Muscles Involved in Bent Over Dumbbell Rows

The bent over dumbbell row works a variety of muscles throughout your upper body.
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The bent over dumbbell row is a compound weightlifting exercise designed to build muscle mass in your back, shoulders and arms. While the primary muscles targeted are in the upper and middle back, the bent over row also provides a good workout for other upper body muscle groups such as your deltoids, lats, biceps, triceps and pecs.

Bent Over Dumbbell Row

The bent over dumbbell row is a compound exercise that works several major muscle groups simultaneously. Using one or two dumbbells, you bend your torso into a nearly horizontal position and contract against the resistance of the dumbbell plus the pull of gravity. Begin by placing your right knee on a bench with a dumbbell in your left hand and your left leg planted firmly on the floor slightly back and to the side. Keep your torso as close to horizontal as you can, your head up and your eyes facing forward for the duration of this exercise. Avoid flexing or rounding your spine, as this could cause injury. Exhale, then pull the dumbbell up until it reaches the level of your rib cage. Once you have pulled the dumbbell to this level, slowly lower it back to the original position. Repeat as necessary, with an equal number of repetitions for the right arm.

Back Muscles

The primary muscles targeted by the bent over row are in your upper middle back: the trapezius and the rhomboids. Your trapezius stretches from your spine to the base of your neck and controls the movement of your shoulder blades while also supporting the arm. Your rhomboids run from your vertebrae to your scapula and are responsible for retracting your shoulder blades. By lifting the weight while your torso is in a horizontal position, these two muscle groups contract and take the brunt of the workout.

Shoulder and Trunk Muscles

The bent over row also works out your shoulder and trunk muscles, particularly your deltoids and lats. Your deltoids are the muscles responsible for the rounded shape of your shoulders, and control your ability to move your arms backward or rotating them outward. Your lats, or latissimus dorsi, are located down the sides of your upper back and are responsible for shoulder extension and rotation. Secondary muscles worked by the bent over row include the infraspinatus in your rotator cuff, the teres major which supports the latissimus dorsi, and your pectoralis major, or "pecs," which act as a stabilizer muscle when you lower the dumbbell.

Arm Muscles

The primary arm muscles worked by the bent over row are your biceps. Running down the front of your arm from your shoulder to your elbow, your biceps control the flexion in your elbow. When you lift the dumbbell against the pull of gravity your biceps contract. When you lower the dumbbell, your triceps acts as stabilizers.

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