The bent-over dumbbell row is one of the finest ways to build total back strength, blasting your mid-back and lats throughout the rowing motion, and attacking your lower back (and your core too!) by challenging you to maintain total stability.
With this upgrade to the move from Men's Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S, it also becomes a perfect home move, attacking your back with lighter weights and permitting you to also tax your rear deltoids, too. "The bent-over row can be used in a variety of ways," says Samuel. "Normally, we think of loading up our rows, and we should. But here, we'll focus on being explosive as we row up, then overload our rear delts as we lower."
Samuel's Two-Position Bent-Over Row starts like a standard dumbbell row, palms in neutral, albeit with a lighter weight. "That's an opportunity to pull explosively," he says. "And really own the squeeze at the top of the rep."
From there, things get challenging, as you shift your arms outwards into a wider-position row that taxes your rear delts, then slowly lower. "The more we emphasize rear delts over lats, the less weight we can use," says Samuel. "So we've used a lighter weight to start the row, but that light weight should still be more than you would use for, say, a rear delt fly," says Samuel. "So we get to overload the rear delts eccentrically as we slowly lower the weight."
The combination of movements builds both back and rear delts, and it works with a variety of implements. Dumbbells and kettlebells are ideal, but you can use other items too. Stuck at home? Fill two backpacks with equally weighted books or grab gallons of water and you can attack this too.
Start in standard bent-over row position, core tight, knees bent slightly
Row both weights upwards, keeping your upper arms tight to your torso and your palms in neutral. Be explosive. Pause when you reach the top of the motion.
Keeping shoulder blades tight and making sure not to flex your traps, shift your elbows out to a 45-degree angle relative to torso, or slightly wider. "Make sure wherever you are feels comfortable and you feel strong," says Samuel.
Slowly lower the weights, thinking of lowering for 2 to 3 counts.
That's 1 rep. Do 8 to 10 reps.
Do 3 sets.
The Two-Way Bent-Over Row works best as a back-day finisher, says Samuel. "We can't go heavy enough on this to really overload our back, and you want to do that first," he says. "So save it for the end of your session, when you're trying to pile up a bit more time under tension and work with lighter loads." It can also work within a circuit workout or on a push-pull day.
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