Tip: A Better Way to Do Dumbbell Rows

Front load them so that you're actually working your back and not your hips or spinal muscles. Here's how.


Improving the dumbbell row is one of the easiest ways to boost overall performance. Here's how to do it.

The Front-Loaded 3-Point Row

The little differences here make a huge impact! This variation keeps your hips level and reduces the likelihood of diverting stress away from your biceps and lats and into the spine or hips.

This variation gives you a better chance of loading key muscles at the start of the movement, which stands in contrast to rotating your hips or back to kick-start things.

  1. Instead of putting a knee on a bench, start by standing about two feet away from a bench. Hinge your hips back as if you're doing a Romanian deadlift – butt to the back wall.
  2. Reach forward with one palm and place it firmly on the bench. Roll your weight forward until your shoulder is stacked over your palm.
  3. If you aren't already holding a dumbbell, it's because you've smartly placed it right under you and will now dip down to pick it up.
  4. Re-stack your shoulder – very slightly bend the elbow of the planted arm. Dial the elbow of your planted arm back to point toward your feet.
  5. Grip the bench like you're Spiderman and make like you're pulling it towards you. The objective isn't to move the bench, but to fire up the lats on the stabilizing side.
  6. Row like a champion.
  • If the dumbbell is hitting your leg, bring more weight forward.
  • If you're rotating to initiate the movement, focus instead on driving your planted palm into the bench.
  • Make sure that you have moderate scapular protraction.
  • If your shoulder doesn't feel amazing after this, make sure you're not letting it "crumble" under your weight. Actively press into the bench.
  • If you can't feel your lats or abs, pull harder with the planted hand without letting your position change.

Disclaimer: There's nothing wrong with asymmetrical movement, provided it improves performance and durability. On the subject of rotating your body during the row, everyone should be able to row at least 30-40% of their bodyweight without real rotation in order to qualify for wilder variations like the Kroc row.

Geoff Girvitz is the founder of Bang Fitness in Toronto. He believes that strength and movement skill are part of a life well-lived. His work is to make those qualities accessible to everyone. Follow Geoff Girvitz on Facebook