4 DB Row Variations For A Gorilla Back

Dustin Myers

     The Dumbbell Row is one of the most basic and effective exercises for upper back size and strength.  Despite its simplistic nature it is still a movement done wrong by many, even experienced weight lifters.  The goal of the DB row is to utilize the lats, rhomboids and traps to retract the scapula as you pull the weight up to your abdomen.

 

The most common mistakes are:

-Using too much bicep- the bicep acts as an accessory on any rowing movement, but if you focus on pulling your elbow back towards the hip rather than the front delt, you will minimize the role of the bicep and let those big upper back muscles do the work.

-Uneven hips or curved spine- Like most strength movements, your stance and spinal position during the DB Row is of upmost importance.  Keeping a straight back in a powerful position is key, so avoid rowing with your feet uneven/staggered or with one leg up on a bench.  The “one knee on a bench” position is going to put your hips in an uneven position - not a good idea when pulling on a heavy weight.  Stand with your feet shoulder width and bend forward at the waist, keeping a flat back.  Put one hand on a rack or bench in front of you and imagine that you could draw a symmetrical box between the for points of your feet and hands.

-Twisting up then dropping the weight - Try not to twist away from the dumbbell as you pull - that creates the illusion that you have pulled it up higher than you actually have.  Make sure to lower the weight under control, as the eccentric portion of the row is the most important for gaining size and strength.

Now that you know how to properly execute the DB Row, here are a few of my favorite variations:

DB Row 1/4 rep

Bend over and grab a DB with your other hand on a bench or rack for support.  Keep your feet square rather than staggered and your spine straight, and head in a neutral position.  Pull the weight up and back towards your hip as you retract the scapula and squeeze the muscles in the middle of your back.  Do not twist, try to keep your shoulders level.  Lower the weight 1/4 of the way, stop and row the DB back towards your hip, getting an extra squeeze.  Lower under control all the way down and allow the lat to stretch at the bottom.

Rx: Complete 5 sets of 3-5 reps per side.

 

DB Row w/Bands

Hook a mini-band onto a dumbbell handle and attach it to a rack in front of you.  Pull the weight up and back towards your hip and lower under control.  Let the band pull your hand forward at the bottom position, stretching the lat.

Rx: Complete 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps per side, using a weight that is 60% of what you would normally use for that rep range.  Concentrate on speed - but under control.

 

DB Iso- Row on Incline Bench

Lay face down on an incline bench set at 45 degrees.  Grab a set of dumbbells and row them up until they touch your hips and your scapula is fully retracted.  Keep one side up and your back flexed as you lower one weight and row it back up.  Once you lock it back into place, switch sides and perform a row on the opposite side.  You will need to use a weight that is roughly 60-70% of what you would use on a normal DB row. 

Rx: Do 3 sets of 6 reps on each side, adding another 3-5 reps with both arms at the same time after you have finished the 6 iso-reps.

 

DB Row Pause Reps

Bend over and grab a DB with your other hand on a bench or rack for support.  Keep your feet square rather than staggered and your spine straight, and head in a neutral position.  Pull the weight up and back towards your hip as you retract the scapula and squeeze the muscles in the middle of your back.  Do not twist, try to keep your shoulders level as you hold the weight at the top for 3 full seconds.  Lower under control and allow the lat to stretch at the bottom. 

Rx: Start with 3 sets of 5 reps per side.

 

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