Form Check: Dumbbell Row

Form Check: Dumbbell Row

The combined value for both hypertrophy and shoulder health makes the DB Row one of my personal favorites. Unfortunately, if you walk into most gyms you’ll see them getting butchered pretty badly. Avoid beating up your back and shoulder and try some of these coaching tips that we teach in the CFSC to make sure you’re performing them correctly.

Foolproof Set-Up: I start all my clients start in an athletic position with their knees against the bench. I have them take one big step back followed by a half step out with each leg. I want their hips externally rotated so I tell them to “imagine you are riding a really big horse” to get them in a good position. From there they should maintain that position as they hinge down to the bench.

Stability for Strength: The DB row is a primarily a strength and hypertrophy exercise so we want a set-up that reflects that goal. Set up with wide feet and heels flat on the ground. The dumbbell should row inside of the knee giving us the most stable position to create force. Setting up with narrow feet and tippy toes will lead to lots of energy leaks and wobbling.

No Lawnmower Start: Too often DB Rows remind me of some trying to start an old lawnmower. Avoid rocking in the row to generate momentum. The thoracic spine should rotate with the scapula motion but the lumbar and cervical spine should stay still.

The Scapula Has To Move: In an effort to battle slouching many coaches have become OVERLY focused on scapula retraction causing them to avoid cueing protraction. The scapula is an extremely mobile joint that needs to be trained for stability in all directions for optimal health. During the downward phase of the row we should cue the client to protract under control, strengthening them eccentrically. The act of of controlling the scap between the two positions is where the magic happens.

Calling An Audible: I find the DB Row isn’t a great option for clients with significant thoracic kyphosis. The irregularity of their spinal curvature makes it very difficult for them to assume the correct posture during the drill. For these clients I‘ll opt for the TRX Inverted Rows as a lateralization.