How to Do a Bent-Over Dumbbell Row: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

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    The bent-over dumbbell row is a highly effective exercise for targeting the muscles of the upper back, including the lats, rhomboids, and rear deltoids. By incorporating this exercise into your routine, you can improve posture, strengthen your back, and enhance overall upper body strength. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gym-goer, understanding the proper form, exploring variations, and being aware of common mistakes is essential for getting the most out of the bent-over dumbbell row. In this article, we will guide you through the correct form for this exercise, present various challenging variations, and highlight common mistakes to avoid.

    Proper Form

    To perform the bent-over dumbbell row with proper form, follow these steps:

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    1. Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, with your palms facing inward (neutral grip).
    2. Hinge forward at the hips, keeping your back straight and core engaged. Maintain a slight bend in your knees.
    3. Allow your arms to hang down in front of you, perpendicular to the ground.
    4. Pull your shoulder blades together and squeeze your back muscles as you row the dumbbells up towards your sides. Keep your elbows close to your body as you lift.
    5. Pause for a moment at the top of the movement, ensuring a strong contraction in your back muscles.
    6. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position, fully extending your arms.
    7. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.


    1. Single-Arm Bent-Over Dumbbell Row:

    Perform the exercise using one arm at a time. Place one knee and hand on a bench or a stable surface for support. With the opposite arm, row the dumbbell towards your side, following the same form as the traditional bent-over dumbbell row. This variation allows for a greater focus on each side individually and can help correct muscle imbalances.

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    2. Wide Grip Bent-Over Dumbbell Row:

    Hold the dumbbells with a wider grip, wider than shoulder-width apart. This variation emphasizes the outer portion of the back muscles, particularly the lats. Keep your elbows pointed outward as you row the dumbbells up.

    3. Underhand Grip Bent-Over Dumbbell Row:

    Hold the dumbbells with an underhand grip, palms facing upward. This grip variation targets the upper back and biceps muscles. Keep your elbows close to your body as you row the dumbbells up.

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    4. T-Bar Row:

    Instead of using dumbbells, this variation requires a T-bar row machine or a barbell placed in a corner. Bend your knees, lean forward, and grab the handles or the barbell with an overhand grip. Keep your back straight and row the weight towards your chest, squeezing your back muscles. The T-bar row is an excellent alternative that allows for heavier loads and provides a different stimulus to the back muscles.

    Common Mistakes 

    1. Rounded Back:

    One of the most common mistakes during the bent-over dumbbell row is rounding the back. This can lead to strain and potential injury. To avoid this, maintain a straight back and engage your core muscles throughout the exercise. Focus on keeping your chest lifted and your shoulders back.

    2. Using Momentum:

    Swinging the dumbbells or using momentum to lift the weights reduces the effectiveness of the exercise and puts unnecessary stress on the muscles and joints. Instead, focus on controlled movements, pulling the dumbbells towards your sides while maintaining proper form. Ensure that your back muscles are doing the work rather than relying on momentum.

    3. Lifting Too Heavy:

    Selecting weights that are too heavy can compromise form and lead to improper execution of the exercise. Start with lighter weights and gradually increase as you build strength and confidence. It is crucial to maintain proper form and range of motion throughout the movement.

    4. Neglecting Shoulder Blade Retraction:

    Failing to squeeze the shoulder blades together at the top of the movement limits the engagement of the back muscles. Focus on pulling the shoulder blades back and down as you lift the dumbbells, creating a strong contraction in the back muscles. This helps to maximize the benefits of the exercise.


    The bent-over dumbbell row is a highly effective exercise for developing a strong and well-rounded upper back. By practising proper form, exploring variations, and avoiding common mistakes, you can effectively target the muscles of the back, improve posture, and enhance upper body strength. Incorporate the bent-over dumbbell row into your workout routine, starting with the basic form and gradually progressing to different variations. Remember to maintain a straight back, engage your core, and focus on controlled movements to maximize the benefits of the exercise. So, grab those dumbbells, hinge forward, and unlock the power of the bent-over dumbbell row for a stronger and more sculpted back.

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