How to Do a Bent-Over Dumbbell Row: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

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Also Known As: Two-arm bent-over dumbbell row, bent-over two-dumbbell row

Targets: Upper and lower back

Equipment Needed: Set of dumbbells

Level: Intermediate

The bent-over dumbbell row is one of the best muscle-building exercises for the back. Select a weight that is challenging but can be lifted without sacrificing form when incorporating this exercise into your strength training workout.

How to Do a Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

woman starting dumbbell bent over row

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, and knees slightly bent. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, shoulder-width, with your palms facing each other. Bend over at a 45-degree angle (no lower) and take a deep breath in.

  1. Pull the dumbbells up, toward the sides of your chest, or beside the bottom of your rib cage on an exhale. Lift to the point your range of motion allows. While lifting, keep the wrists from moving as much as possible.
  2. Lower the weights in a controlled manner to the starting position as you inhale. Remain bent over until all repetitions are complete.

Throughout the exercise, keep your spine neutral or slightly arched, pointing your tailbone toward the upper wall behind you. Keep your abdominals braced, and legs stationary (without locking your knees).

Benefits of Dumbbell Bent-Over Rows

The two-arm bent-over dumbbell row targets upper and middle back muscles, including the trapezius, infraspinatus, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, teres major, and teres minor. The pectoralis major (chest) and brachialis (upper arm) also get worked along with the shoulder rotators.

One of the benefits of bent-over rows is that they can improve the stability of your spine. Using dumbbells makes this a moderate-intensity exercise, enabling you to burn more calories when you add this movement to your workout routine.

The bent-over dumbbell row is a compound, functional exercise that uses this same motion throughout the day, such as when picking up heavier objects. Knowing how to position your back and brace your abs properly can protect you from strain.

Other Variations of the Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

You can vary this exercise to better fit your fitness level and goals.

Bent-Over Dumbbell Row in Lunge Position

Do this exercise in a lunge position, and you can work your hamstrings and glutes in addition to your back. Plus, some people find it easier to balance in this position. To do it, stand with one leg back and the other forward while doing your bent-over dumbbell rows.

woman doing rear lunge row

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Single-Arm Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

Instead of lifting both weights simultaneously, lift them one at a time. Unilateral movements (those that only use one side of the body at a time) are better for increasing power output than bilateral movements (those that use both sides of the body simultaneously).

You can do single-arm rows by switching back and forth between the right and left arm continuously (right-left-right-left) or by doing all of your reps on the right side, followed by all of the reps on the left.

woman doing single arm dumbbell bent over row

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Barbell Bent-Over Row

You can also do the bent-over row with a barbell. If you choose this variation, hold the barbell with the palms facing in, bend 45 degrees at the hips, then brace the abs and lift the weight.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors so you get the most from this exercise and prevent strain or injury.

Rounded Back or Shoulders

Keep your back straight (not curved) and shoulders square throughout the exercise. If you have a hard time with your back rounding, it is a sign that you may be trying to lift too much weight. Choose dumbbells light enough to enable the proper form.

Bending Over Too Far

Your body should be bent forward no more than 45 degrees. Bending over more than this can strain the back, especially if you are lifting heavier weights. It can help to slightly hyperextend your lower back, pointing your tailbone up and back to prevent rounding the spine.

Bent Wrists

Try not to bend your wrists up, down, or to the side. Instead, aim to keep this joint as stationary as possible during the exercise. Moving your wrists could lead to strain.

Leg Movement

Your legs and hips are still throughout this exercise (after you set your stance and pick up the weights). Do not squat or otherwise move the lower body. Using your lower body to help you lift the weight takes the emphasis off of the muscles you are trying to work, making the exercise less effective.

Excessive Weight

Don't lift heavy weights with this particular exercise unless you are experienced and have built strength in your back and shoulders. If you want to use heavier weights, switch to a barbell, or try the bent-over dumbbell row while supported by a bench, or as a unilateral exercise with leg and arm support.

Safety and Precautions

Avoid this exercise if you have lower back pain. Also, be careful if you use heavier weights as this can lead to shoulder impingement (as can poor form).

If pain occurs in the shoulder or back when doing bent-over dumbbell rows, cease the exercise and consult with your doctor or physical therapist. You can increase the amount of weight you lift once you are able to maintain control and perfect form.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Academy of Sports Medicine. Three awesome row exercise variations.

  2. Adeel M, Lai CH, Wu CW, et al. Energy expenditure during acute weight training exercises in healthy participants: a preliminary study. Appl Sci. 2021;11(15):6687. doi:10.2290/app11156687

  3. Swain DP, Brawner CA. ACSM's Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2014.

  4. Nakacki E, George J, Parcell A, Eggett D, Feland B. Power output in rugby players comparing unilateral and bilateral isotonic upper-body resistance exercise. Int J Exerc Sci. 2019;12(6):691-700.

By Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers is a personal trainer with experience in a wide range of sports, including track, triathlon, marathon, hockey, tennis, and baseball.