How to Do the Row

Work on your back with these strength training Pro Tips on different variations of how to do the row exercise.

Looking for a strength training exercise to help work your upper back? The horizontal row is a multi-variational exercise that incorporates upper-body strength.

Corrective exercise and performance enhancement specialist Drew Walsh says the row exercise is “one of the best ways to train upper-back strength.” Walsh also notes the connection between the upper-body movements and posterior chain, which are used in this exercise with a focus on posture.

“The posterior chain plays a major role in posture, making the row a must to implement into your training program,” he says.

To begin the row, have a pair of dumbbells nearby. You can set up a bench at home or find an open one at the gym. Once you have a bench ready, adjust it to an incline of 45 degrees.


Woman Doing Row Exercise With Dumbbells

When you sit on the bench, put your chest against the slanted padding. To make setting up easier, begin by putting two dumbbells on the ground near the base so you can easily reach them. Your arms should hang toward the ground at your start position.

Once your equipment is in place:

  • Bring your chest and stomach in contact with the inclined portion of the bench. Again, your arms should be hanging down toward the dumbbells.
  • Put your feet slightly outside your shoulders. Your feet should not be flat on the ground, but rather up on your toes with your heels off the ground. Remember to slightly bend your knees.
  • Grab the dumbbells and keep your arms straight with palms facing each other. The dumbbells should be held with a firm grip and should not be touching the floor.
  • Raise your chest off the bench but keep your stomach in contact. Then, set your shoulder blades down and back.
  • Drive your elbows in line with your torso.

When your elbows are in line with your torso, your arms should be at a 90-degree angle. Once you lower the dumbbells, do so in a slow and controlled manner. Repeat this motion for a set number of repetitions to complete the incline dumbbell row.


Woman Doing Row With One Dumbbell

Before you begin, lower your bench so it’s back to a flat setting. This time, you only need one dumbbell, which should be set on the ground at the end of the bench.

Once your setup is complete:

  • Get into the universal athletic position with a hinge at the hips. Instead of having both arms at your side, put one on the bench to help you keep your balance.
  • Position your feet slightly outside of your shoulders.
  • Grab the dumbbell with your free hand.
  • Bring your shoulder blades down and back.
  • Drive your elbow back at torso height. Once the dumbbell is lifted, your arm should be at a 90-degree angle.
  • Return the dumbbell down with control and repeat this motion for a set number of repetitions.

Walsh reminds athletes to keep their trunk stabilized and core tight while completing the one-arm dumbbell row.


Woman Doing Single-Arm Row With Resistance Band

Another variation to the horizontal row is the single-arm row. Start by tying a resistance band to a stable piece of equipment.

Once you have your resistance band ready to go:

  • Grab the resistance band and find a position on the ground where the band will fully extend.
  • Begin in a half-kneel position, with your left knee on the ground and your leg flat. Your right leg should be propped up in a 90-degree angle. Your right foot should be flat on the floor.
  • When you have the resistance band in your grip, make sure you’re in an opposite arm, opposite leg position. If your right leg is propped up, then your left hand should grab the band.
  • Drive your right heel into the ground.
  • Set your shoulder blades down and back.
  • Pull your elbow to torso height, bringing the resistance band back and forth in a controlled motion.

No matter which sport you compete in, the horizontal row can help you build your strength. Use these Pro Tips the next time you hit the weight room and complete the row exercise with confidence.

Another strength training exercise you can do with a dumbbell is the single-leg Romanian deadlift. Use these Pro Tips to learn how you can incorporate this Romanian deadlift exercise into your next workout.