when is he coming To build a muscular back, rows are a classic option. If you step into a gym, you will undoubtedly meet a man who tones his muscles as he performs the bent-over or the dumbbell row, one of the most popular forms. But that doesn’t mean this will be the best option for everyone, especially if you’re new to the gym.
Barbell rows require a high level of core stability, some lower back strength, and most importantly, contact posture to do it right. As a beginner, you may find it difficult to maintain this position and you may be prone to using momentum to finish reps, which can increase your risk of injury and take the focus away from the back muscles you’re meant to train (mainly, lats, rhomboids, traps and back delts).
So what is the solution? Introduce an equation bench and try the supported dumbbell chest row. Men’s Health CSCS Advisory Board member and trainer David Otey highlights this difference in The Beginner’s Guide to the Muscle Program, now available at Men’s Health Broadcasting via the All Out Studio app. By adding a bench to support your chest to this variation, you can still blast your back muscles while reducing the risk of injury.
Why you should do the bench press
Otey has three main reasons beginners should try the chest-supported row:
Less lower back strain
The biggest challenge you will face while rowing from the standard bent position is maintaining perfect position during each set. Your lower back will likely tire before your muscles get engaged, so you won’t be able to get the most out of the movement. Introducing a seat brace takes your lower back out of the equation, really allowing you to tap into the muscles you were hoping to target.
Reduces momentum and cheating
Besides potentially straining your lower back, the prone position is much easier to allow for cheating. Since you’re no longer in this hacked position, you’ll be more stable—and less likely to be able to cheat by swinging or swinging the weights.
You can change angles
Since you’re working on an adjustable bench, you’ll have a much easier time working from different angles than trying to change your recline position. This will allow you to target different points on your back, making it a more versatile exercise.
How can a beginner do a breaststroke row?
Here’s how it’s done:
- Set up an incline bench at a 30- to 45-degree angle (a straighter angle targets the upper back, while a lower angle is better for the mid and back).
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and rest the bench with your chest on the pillow, making sure your head is not resting on the bench.
- Plant your feet firmly on the floor and let your arms hang down, pulling your shoulder blades slightly forward. This is the starting point.
- From here, pull your elbows back to bring the dumbbells up to your chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as if there is a grape between them that you want to crush.
- Slowly lower your arms back to the starting position, allowing the shoulder to extend and get a full stretch at the bottom. repeats.
If you want to build back muscles without risking injury, the chest-supported dumbbell row is a great place to start. This variation is perfect for beginners who focus on proper form, as well as experienced gym-goers looking for a new challenge.
Want more beginner-friendly tips from Otey? Check out the Beginner’s Guide to the Muscle Program, available only from Best player in men’s health.
Diego Mercado, CPT is an NSCA-certified personal trainer and member of the Men’s Health Strength in Diversity initiative.