Chest-supported row: How to do it right

Add stability to an exercise – any exercise – and you’ll automatically move more weight.

And moving more weight means more muscle mass is gained, which is exactly why the chest-supported row exercise is so great for anyone looking to build their back and biceps.

“When you perform rows supported on your chest, you limit the amount of rocking, which means you put all the work on the back and biceps,” says Cody Brown, NASM performance enhancement specialist.

“If you notice a rocking motion in your bent-over row, you may be adding stress to your lower back,” he says.

Chest-supported rows, also called incline dumbbell rows, are an ideal row variation to build form, prevent mid-row rocking, reduce the risk of injury, and isolate the muscles you want to build.

Chest-supported dumbbell row: step-by-step instructions

“Keep your chest on the bench throughout the movement,” advises Brown. “As you get heavier, the natural compensation will be to lift your chest up.” However, placing your chest against the bench will eliminate momentum and work your target muscles.

  • Set an incline bench at 45 degrees.
  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and approach the bench with your chest toward the angled pad, then lean back into it. Plant your feet firmly on the floor and let your arms hang straight down, palms facing each other. This position begins.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together and drive your elbows toward the ceiling, bringing the dumbbells into your rib cage.
  • Slowly reverse the move, and repeat for reps.

How to Facilitate Chest-Supported Rows

How to tighten the chest-supported row

  • Use a heavier weight (without sacrificing form).
  • Instead of performing incline DB rows, try a bent-over dumbbell row with your chest unsupported. Your core and glutes need to work to keep your body from falling forward or rocking back and forth.

Advantage of chest-supported rows

A strong back supports healthy posture and helps offset activities of daily living – such as sitting in front of a computer – that can weaken and stiffen muscles.

A variety of dumbbell row exercises strengthen all back muscles.

However, the book-supported version removes the stability factor and helps beginners learn proper rowing form.

Muscles targeted by chest-supported rows

Anatomy of the back muscles  Chest supported rows

Incline dumbbell rows strengthen and develop all of the following muscles, helping you become more efficient at any pulling exercise.

Wide back

The lats are a pair of fan-shaped muscles that span the middle and lower back of your back and attach to your upper arms.

The primary stretching muscles in your body, they are the largest muscles in the entire upper body. When developed, they give your torso a “V” shape.


Your traps are a kite-shaped muscle that stretches from your neck to the middle of your back and up to your shoulders, which help move and stabilize your shoulder blades.

They can be divided into upper, middle and lower fibers.


A diamond-shaped muscle group in the upper back, the rhomboids major and minor run from the inner edge of your shoulder blades to your spine.

Their role is to pull your shoulders back and stabilize them when you push or pull.


Consisting of three muscles – the biceps brachii, brachialis and brachioradialis – the biceps are responsible for bending your elbow and helping to rotate your arm.

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