You might feel your whole arm engaging when you do dumbbell rows, but don't let that fool you into thinking you're working your biceps. Although it's your arms that are moving, it's your back that's getting the workout. There's a whole list of different types of dumbbell rows -- you'd think that with all those to choose from and all that arm action at least one would work your biceps.
Dumbbell Row Variations
You can perform a bent-over dumbbell row, a lying dumbbell row and a dumbbell rear delt row, but not one of them targets the biceps. You may feel tension and movement in your biceps when you do all of these versions of a dumbbell row, but that's because your biceps are acting as dynamic stabilizers for your back muscles as you row. This just means that your biceps are moving without actually working.
A Row That Engages Your Biceps
There is one form of dumbbell rows that gets your biceps working to a degree. The upright dumbbell row engages your biceps as synergists, muscles that actively assist other muscles during an exercise. If you compare upright rows to the other versions of dumbbell rows, you'll notice an obvious difference in how your biceps feel during the movements.
Biceps Targeting Exercises
Curling exercises are the best for targeting your biceps. A basic standing curl done with a fat-grip barbell or dumbbells is very effective for working your biceps. Another personal trainers' favorite is very basic: good old-fashioned chin-ups. Using your entire body for resistance will challenge your back and arm muscles, including your biceps, and encourage them to work together more efficiently.
Rows for Building Your Back Muscles
Even if your biceps are your main concern right now, don't let that discourage you from including rows in your workout. Bent over and lying rows are effective for targeting your back in general, and upright rows and dumbbell rear delt rows zero in on your delts, lateral and posterior, respectively.
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