Small Changes, Big Results | Dumbbell Row | Erin Stern

Posted on August 2, 2016 at 12:00 AM

I love training with free weights. Exercise variations can easily be introduced into your workouts, and you can achieve great results with very little time-spent training. However, challenges can arise when training muscle groups you can’t easily see, such as the back. I think choosing appropriate weights, utilizing the mind-muscle connection, and proper form can all make a difference. When picking out a dumbbell, the weight should be difficult for the last few reps of your exercise, but not so difficult that form suffers. Slowing the tempo down slightly will help with mind-muscle connection, and helps with awareness. I think it’s better to do one less rep, than to do a few reps using muscles you’re not training that day. Ultimately I think it all comes down to proper form – execute each rep with precision and you’ll gain and sculpt muscle exactly where you’d like to build it! Today, we’ll focus on three small tweaks to the dumbbell row. The only equipment needed is a bench and a dumbbell.

  1. Pull through the elbow. Think of the distance from your hands to your elbow as merely an anchor or continuation of the weight. Try to keep your wrist straight – don’t break through the wrist. This will help with overall strength and also keep accessory muscles from doing the work. This might sound odd, but I picture a string coming from the ceiling and it’s attached to my elbow. When I pull the weight, I imagine someone is pulling the string from above. This helped me visualize pulling through the elbow. I hope it helps you!

  1. Keep your elbow close your body. Many times, I’ll see lifters performing the row with their elbows out. This can encourage the shoulders to take over. By keeping your elbow close to your side, you encourage the lats to do the work. Pull smoothly through the range of motion.

  1. The last tweak is probably the most important – try to keep your shoulders square to the floor. This will help keep the emphasis on the lats, and not on the shoulders. Choosing a proper weight comes into play here. If the weight is too heavy, there’s a tendency to “cheat” the weight up. Also, form can break down during those last few reps. Be mindful and present during each rep, as this is where the most physique changes are made.

During training PEAK ATP helps me get those last few tough reps. I have been able to improve the quality of my reps, and increase the volume! Check out my video for a thorough demonstration of the dumbbell row. Give it a try, and let me know what you think! Thanks for reading – until next time, train hard, y’all!

- Erin Stern, 2x Ms. Olympia/USATF Competitor

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