Muscles Targeted: Two arm dumbbell rows mainly target your rhomboids in the middle back and the latissimus dorsi (lats) along the sides of your back along with your trapezius muscles of the upper back. They also target secondary muscle groups including your rear deltoids (shoulders) and your biceps.
Exercise Instructions: Grab a dumbbell securely in each hand. Slowly bend forward at your waist so that your chest is leaning forward over your feet. Keep a slight bend in your knees while keeping your feet at about shoulder width apart. Start with your arms fully extended, allowing the dumbbells to naturally hang down at about mid-shin level. Hold the dumbbells so that your thumbs point in toward one another and your palms face your body. Next, lift or “row” the dumbbells up to the top and close to your stomach. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat. Be sure to keep your head up, back straight and your shoulders back throughout this exercise to keep your back secure and stable at all times.
Why This Exercise is Important: Two arm dumbbell rows strengthen your back and spine, helping to improve posture. The form required (back and neck straight, bend at the waist) focuses on the muscles needed to maintain proper posture in everyday life, which is important for preventing back and neck problems later in life. Additionally, two arm dumbbell rows work on stimulating almost all of your upper body, including your back, neck, shoulders, and arms.
Things To Avoid: When doing two arm dumbbell rows you want to avoid bending, rounding or hunching your back. You want to maintain a straight line from your waist to your head in order to avoid unnecessary and painful stress on your lower back. Additionally, avoid tensing your muscles. Relax your back and move with the motion. It is natural for your back to move up slightly as you raise your arms, and you should not fight this natural motion. You also want to avoid performing this exercise too quickly. You want to move through the exercise in a slow, fluid motion to get the most out of every repetition.
Reps and Sets: For beginners, start with 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions, depending on the weight being used and your overall strength levels. As you grow stronger, you can add repetitions and additional weight. More experienced lifters can start with 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps with increased weight to overload the muscles and gain strength and size. The weight of the dumbbells being used depends on the person’s strength and experience. It is up to the person to determine how much weight he or she can handle. It is important to be honest with yourself. If you are not sure, always go with less weight and then build up next time if it was not enough. Your back is a sensitive muscle, and you do not want to put unnecessary strain on it.
Other Exercises To Use: Here are some other great exercises that you can do to supplement or replace two arm dumbbell rows:
- Single arm dumbbell rows use a similar motion but with one arm at a time. They also require you to use a bench as support. This exercise is great for beginners who want to start slow, or for those who want to take some of the strain off of the back.
- Incline bench dumbbell rows go through the same motion as two arm dumbbell rows, but they take some of the stress off of your spine by having you lay on an incline bench. If you have a sensitive back, or if two arm dumbbell rows are difficult for you, give incline bench dumbbell rows a try.
- V-bar pull-ups are a great exercise to do in addition to two arm dumbbell rows. The pullups work the lats, shoulders, and biceps through a different motion, which is great to switch up your routine and continue to strengthen your upper body.
View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the back.