to get bigger, you need to protect and retract your shoulder blades throughout the exercise. To do this, perform a deep stretch at the bottom and come all the way up at the top for every rep.
Rotating your torso
Rotating your torso when you perform the chest-supported dumbbell row reduces your range of motion, thus reducing the efficacy of the exercise. One way to fix this problem is by keeping your torso inline and not moving your spine as you perform the exercise.
Moving your whole body
Adding momentum to the chest-supported rows by moving your whole body only puts you at a higher risk of injuries and decreases the benefits of the exercise. Instead of helping you build stronger, bigger muscles, the exercise will only do more than good. Make sure that you’re performing the chest-supported row properly by keeping your whole body — with the exception of your working arm and back — stable in one place throughout the exercise.
Chest Supported Row Muscles Worked
Similar to barbell rows, bent over rows, and other row exercises, chest-supported dumbbell rows primarily target the muscles in your mid-back and upper back. Specifically, the exercise targets the following muscle groups:
- Latissimus dorsi or lats
- Trapezius or traps
Your lats are the biggest muscles of your entire upper body. When you perform chest supported rows, this muscle is activated every time you complete a pulling movement. Your traps and rhomboids, on the other hand, work together to initiate movements and support your shoulder blades. Lastly, the chest-supported row also targets your biceps as they help flex your elbow, so your arms can bend and pull the dumbbell up during the exercise.
Chest Supported Row vs Bent Over Row
Chest supported rows and bent over rows are different in many ways. For one, because your movements are supported with a bench, chest-supported rows are great for beginners. This exercise is also ideal for individuals with back problems because it doesn’t put too much stress on the lower back. Bent over rows, on the other hand, are more suitable for expert lifters because it requires mastery and puts tension on both your mid-and lower back muscles.
Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, and Programs
To Build Strength
If building strength is your primary goal, perform the chest-supported row for eight reps in four sets using heavy dumbbells. To take it up a notch, train unilaterally, meaning you have to work a single arm at a time.
To Achieve Muscle Hypertrophy
You can easily achieve muscle hypertrophy by performing the chest-supported dumbbell row for five to eight reps in four sets using moderate dumbbells. If you don’t have any experience doing rows, start by using lighter weights until you’re comfortable enough to lift more weight without sacrificing the perfect form.
To Enhance Flexibility
To use chest-supported rows to enhance your flexibility in order to easily perform other exercises, do 10 to 15 reps in four sets using a lighter weight. You can add more sets if you feel you’re comfortable lifting weights for longer periods.
Chest Supported Row Variations
And while the chest supported row is an excellent exercise, adding a little variation to your workout routine can surely help. This will allow your muscle groups to rest and avoid injury. Listed below are three chest-supported row variations that are worth trying.
Chest Supported Barbell Row
This chest-supported version uses a barbell instead of a dumbbell. This variation uses a neutral grip, which can eventually help improve your grip strength. The chest-supported barbell row also allows unilateral work and is ideal for achieving muscle hypertrophy.
The seal row is another supported row variation that can be done using dumbbells, a barbell, or a trap bar. The position of this exercise requires the lifter to only use their back and arms to lift the load, minimizing lower back and hip involvement. The seal row specifically targets the mid-back and lats.
The Kroc row was made famous by Janae Marie Kroczaleski, a champion body lifter, and powerlifter. To perform this variation, you need to mentally prepare yourself, as this exercise will require you to push outside of your comfort threshold. This exercise will push you past your normal reps without foregoing the perfect form.
Chest Supported Row Alternatives
If you want to achieve a stronger, well-toned back fast, it’s not enough to perform chest-supported rows regularly — you need to incorporate other exercises to ensure that your entire back is targeted. We’ve listed some of the best chest-supported row alternatives that’ll help you build the back of your dreams.
The bent-over row is an excellent alternative to the chest-supported dumbbell row because it targets your biceps and back muscles while building your core. Bent over rows is a great option for anyone prone to back pain as the exercise improves posture, which can eventually prevent pain and discomfort in the back. Make sure to apply the proper hip hinge position as it might result in more of an upright row that targets the traps and shoulders instead of your back.
Seated Cable Row
The seated cable row targets your teres major, latissimus dorsi, trapezius muscle, and most of the major muscles on your back. This alternative uses a row machine to perform rowing movements. The seated cable row is ideal for individuals who want to train their back in high volume without adding unnecessary fatigue to their hamstrings and lower back.
Weighted Pull Up
Weighted pull-ups are considered one of the best exercises to build muscles because it adds bulk to your back. This exercise also targets other muscle groups, namely your forearms and biceps. A weighted pull-up is an excellent option for physique athletes, strength athletes, and regular gymgoers because it’s a compound movement that trains different muscle groups simultaneously.