Accelerate Physical Therapy

Executing a Proper Bent Over Dumbbell Row for Optimum Results

Quite often people who work at developing their bodies with strength in mind will opt to focus on their backside first. The reason for this is primarily due to an abundance of back issues flowing through the human race, most likely as a result of a sedentary lifestyle, with the plethora of “desk jobs” now in the work force.

When a person sits at a desk all day, it can easily lead to back, shoulder, and neck pain, as well as poor posture. A way to combat the negative impact of a desk job would be to strengthen the back muscles. And a suitable exercise to help to strengthen back muscles is the bent over dumbbell row (BODR).

Before addressing the proper steps in executing a BODR, let’s take a look at the muscles that are most targeted…

Targeted Muscles with BODR’s

If done correctly, bent over dumbbell rows will primarily target the latissimus dorsi (the sides of your back), middle trapezius and rhomboids (shoulder blade area), biceps brachii (front upper arm), and erector spinae (the 8 muscles running from the pelvis to the skull).

Each of these areas will help counter abuse of the back, shoulder, and neck that typically arise from sitting for long periods of time. When these muscle groups are strengthened, they will help support your upper body during the sedentary periods by helping to improve posture and decrease painful conditions.

So, now for the proper technique…

Proper Stance and Positioning

Not only is the movement important, but so is an appropriate stance and set up before starting the exercise. Take a look at how you begin:

Leg Position – your stance (leg position) should remain at shoulder width apart, as a general rule. At that width, it will provide you more balance as you go through the motions.
Body Position – Your head, hip, and head should all be at a 90° angle. You can get this angle by bending your knees, while pushing the hips backward as if your buttocks are heading for an object (such as a wall) behind you. This will instinctively make your back drop to a proper angle, as your hips hinge backward to the wall as well. Just make sure to keep your chest from dropping. Key thought here is if you have a logo on your shirt, it should be visible to someone standing in front of you.
Hand Position – Your palms should face each other in your grip of the dumbbells.
Head Position – Your chin should be tucked in toward your chest, so that your neck will not be bent backward.
Arm Position – With a dumbbell gripped in each hand, keep your arm (the one you are working) straight and aligned with your shoulder. Some tension in the shoulder blade is normal and recommended.

Now that you are in the correct position, you need to know how to move from there…

The Correct Movement of a BODR

After finding the proper starting position, you should initiate your next move by pulling (or rowing) the elbow backward to your side, without completely tucking your elbow into the side. Keep the 90° angle by not curling the dumbbell. While you are pulling the dumbbell backward you should also be contracting (or squeezing) the shoulder blades. Once your arm is aligned with the body, stop pulling backward.

Next, you will need to reverse the above movement by allowing the arms to straighten again and align with the shoulders. All movement should be a controlled, fluid, and slow motion. Also, remember to keep the shoulder blades contracted. You can repeat this process for however many repetitions that your physical therapist or trainer recommends. Just remember, if it feels like it’s too much, it probably is.

The BODR is an effective yet simple exercise in gaining strength in your back muscles. And, the weight of the dumbbell can adjust as you gain strength, making this an exercise to consider for long term.