How to Do Chest-Supported Row: Variations, Proper Form, Techniques

The chest-supported row is a compound exercise that works the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and rhomboids. Typically performed using a weight bench and dumbbells, the chest-supported row is medium difficulty and often seen performed by sports athletes and bodybuilders.

There are five variations to this exercise that work the same muscle groups while preventing your body from plateauing: the single-arm chest-supported row, the alternating chest-supported row, the chest-supported barbell row, and the chest-supported row machine, and the chest-supported rear delt row.

Common mistakes when attempting chest-supported rows include not keeping your spine straight and not supporting yourself on the bench. Tensing your body in this manner can lead to back injuries. 

Following the proper form for chest-supported rows and the different types will develop mirror muscles. It will prevent mistakes and injuries that could take you out of commission. Read on and learn how to master chest-supported rows and various chest-supported row techniques.

How to Perform Chest-Supported Row With Proper Form?

The chest-supported dumbbell row only requires two dumbbells and an incline bench. Your proper form relies on the incline of the bench. It also requires that you keep your arms at 90-degree angles.

The way to perform chest-supported rows with proper form is as follows.

  1. Set your weight bench at a 30 to 45-degree incline.
  2. Sit on the bench facing it, so your chest rests against the incline.
  3. Keep your feet flat on the floor and your body straight.
  4. Hold one dumbbell in each hand and let your arms hang towards the floor.
  5. Pull the dumbbells up at the same time, ensuring your arms are at 90-degree angles.
  6. Hold your arms in this position and squeeze your shoulder blade muscles.
  7. Gently take the dumbbells back down towards the floor until your arms are straight.
  8. Continue until you’ve completed four sets of eight reps.

Most people commonly work both arms at once, but you can also exercise unilaterally. Work out one side at a time so you can focus on each arm’s muscles before moving on to the next.

If you’re unsure about the proper form, there are a few checkpoints during the exercise.

  1. When your arms are at 90-degree angles, the dumbbells should be even with your hips.
  2. Your chest should always stay pressed on the bench, but your face should be above the end of the bench.
  3. Your neck and spine should stay aligned throughout the movements.

Following this proper form ensures you’re completing the exercise correctly and get the most benefits from your workout.

What Are the Stages of Conventional Chest-Supported Row?

The conventional chest-supported row has you lean on a bench to work your back muscles. The stages of the conventional method give a solid foundation that will help you understand the variations introduced later without injuring yourself.

There are five stages to complete the conventional chest-supported row.

  1. Set up the bench at a 30 to 45-degree angle. 
  2. Situate yourself by facing the bench. When you position your body, you’ll rest your chest against it. Your face shouldn’t rest on the bench; it should be above the bench so you can breathe. This position helps you keep your neck and spine aligned.
  3. Hold the dumbbells. Have one in each hand and let them hang towards the floor. A pronated grip will work the right muscles in your back instead of fatiguing those at the front of your shoulders.
  4. Upward movement occurs when you lift the dumbbells from the ground to hip level. Your arm should stay at a 90-degree angle to work the right muscles. Feel your shoulder blades move across your back during this upward movement stage.
  5. Downward movement occurs as you gently let the dumbbells hang back towards the ground. You’re still working your muscles in this stage, so don’t just let your arms drop. Release them slowly so you can feel the muscles working and balancing the weight.

What Are the Mistakes for the Chest-Supported Row Form?

Mistakes in form when doing the chest-supported row can injure you. The following common tells you what not to do when performing the conventional mistakes chest-supported row form.

  1. Letting your muscles relax will cause the weight to drop. Keep muscles activated at all times. Lower the weight back to the starting position without straining. If you’re having trouble, you have too much weight on your dumbbells.
  2. Improper form weakens the muscles in the lower back. Straight legs strain lower back muscles. A slight bend of the knee helps alleviate that stress so you’re feeling the burn in the upper back, which is where you want this exercise to target.
  3. Legs that are too relaxed cause your body to slip down the incline. Trying to hold yourself in place will strain other muscles. 
  4. Not using the full range of motion for chest-supported rows is detrimental. Keeping your shoulder blades tense and immobile prevents optimal results. Feel the squeeze when they meet in the center of your back.
  5. Don’t let your chest completely rest on the bench. It’s there for support, but your muscles should stay activated the entire time. You should stay aware of your posture at every point during a chest-supported row.

Adhering to a good chest-supported row form means you’ll get the most benefit from the chest-supported row muscles worked. You’ll feel strong, stretched, and empowered when you finish your reps.

How to Determine Proper Weight for Chest-Supported Row?

The proper weight for chest-supported rows depends on how much you typically use for bicep curls. If you can handle 20-pound dumbbells in each arm, then you can use that weight for the chest-supported row as well.

How to Determine Proper Weight for Chest Supported Row
How to Determine Proper Weight for Chest-Supported Row?

Otherwise, the proper weight depends on your body weight. A man weighing 200 pounds or more can comfortably start with 30-pound dumbbells, while a woman of the same weight should start with 22. The weight includes the bar, as is standard.

This weight refers to each dumbbell since you’re using this as a chest-supported T-bar row alternative. When you’re using the T-bar machine, you’ll add weights to the machine itself.

Starting with less weight is better than overloading yourself when you begin chest-supported rows. You can always make the exercise easier by using less weight. When you’re ready to challenge yourself, you can add more weight. Ensure it’s not so heavy that you sacrifice your form. Using too much weight might make you pull your chest off the bench as you lift.

Which Muscles Are Involved While Performing Chest-Supported Row?

The chest-supported row strengthens various muscle groups in the back and shoulders.

  1. Latissimus dorsi: The latissimus dorsi is the fan-shaped muscle crossing the mid and lower back. They connect to the upper arm, so they’re a prime target with chest-supported rows. These muscles pull up the weight and feel a strong burn during the workout. Developed lats give bodybuilders the classic “V” shape.
  2. Trapezius: The trapezius muscle is like a kite going from the neck to the middle of the back and spanning from shoulder to shoulder. This muscle stabilizes the shoulder blades. During each chest-supported row, the traps move the shoulder blades across the back to build up strength.
  3. Rhomboids: The rhomboids are a group of muscles that run from the shoulder blades to the spine. When lifting the dumbbells in a chest-supported row, stabilize these muscles to strengthen them.
  4. Biceps: This routine also exercises your biceps and other arms muscles due to the dumbbell grip. The pronated chest-supported row works the back and shoulder best. Using a standard grip will stress the front of the shoulders too much.

How to Do Chest-Supported Row?

To dominate the chest-supported row, you need to keep proper form, use the right weight for your ability, and balance the weights correctly. These steps take you through the whole process.

  1. Set up your incline bench within the range of a 30 and 45-degree angle.
  2. Approach the bench with one dumbbell in each hand.
  3. Position your body correctly.
  4. Pinch the shoulder blades and lift the dumbbells.
  5. Release the shoulder blades.

1. Set up your incline bench within the range of a 30 and 45-degree angle.

When a bench is inclined, it supports the body, so the workout’s focus is on the targeted muscles. Because you’re leaning against the bench, you don’t have to use other muscles to heave the weights up to shoulder level. 

Leaning against the bench alleviates the pressure on the lower back. Instead of tightening those muscles to engage your core, the bench supports the chest. 

2. Approach the bench with one dumbbell in each hand.

Using individual dumbbells means each one can have a different weight to maximize the routine. Vary the exercise by using one arm at a time or both at once. If you use a chest-supported T-bar row machine, you don’t need dumbbells at all. The machine lets you add or remove weight as needed.

3. Position your body correctly.

Resting the chest against the inclined bench and keeping the spine straight is the correct position for the chest-supported row. Incorrect positions can cause muscle damage. For a harder workout, try the banded chest-supported T-bar row. The band provides more resistance, which you’ll feel in your back muscles.

4. Pinch the shoulder blades and lift the dumbbells.

With a chest-supported row, the shoulder blades are crucial. Squeezing shoulder blades while lifting improves posture and strengthens muscles used every day. Developed shoulder blades make pushing, pulling, lifting, and holding easier.

5. Release the shoulder blades.

Holding your shoulders too tightly can strain muscles when you’re doing heavy chest-supported rows. Release the shoulder blade muscles gently when returning to the starting position.

What Are the Chest-Supported Row Challenges?

Chest-supported row challenges vary the exercise to work other muscles. Mixing up your workouts in this way ensures you’re getting the most from the weights, whether you use dumbbells or a machine chest-supported row.

What Are the Chest Supported Row Challenges
What Are the Chest-Supported Row Challenges?

Try a chest-supported row every minute on the minute (EMOM). This challenge keeps your body in action and prevents downtime that allows your muscles to cool off. Push yourself to complete as many reps as possible in one minute.

German volume training (GVT) challenges you to complete ten sets of chest-supported rows with a short rest between each.

The one-rep max (1RM) challenges you to lift your maximum amount for one rep. It’s a strenuous exercise, but since it’s just one, you’ll rise to the challenge and push yourself.

What Are the Chest-Supported Row Variations?

Chest-supported row variations exercise the back and shoulders using different methods. Mixing up routines lets certain muscle groups rest while focusing on other areas. Over time, your body gets used to a certain routine and will plateau.

If you’re working out and not seeing any development, try these chest-supported row variations. The five chest-supported row variations mix up your workout, develop each group of back and shoulder muscles, and ensure continuing results.

  1. Single-Arm Chest-Supported Row: This variation has you do all reps using one arm before switching to the other. It differs from the conventional chest-supported row because you aren’t working both arms at the same time.
  2. Alternating Chest-Supported Row: This variation differs not only from the conventional chest-supported row but also from the single-arm routine above. Instead of doing all reps with one arm at once, work arms alternately. One lifts and one rests, then switch arms.
  3. Chest-Supported Barbell Row: The barbell row requires one barbell instead of two dumbbells. The weight of the barbell should be what you’d normally use in both dumbbells combined. Work the arms at the same time to feel a difference in the shoulder blades and back muscles.
  4. Chest Supported Row Machine: Take advantage of the unique handle grips and set weights with this variation. The handles have grips that are straight to work your delts or angled to work your lats. T-bar row machines have a foot platform to encourage a natural bend to the knees.
  5. Chest Supported Rear Delt Row: This variation works muscles in such a different way that it’s ideal when you’re feeling stagnant. Use an overhand grip to pull the barbell to your upper body. This grip shifts the biceps to work your rear delts. 

What Are the Necessary Equipment for the Chest-Supported Row?

You don’t need a full gym to do the chest-support row. The necessary equipment for the chest-supported row is minimal. Read more about Best Chest-Supported Row Barbells.

  1. Two dumbbells or a barbell
  2. A weight bench that can incline

Get this equipment, and you’re ready to work out.

What Are the Back Muscle Exercises With Chest-Supported Row?

The chest-supported row works your back muscles extensively. For a quality back workout, do two to four sets of 5 to 10 reps per set. Once you’re used to this routine, increase the dumbbell weight instead of adding more reps or sets.

Inverted rows use a chest-supported adjustable row bench. Put a bar across the bench so you can reach it when you’re flat on your back. Grab it and pull yourself up using your back muscles. Keep your feet on the floor, but the rest of your body should hang from the bar.

The rowing machine also works your back and provides cardio, so skip the treadmill and take advantage of the rowing machine at the gym.

You can also do sets of bench press, deadlift, and pull-ups after activating your back muscles with the chest-supported row. Remember that too many free weight workouts stress your lower back, so do these exercises after starting with chest-supported rows for your back.

The following facts prove that the chest-supported row is an exercise you need to integrate into your routine.

  1. Chest-supported dumbbell row muscles worked include the lats, trap, and rhomboids. You’ll feel the burn in all your back muscles, along with your biceps and arms. Chest-supported rows are ideal when you want to target back muscles and give your legs and core a break.
  2. Leaning against the incline bench takes stress off of your lower back. If you’re tired of getting a tight lower back on your weight days, chest-supported rows let you work your muscles without causing that pain.
  3. Working your back muscles improves your posture. When you’re sitting or standing in your daily life, your muscles will have the strength to support your core better and for longer periods.

Chest-supported rows strengthen the back muscles for everyday use and also lead to massive muscle development.

Does Chest-Supported Row Affect the Hormones?

Doing chest-supported rows affects anabolic hormones. These hormones use energy and inspire muscle growth. Chest-supported rows are great to increase anabolic hormones because you’re working muscles consistently through each set.

The longer period of rest between exercises, the harder it is to get back momentum. The break causes the hormones to plummet. Since chest-supported rows require constant motion, the exercise boosts anabolic hormones. Even if you alternate arms, your muscles are never resting; they’re simply supporting the joints on the inactive arm.

For the best results, keep workouts shorter than an hour, so you don’t use up your hormones. If you feel like you’re lagging, use your leg muscles to produce more testosterone. When you come back to chest-supported rows, you’ll feel a rush that allows you to keep moving and develop muscle growth.

Does Chest-Supported Row Increase Testosterone?

Yes, chest-supported rows increase testosterone. Testosterone is a hormone that promotes muscle mass, strength, and bone mass.

Any compound exercise that uses multiple muscle groups stimulates testosterone production. Since chest-supported rows work various back and arm muscles, it activates your hormonal glands more than isolated exercises.

The chest-supported landmine row is another good routine to increase testosterone. It works the deltoid, trap, lats, and glutes.

Is Chest-Supported Row Dangerous?

No, if you stick to the proper form, then chest-supported rows aren’t dangerous. Lifting without adhering to proper form can hurt you, though.

Use a chest-supported row bench to lean against, so you’re not stressing your core or legs as you lift. Your chest should stay on the bench for proper form. If you discover that you’re lifting your chest from the bench, take some weight off of your dumbbells.

Is Chest-Supported Row a Compound Exercise?

Yes, the chest-supported row is a compound exercise. A compound exercise is any routine that uses more than one muscle group at once. Chest-supported rows use your latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and rhomboids, along with other muscle groups in your arms.

If you find a chest-supported row machine for sale, you’ll want to jump on that deal. This machine makes compound exercise simple. It’s set in the optimal position for chest-supported rows, so you’ll have no problem getting your reps in every day.

What Can Replace Chest-Supported Row?

When you consider the chest-supported row machine muscles worked, you might wonder if there’s any exercise that can replace a chest-supported row. 

The bent-over row replaces chest-supported rows while still giving you a quality workout. To do the bent-over row, you can use dumbbells or a barbell. As with the chest-supported row, you can work both arms at once or one at a time.

With a barbell, you’ll work both arms at once. Stand behind the barbell, lean over, and lift it to your stomach. Stay bent over as you lift and hold the barbell. Your back should stay straight and rigid. You can use this same method with two separate dumbbells to work both arms at once.

If you’re working one arm at a time, you’ll brace yourself against a bench. Instead of supporting your chest, you’ll prop one arm and knee on the bench. Keep your other foot flat on the floor and bend at the waist. Pick up the dumbbell from the ground and lift it to your hip before lowering it back to the starting position.

Is Chest-Supported Row a Multi-Joint Exercise?

Yes, the chest-supported row is a multi-joint exercise. It requires a wide range of motion across your back, shoulders, and arms, so it works all those joints. Whether you’re using a chest-supported row T-bar or a bent-over row, you’ll get similar benefits from both approaches.

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