Seated Dumbbell Row
How to Do the Seated Dumbbell Row | In-Depth Guide [VISUAL LEARNERS]
Proper Form, Common Mistakes, & Variations | Home Strength Training
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MAIN MUSCLES WORKED IN Seated Dumbbell RowS
The "lats" as they are affectionately called...lol just kidding - anyway, "lats" is short for Latissimus Dorsi which is the widest muscle of the upper body and the largest muscle of the back .
OTHER MUSCLES WORKED:
- Middle and Lower Traps
- Serratus anterior
- Teres major
- Rear deltoid
WHAT & WHY
BENEFITS OF TRAINING THE lats
WHAT WE'RE DOING TODAY
Other names for this exercise: Seated Bent Over Row, Seated Row Exercise
ALL WE'RE DOING:
In a bent-over position, we're going to pull that band to our hips.
WORKIN' OUR BACKSIDE
Sometimes we think of our backside as just the bottom half of us don't we! But today, we're working our OTHER backside- the top half.
The bent over row will work the latissimus dorsi muscle - which translates to “widest back”, it is most commonly called the lat muscle. The lat is shaped a little bit like a wing, and it can pull the arms in close to the body. The exercise is done in a supported position so you can focus on really feeling the lat working. In the movement we are doing today, you will be pulling the upper arm back and in close to the body.
Please note: If you saw the words "widest back" and panicked, let me clarify- you will not get a wide back from these exercises. What you WILL get is more definition in your back along with a healthier walking stride and better posture.
WHY DO WE EVEN CARE?
BIG MUSCLES ARE TYPICALLY IMPORTANT
Bigger isn't always better, but on our bodies, when something is large, it usually means it's either really important, has a lot of different actions it's involved in, is connected to lots of bones and muscles, or all three.
So being that the latissimus dorsi muscle is the largest musce of the entire upper body, it's very important, not only for healthy movement of the shoulder, but also to hold us in an upright position.
CONNECTS WITH A BUNCH OF BONES & MUSCLES
The lat attaches to the spine, the shoulder blade, the pelvis and the arm - it even has a connection to your gluteus maximus - or buttock muscle. That's 5 places!!
Just knowing this tells us something about how important it is to work this muscle.
TEACHES US HOW TO USE THE LAT TO KEEP OUR TORSO DURING ARM MOVEMENTS
Learning how to use the lat to keep the torso still and move the shoulder blade back while you pull your arm back can help prevent future upper back, neck and shoulder pain.
UNLESS YOU'RE A WORKOUT PRO YOU PROBABLY HAVEN'T EXERCISED THIS MUSCLE MUCH
The history that many of us ladies have with exercise, including myself (I only started doing these lat movements about a year ago), is such that we likely haven't done exercises that specifically work this muscle. We've probably done lots of squats. We've probably done some on our knees pushups even though we absolutely hated it. We've probably done some lightweight bicep curls even. But not much back stuff. Not lat stuff.
So, now that we know it's a big important muscle, we can finally give it the attention it deserves and catch it up to speed with the other body parts we HAVE been working on an off for the last twenty years.
EVERYDAY LIFE &
HOW WE USE OUR LATISSIMUS DORSI IN EVERYDAY LIFE
1. PULLING THE ARM DOWN (EXTENSION FROM FLEXION)
- Swimming - it’s called the swimming muscle because it does all 3 motions of the crawl stroke
- Cross country skiing
- Chopping wood
- Golf swing
- Pulling heavy items towards you
- Pulling a door closed
- Pulling weeds
- Hugging someone really hard
2. PUSHING YOUR BODY UP WHILE KEEPING THE ARMS STABLE
- Using crutches
- Pushing down to get out of a chair
- Pushing yourself out of a pool (hands on edge of pool)
3. MOVES AND STABILIZES THE SHOULDER BLADE
- Pulls the shoulder blade down (scapular depression)
- Holds the shoulder blade down to provide a stable base for your arm to work off of
4. HOLDS THE TORSO IN A HEALTHY UPRIGHT POSTURE
5. STABILIZES THE LOW BACK
- When lifting, carrying, heavy arm and leg use
HOW Seated Dumbbell RowS SHAPE OUR BODY
Building the lat muscles contributes to what they call a “V-taper” - it adds to a more hourglass-ish, slim waist appearance.
Confident and healthy upright posture.
This movement is done in a very stable seated position, the core muscles and leg muscles will not be as active. This is a good position for those who have problems with balance, leg or core strength, and for first learning the movement. The exerciser can focus on the movement of the arm, and feeling the latissimus doing the work. The standing, tripod, leaning on bench or long seated version require being mindful of the lower body and to focus on maintaining a neutral and stable spine.
How to Feel What Muscle is Working
Option 1: While standing, take one hand across, and touch near the bra line, just under the armpit. Actively press your shoulders down and elongate the torso/spine up, feel that muscle moving/contracting. That is part of your lat muscle.
If you don’t feel anything you can try it this way:
Option 2: While seated, take one arm across - but just below their breasts, and feel the lat just under the armpit. Take your arm on the side you are activating and push the hand down into the seat of the chair. Like a seated press-up. If your shoulder blade is elevated or in slight protraction you will not be able to get a good lat contraction, so be sure to pull your shoulder blade back and down, THEN push down and in with your upper arm. You will feel a strong lat activation just below your armpit along the side of your body.
PROPER FORM: Seated Dumbbell Rows
EQUIPMENT, SETS & REPS
Bench or chair without arms
SUGGESTED STARTING WEIGHT FOR WOMEN:
8 - 10 lbs
SETS & REPS:
2 sets of 8 - must fatigue the muscles.
Moderate up - with control and back stability, and lower down for the eccentric component.
BODY POSITION FOR THE SEATED DUMBBELL ROW
Sit on a chair without arms or a bench. Preferably close to the edge of the chair so that you are able to lift the arms up without the chair being in the way. It may be necessary to do one arm at a time if the seat of the chair is too wide.
FEET: Feet flat on the floor a comfortable width apart. In general, the closer the feet are together, the less stable you will be, the wider the feet are apart, the more stable.
HAND/GRIP: Neutral, so palms will face in, this should be a comfortable grip.
BODY STANCE: Trunk leaning forward 40-70 degrees - must be able to keep the spine in a neutral position and stable. The further you lean forward, the more your back muscles will work - but resting your torso on your legs will decrease the amount of work your core muscles will need to do. Your back must be neutral and sternum lifted, chest broad.
ARM: When bent over, dumbbells are held just to the outside of the knees (about 1-2 inches from outside of knee. Your elbows should be soft. The exact location of the dumbbell will be dependent on how far you are leaning over and the length of your arms/legs - they may be at knee level or lower.
NECK: Neutral and relaxed throughout the movement. Long neck - space between top of shoulder and earlobe.
HOW TO DO
HOW TO DO SEATED DUMBBELL ROWS
CUE: Focus on pulling your elbows back and in- as if your elbows are headed for your back pockets.
Pull your shoulder blade in and down your back
Pull your upper arm back (towards the ceiling/back wall), letting your elbow bend. Try to resist the urge to use your biceps at this point.
Continue to lift the upper arm back behind the body and inwards towards the midline (the spine) - towards your low back. The hands will end up around your hips at the end of the movement.
Pause and squeeze the lats at the end of the range.
Return to the starting position and repeat.
HOW TO SAFELY GET OUT OF THE EXERCISE
From the starting position, sit up tall, stand up and squat down and set the weights on the floor.
WHAT TO AVOID WITH THE SEATED DUMBBELL ROW
Guess what? Good news! Many avoids are the same for most movements. Once you learn the basics, there's really only a few extra avoids for each individual movement.
1. Avoid chest & Shoulders Caving In
AVOID: Upper back dropping
- This can lead to neck, shoulder injury, or damage over time and can result in using the wrong muscles (upper trap).
WHAT TO DO:
- Keep chest broad and your shoulders blade down and back.
- Check posture and form in a mirror.
2. Avoid rounding/Arching your back
AVOID: Avoid arching(extending) or rounding (flexing) your low back
- Can lead to muscle strain or low back joint injury, it will also decrease the activation of the targeted muscles. Maintain a neutral spine position.
- Pressure or discomfort in your low back.
WHAT TO DO:
- Maintain a neutral spine position to prevent low back joint injury, muscle strain, or damage over time.
- Troubleshooting suggested fixes:
- Poor core strength: activate your abdominal muscles, or do choose a position with more support.
- Poor back extensor strength: choose a position with more support.
3. Avoid Turning Into a bicep curl
AVOID: Using the biceps to lift the weights
- The goal of the exercise is to use the lats.
- This may happen if you find yourself doing mostly bending at the elbow rather than moving through the extension of the shoulder behind you.
WHAT TO DO:
- Correct form and focus: the elbow does bend but it is a passive movement as the upper arm is lifted back. Avoid actively (using the biceps) bending the elbow.
4. Avoid elbow flaring out
AVOID: Avoid letting the elbows flare outwards from your body as you move them upwards.
- This will cause the back of your shoulder muscle (rear deltoid) to do more of the work and the latissimus dorsi to do less of the work.
WHAT TO DO:
- Pull elbow in close to body.
VARIATIONS OF SEATED DUMBBELL ROWS
SINGLE ARM SEATED DUMBBELL ROW
Single Arm Seated Dumbbell Row
This is a good option if your chair seat is wide and you are having trouble pulling the arms back without hitting the chair. Sit on the side edge of the chair and complete the desired number of repetitions with one arm, slide over to the other side to complete the repetitions with that arm.
SPIFFILICIOUS FACTS ABOUT MUSCLES & MOVES
The latissimus dorsi is sometimes listed as an accessory breathing muscle. This means that in times of stress, or heavy breathing, it can help to expand the rib cage during breathing in (inspiration).
The broad latissimus dorsi has attachments to the lower 6 thoracic vertebrae, all of the lumbar vertebrae, and the sacrum (triagular bone at the base of the spine) through the thoracolumbar fascia. It also has attachments to the lower 3 or four ribs, the inferior angle of the scapular and the humerus.
Weak lats can cause upper, mid and lower back pain, shoulder pain, even pain down your arm. Tight lats can limit movement of your shoulder blade and your arm, and cause low back and shoulder pain.
ALLLL MUSCLES & WHEN
ALL MUSCLES WORKING & WHEN DURING THE SEATED DUMBBELL ROW
The core (abdominals and lumbar region) muscles are slightly active - although much less active than when you are standing or in a long seated position, throughout to maintain a neutral spine and stabilize the body against the resisted movement of the arms.
The scapular retractors and depressors (rhomboids, mid traps, and lower traps) initiate the movement by bringing the shoulder blades together and down the back and holding them stable.
The latissimus dorsi, teres major, triceps pull the upper arm back into extension. The latissimus, teres major adduct (moves the arms towards the midline) the arms slightly.
To return to the starting position the same muscles will work eccentrically to reverse the motions to lower the weight with slow control.