Barbell and dumbbell rows may not be the sexiest weight training exercises but they can definitely give you a shredded physique with strong lats. In fact, your back day seems incomplete without having these rowing movements in them. They build up your lats and provide strength to the mid-back section along with stimulating other muscle groups such as rear deltoids and biceps.
The big question or I must say confusion is, which one is better? Are the barbell rows superior or are dumbbell rows?
Maybe they both are equally effective OR could either of them be counterproductive?
In this article, we have answered these and all other questions related to the barbell and dumbbell rows and which exercise is best.
Barbell Rows vs. Dumbbell Rows
Let’s start with a basic comparison on both the type of rows.
Also known as bent-over barbell rows. This exercise uses a simple principle where you load a barbell with plates and executed by doing a similar action to a barbell squat.
The dumbbell rows or dumbbell bent-over rows effectively engage the back muscles and as compared to barbell rows, they help in better strengthening of your mid-back and lats. You simply bend over a bench with your spine straight and parallel to the floor. One of your hands is on the bench while the other is holding the dumbbell. You pull the weight up towards your hips using the back muscles and gradually lowering it to the starting position.
Dumbbell Rows Are the Winner – But Why?
Though I’m not at all saying that barbell rows are bad or not effective; dumbbell rows are superior. You’ll come across many bodybuilders who recommend a barbell row or have built impressive backs using the barbell bent-over technique, but the huge drawback here is this exercise demands more effort and focus on maintaining a proper posture, else it isn’t effective.
There is no lower back support and most of your bodyweight is on the spinal erectors, hamstrings, and glutes. All it does is it disturbs your focus and posture throughout the exercise. Most of the times, you have to stop your sets, not because your back muscles are screaming, but due to the excessive stress and fatigue on your legs and lower back.
To be honest, if you are already doing deadlifts, posterior chain exercise, and squats, there is no need to use the barbell row for training your mid-back as this area is already being trained. In fact, it can possibly result in a back injury or sprain.
So, for all these reasons, the single-arm dumbbell rows take the lead and are way more effective than the barbell rows.
When you do a dumbbell row exercise, your lower back and legs are well-supported through the sets and your entire focus is on your lats and mid-section instead of maintaining the posture or balance.
Moreover, it also reduces the lower back, hamstring and glutes fatigue and eliminates the risk of a lower back injury because of no strain. Above all, it maximizes your back muscle gains and strength.
How to Perform Dumbbell Rows:
While there are several different variations for doing the dumbbell rows but here is the most popular one that we prefer.
- Grab a dumbbell of heavier weight than usual and place it on one side of a flat bench.
- Now, place your left knee on the edge of the bench and your left hands just in front of it such that your back is parallel to the floor.
- Now, using your right hand, grab the dumbbell but don’t lift it off the floor. This will be your starting position.
- Now press your left hand into the bench for extra support, and row the dumbbell towards your waist. You’ll feel a strong contraction in your lats and mid-back.
- Gradually lower the dumbbell back towards the floor and go for another rep.
- Switch sides and do the same.
- Aim for three sets of 8-12 reps each with a heavier dumbbell.
- To increase the tension in back muscles, focus on rowing the dumbbell using your elbows when you raise it towards your waist.
- When you lower the dumbbell towards the floor, give it an extra stretch of an inch or two. This will stimulate the back muscles more effectively.
- While pulling the dumbbell towards your waist, focus on squeezing the shoulder blades for maximum support.
- Wear a wrist strap if using a very heavy dumbbell.