How To Do The Wide Dumbbell Row Properly

The wide dumbbell row targets the upper, middle and sides of your back.

If a full and thick back is in the cards for you then you should certainly add this movement to your routine if you haven’t already.

All you need for this exercise is a pair of dumbbells.

Below are the steps:

  • Stand upright, holding a dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs. Your palms should be facing down.
  • Lift your chest up, flatten your back and bend your knees slightly.
  • Then, lean forward at the waist to bring your torso almost parallel to the ground. The weights should be hanging in front of your shins.
  • Keep your gaze on the floor and your neck in a neutral position.
  • Pull your navel in towards your spine to tighten your core.
  • Take a deep breath in and begin pulling.
  • As you’re pulling towards your upper core, bring your elbows out and up in a wide arc that is similar to how you would pull a barbell with a wide grip.
  • When you get to the top, squeeze your back and pause for about two seconds before lowering the weights along the same arc.

WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE WIDE DUMBBELL ROW WORK?

LATISSIMUS DORSI

The latissimus dorsi, or ‘lats’, is the triangular muscle that runs from your upper arm to the bottom of the ribcage.

It is the prime mover in this exercise from which all movement is initiated.

SPINAL ERECTORS

The erector spinae on your lower back stabilize your spine to help keep your back straight and solid during the wide dumbbell row.

BICEPS AND FOREARMS

The muscles on your arm work together to help you grip the weights and flex your elbows.

Note that these muscles should only assist in the movements, but they are not the prime movers.

RHOMBOIDS

The rhomboids are the superficial muscles on your upper back that connect your shoulder blade to the upper spine.

TRAPEZIUS

The trapezius extends from the back of your neck, down your spine and out to your shoulder.

It is among the primary muscles recruited during this exercise.

CORE

Your core must remain tight during this exercise to help keep your upper body stable as you pull the weights.

A tight core also keeps your back from overarching, which could injure your spine.

BENEFITS OF THE WIDE DUMBBELL ROW

A STRONGER BACK

The wide dumbbell row works your entire back – from your lats to your traps and rhomboids- through a wide range of motion that helps target the muscles better.

It is the surest way to get a complete back workout since it primarily targets all the major muscle groups on your back.

BETTER POSTURE

A strong back is just as important for your posture as a strong lower back.

Strengthening the muscles in your upper back helps improve shoulder mobility which in turn enhances spinal stability.

GREAT WARM UP EXERCISE

The wide dumbbell row is a great way to activate your back muscles before doing compound movements that use heavy weights like bench presses and deadlifts.

MINIMAL EQUIPMENT REQUIRED

You don’t need any heavy gym machines to do the wide dumbbell row; a pair of dumbbells alone suffices.

ALTERNATIVES TO THE WIDE DUMBBELL ROW

ISOMETRIC DUMBBELL ROW

The isometric dumbbell row involves adding a 2 to 5-second pause at the top of your rep to maximize muscle contraction.

Lifters who have struggle with performing rowing exercises with flattened backs or contracting the back muscles at the top can benefit a lot from this variation.

Additionally, the isometric position will make you engage your hips and glutes when you are bent over, and fire up your core from having to stabilize your torso in this position.

Steps:

  • Stand in front of a dumbbell rack and place on hand on it.
  • Step the opposite leg back in a staggered stance.
  • Using the free hand, grab a dumbbell and let it hang down to your side.
  • Squeeze your core and row the weight upwards until it comes into contact with your hip.
  • Hold this position for 2 to 5 seconds before lowering and launching into another rep.
  • Do 2 sets of 6-8 reps.

PRONE DUMBBELL ROW

This dumbbell row variation is designed to target your lower lats more by working your back from an inclined angle.

To do it, you need a pair of dumbbells and an incline bench.

Steps:

  • Set the incline bench to about 45 degrees.
  • Place two dumbbells on either side on the bench and lie on it, face down.
  • Tighten your core and plant your toes into the ground.
  • Row the dumbbells towards your chest until your elbows go past the torso.
  • Do 4 sets of 10-12 reps.

WIDE DUMBBELL ROW MISTAKES TO AVOID

MOVING YOUR TORSO

The only parts of your body that should be moving during the wide dumbbell row are your arms.

Every other part, including the rest of your torso, should remain still to keep the focus on your back muscles.

To help keep the upper body stationary, tighten your core and stick your chest out.

USING MOMENTUM

This is a controlled exercise that requires slow and steady motions.

To put your muscles under maximum tension and reduce the risk of injury, make sure you do not use momentum both in the rowing and lowering phases.

STICKING YOUR NECK OUT

Sticking your neck out or looking forward could not only be detrimental to your neck muscles, but it could also impede the engagement of your back muscles.

Pick one spot on the floor at the beginning of your first rep and keep your gaze fixed on it the entire time.

This should help minimize head movement.

GOING TOO HEAVY

Contrary to popular belief, using a good form for the exercise is way more important than going heavy with the weights.

Start out with light weights that you won’t have trouble lifting, until you master proper form.

Afterwards, you can go a bit more heavy and keep increasing the weight gradually as you progress.

TO SUM UP

There’s so much to gain from doing the wide dumbbell row, as you’ve learnt from this article.

However, it is your form and consistency that determine whether you’ll get to enjoy these benefits or not.

Remember to master your form first before going heavy on the weights, and maintain consistency while at it.