Chest Supported Row

How To Do A Chest Supported Row With Dumbbells
By Alli McKeeFebruary 18, 2016

Chest Supported Row Exercise

The chest supported dumbbell row is a great exercise for strengthening the muscles in the mid to upper back, and the rear delts. It is also a fantastic option for people who have shoulder issues and are not able to perform overhead presses, and/or are looking to rehabilitate their shoulders.

Equipment needed:

An incline bench and dumbbells should be used for this exercise. If you don't have access to an incline bench, you can prop a flat bench up on a box so it forms the same angle.

Ability level:


In some instances, the chest supported row might be too advanced for women who are just beginning to strength train. If this is the case, beginners might prefer to perform this exercise on a chest supported row machine as it requires slightly less stability than the dumbbell variation.


The chest supported row is a great option for the intermediate lifter. You can perform this exercise on its own, you can pair it with another upper body pushing exercise as part of a superset, or can you even make it part of a metabolic conditioning circuit. Lifters can manipulate what muscles are targeted by changing the position of the elbows in relation to the body. If the elbows are kept tight to the body and point backwards, the lats will do the bulk of the work. If the elbows are angled out, the rear delts, traps, and rhomboids will do the bulk of the work. Intermediate lifters might perform 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps of the chest supported row.


Women who are comfortable with this supported dumbbell row variation can choose to perform negative reps where the lowering phase is increased to 3-5 seconds as this trains the muscles eccentrically. You can increase the weight/resistance for multiple sets (2-4+) of fewer repetitions (3-6). You can also make this exercise more challenging by adding band resistance.

Benefits of Chest Supported Rows:

There are many benefits to chest supported rows. How a woman chooses to use this exercise is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, how much weight is being used, the set/rep scheme used, where the exercise falls in the workout, what it’s paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general, the chest supported row can be used to do any or all of the following:

  • increasing upper body strength, primarily in the lats, rhomboids, traps, and rear delts
  • improving the overall health of the shoulders
  • improving posture
  • building muscle
  • fat loss (if your diet and exercise routines are conducive to fat loss)
  • increasing conditioning (if used as part of conditioning circuits)

How to perform a Chest Supported Row:

  • Set up an incline bench so it is at a 45-60 degree angle. If you don't have access to an incline bench, you can prop a flat bench up on a box so it forms the same angle.
  • Lie in a prone position on the bench so your chin is just over the top of the bench. Make sure that your spine and neck are in a neutral position.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Before you perform the rowing motion, take a deep breath in through your nose (360 degrees of air around the spine), brace your core (imagine that you're about to block a soccer ball with your stomach), lightly tuck your rib cage down towards your hips (close the space in your midsection), and squeeze your glutes.
  • Now initiate the rowing movement by pulling your shoulder blades together and down (towards the opposite back pocket in your pants), and squeezing the muscles in your mid to upper back.
  • Stop when your elbows are just above your sides, and are still in line with your shoulders. Pause for a brief count at the top, then lower the weight with control.
  • Reset and repeat

Video Transcription: 

When it comes to performing a proper chest supported row, you have several options. A lot of gyms have a chest supported row machine, which is great, but if you don’t have one of those you can use an incline bench, or here I have two flat benches set up so that one of them is on an incline.

Keep in mind, when you are rowing the weights it’s really important to initiate the movement by pulling your shoulder blades together and keeping your elbows close to your body. You want to think about pulling your shoulder blades back and down, squeezing your back, then controlling the weight back down. You don’t want to pull the elbow past the front of your shoulder because it puts your shoulder in a bad position. Make sure you stop when your elbows are still in line with your shoulders, squeeze your back together and control the weight back down, I will show you what it looks like.

Now this can be a little bit awkward to get in position for, especially if you have the weights in your hand. You are going to lean your upper body against the bench, get nice and straight, initiating the movement with your elbows and pulling your shoulder blades back and down, control it back down. Squeeze that back together, and that’s a chest supported row.




Want to learn more about the women’s health and fitness issues you care most about?

Get Access to Our Free 5-Day Courses

Find the most up-to-date and helpful resources for tackling body image struggles, pre- & postnatal training issues, and everything in between.

Whether you’re a health and fitness professional looking to level up your knowledge or a woman wanting to feel stronger, fitter, and more confident, get the advice you can trust from the experts at Girls Gone Strong.

About the author:  Alli McKee

Alli is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She's contributed to and modeled for a number of major publications including Oxygen magazine and the New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged. You can find out more about Alli on her personal blog at

More Resources

envelope-oclosechevron-upchevron-downbookmark-otwitterfacebookchainbars linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram