Back Training – Dumbbell Rows, Unsupported

Muscles Trained

Unsupported dumbbell rows train the muscles in your upper back, primarily your lats (Latissimus Dorsi). They also work your biceps. When done correctly they also hit your rhomboids and traps (Trapezius) to some degree at the end of the pull.

Why would you do your dumbbell rows unsupported? Without the obstruction of the bench, you can center the bar directly under your body and pull the weight straight up. This can allow you to pull a greater weight than traditional dumbbell rows, working your back a bit harder.

Exercise Technique

  • Since a primary goal of this exercise is to pull more weight, you likely want to use wrist straps to assist your grip. In most cases, your grip will not be strong enough to effectively tax your back and bicep muscles.
  • Take a wide stance with your feet angled perpendicular to each other for maximum stability. 
  • Grip the dumbbell tightly with your palm facing in and wrap up your straps.
  • Contract your lats powerfully to get an explosive initial pull off the floor.
  • Continue pulling the dumbbell up, pulling your elbows straight back until the dumbbell reaches your body.
  • Before lowering the dumbbell, finish the pull off by squeezing your shoulder blade inward.
  • Relax your lats and lower the dumbbell. Stretch your lats out fully, allowing the dumbbell to lightly touch the floor, but don’t rest it there before continuing with your next repetition.
  • Select a weight that you can complete your initial reps with strict form, minimizing use of upper body momentum to pull the weight.
  • Again, given the goal is to pull some large dumbbells, some cheating is Ok to get additional reps or heavier weight on later sets if done correctly: Rowing Cheat Technique

Common Mistakes

  • Using excessive upper body momentum to cheat: Although you can work the back very hard using some cheating, select a weight that you are able to control.
  • Failing to fully extend the lat: Make sure you lower the bar to get a full extension of the lat and biceps.

Exercise Safety

  • Because the weight you are pulling is off center, this exercise can place some torque on your lower back to stabilize the weight. If you have lower back issues and this creates lower back pain, use your belt, lighten the weight, or consider using a bilateral exercise, such as the barbell row.

Additional Back Exercises


Comments are closed.