Muscles Targeted: Two arm hammer dumbbell rows target a large area of the back including the latissimus dorsi, middle back and trapezius muscles (upper back). The secondary muscle groups targeted with this movement include the rear deltoids (shoulders) and the biceps along with the forearms.
Exercise Instructions: Grab a dumbbell securely in each hand using an overhand grip. Bend forward at your waist so that your chest is leaning forward over your feet. Keep your knees slightly bent and your feet just beyond shoulder width apart. Start with your arms fully extended, allowing the dumbbells to hang naturally straight down at about mid-shin level. Hold the dumbbells so that your palms point in toward your body. Next, lift or “row” the dumbbells up close to your stomach. Slowly return the dumbbells back down to the starting position and repeat. Be sure to keep your head up and shoulders back throughout this exercise to keep your back in a firm and stable position.
Why This Exercise is Important: This exercise does several things that will help you strengthen and broaden your back, as well as improve your ability in other exercises that use the middle back, like squats and deadlifts for example. It is important not to forget to train your back. It is tempting to focus solely on your front side muscles as that is what you see in the mirror, but working on your back will give you symmetry and proper proportions and provide that “V-taper” shape along with adding width to your upper body. Working on your middle back in particular will broaden your torso and improve your posture not only for general activities, but for other back related exercises as well. This maximizes the effect from training and minimizes the chances of injury.
Having a strong middle back is the key to executing good form in many exercises. Doing this exercise will improve your deadlift in particular, as having a stronger back will allow you to lift more weight and will improve your technique. It will also help with your squats as you will develop stronger core strength that will enable you to handle heavier weight. And again, it will help with your form and technique as you will be more comfortable doing the exercise with a stronger middle back.
Things To Avoid: As you do this exercise it is important to focus your attention on your middle back and not to rely on your arms or shoulders to do the hard work, otherwise you will miss the point of the movement. If you have a mirror, use it to make sure your back is straight. This point cannot be stressed enough because if you repeatedly do this exercise with bad form you will risk injury. It is also advisable to avoid doing this exercise when you have back issues, as it may cause further damage. Finally, do not use heavier weights than is comfortable for your own strength or you may also risk injury.
Reps and Sets: Your sets and reps scheme will differ depending on what your goals are, but for a basic plan, do 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps. For more experienced lifters who are looking for maximum mass and strength, shoot for 4-5 sets of 6-8 reps.
Other Exercises To Use: You can use variations of this exercise for a slightly different movement and target different muscles around that area of the body. For example, you could try using a barbell and use either an overhand grip to focus more on the lats, or an underhand grip to focus on the middle back. You might also try using kettlebells and do alternate rows, or perhaps do some bodyweight pull-ups. Other exercises you can do alongside this one might include deadlifts, one arm dumbbell rows and seated cable rows. For a complete middle back workout you can do:
- Deadlifts (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
- Two Arm Hammer Dumbbell Rows (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
- One Arm Dumbbell Rows (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
- Seated Cable Rows (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the back.