Barbell Vs Dumbbell Row

barbell vs dumbbell row


A well-rounded muscle-building training routine would be incomplete without a simple horizontal pulling movement. Rowing workouts with free weights are an excellent approach to increase the size and strength of the lats and mid-back muscles while also giving secondary stimulation to smaller muscles like the biceps and rear delts.

But, when it comes to muscle building, which is better: a barbell row or a dumbbell row? Is there any reason to choose one over the other, or are they both equally effective? In this essay, I’ll explain why the dumbbell row is the preferable alternative when it comes to triggering back growth while minimizing the risk of injury…

Before I go any further, let me state unequivocally that I am not suggesting that a barbell row is a “bad” exercise or that you cannot or should not include it in your training routine.

There are definitely many accomplished lifters with remarkable backs who employ barbell rows in their regimens, and there’s no doubt that when done correctly, they’re an excellent movement. However, when it comes to choosing between the barbell row and the dumbbell row for hypertrophy, there are a few reasons why the barbell row loses out.

The greatest disadvantage of the barbell row for muscle gain is the extra work and focus required to maintain appropriate posture throughout the exercise.

Because you’ll be standing in a bended over posture with a weighted bar off the ground and no chest or lower back support, your spinal erectors, glutes, and hamstrings will all have to work overtime simply to keep your body in place for the duration of the set.

This limits the amount of focus you can devote to the most important aspect of the lift: generating maximum stimulation to your lats and mid-back muscles.

During a normal bent-over barbell row, many lifters are compelled to quit the set due to extreme tiredness in their legs and lower back, rather than because their lats and mid-back muscles are genuinely giving out.

Some may argue that incorporating the posterior chain makes the barbell row a more “functional movement,” but I don’t believe this is a valid argument in favor of the lift.

If you’re already working on your posterior chain with squats, deadlifts, and other workouts, there’s no need to do a barbell row. If your major goal in the gym during your back workouts is to strengthen your back, then your activity selection should be based on that purpose.

Furthermore, if you’re doing squats, deadlifts, or other “lower back taxing” exercises throughout the week, you’ll want to maintain your lower back as fresh as possible for those activities.

Fatiguing your lower back with other exercises like the barbell row isn’t a good idea because it will just help to weaken your strength on the big complex lifts. I recommend using the one-arm dumbbell row as your primary free weight rowing exercise for all of these reasons.

This rowing variation will keep your lower back and legs supported throughout the lift, allowing you to focus 100% of your attention on the task at hand: efficiently training your lats and mid-back.

The one arm dumbbell row will not only reduce lower back tiredness during the week, but it will also reduce your chances of lower back injury by putting less strain on the area during the activity.

Because this is an iso-lateral exercise in which each arm is trained individually, it will aid to prevent size and strength imbalances by preventing one arm from cheating for the other.

Here’s how to do the one-arm dumbbell row correctly.

How to Do a Dumbbell Row With One Arm

There are various different one-arm dumbbell row variations to choose from, but this is how I love to do them…

  • Make an incline bench with a 30-45 degree slant.
  • With your feet roughly shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, stand behind the bench and grab a dumbbell with your outer hand in a neutral grip.
  • To stabilize your upper body, press your other hand into the bench.
  • Row the dumbbell up to your waist until your lat and mid-back muscles tighten strongly. Rep by lowering the dumbbell until your arm is extended toward the floor.

Here are a few more recommendations to help you get the most out of your one-arm dumbbell row…

Focus on rowing the dumbbell up with your elbow rather than your hand to maximize the tension on your back muscles rather than your biceps and shoulders. Imagine that your hand and forearm don’t exist, and you’re only concerned with driving the weight back with your elbows.

Make sure to row the dumbbell at a slight angle rather than straight up and down, since this will stimulate the back muscles even more.

Focus on pressing your shoulder blades together as you row the dumbbell toward yourself.

You can use a set of lifting straps or lifting hooks to completely remove your grasp from the equation and raise the activation of your back muscles even more.

Another option is to conduct your one-arm dumbbell row on a flat bench, with your other leg out behind you and both your inside arm and knee on the bench for support

Either option is OK, and you should use the one that feels most natural to you.

The dumbbell seal row and the incline-chest supported row, which I’ve explored in past postings, are two more dumbbell rowing variations that keep both the chest and lower back supported while allowing you to row both dumbbells at the same time.

Quick Recap: Barbell vs. Dumbbell Row

Although barbell rows are still a good way to strengthen your back if done correctly, the one-arm dumbbell row has the following advantages:

  • Allows you to focus entirely on strengthening your lats and mid-back without having to use additional energy to maintain appropriate posture from your legs and lower back.
  • Prevents lower back fatigue, allowing you to perform huge compound movements like squats and deadlifts with maximum strength.
  • Because the lower back is supported during the activity, the risk of injury is reduced (read more about injury prevention tips).
  • Allows each arm to operate independently, preventing one side from cheating for the other and preventing size and strength imbalances.

If you don’t have access to heavy enough dumbbells (or prefer barbell rows for some reason), that’s great; however, if you have the option, I’d recommend adopting a one-arm dumbbell row as your primary free weight rowing action for the reasons indicated above.

Is it possible to substitute dumbbell rows for barbell rows?

Another great contender for best alternative to the barbell row is the single arm dumbbell row. This one is fantastic since it lets you to concentrate on one side of the body at a time. My favorite exercise is dumbbell rows!

Is it true that dumbbell rows are effective?

Although the dumbbell row focuses on your back muscles, it also gives you a full upper-body workout by engaging your chest, core, glutes, lower back muscles, and triceps. Dumbbell rows can help you stand taller.

Is it better to row with a barbell or a cable?

For athletes who struggle with hip hinge and lower-back strength, Seated Cable Rows may be preferable to Bent-Over Barbell Rows because they place you in a stable upright position where you can focus more on building your scapulae rather than your lower back.

Is it worthwhile to do a barbell row?

The Most Important Takeaways The barbell row strengthens our hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors, making it a useful assist lift for deadlifters and a more relevant back lift for powerlifters.

Is a barbell row sufficient for the back?

The Barbell Row, also known as the Barbell Bent-Over Row, is a back-strengthening exercise. It’s a difficult lift to master, but if done correctly, it’s one of the most effective workouts for increasing back strength and growth.

What can be used in instead of dumbbell rows?

Use a Smith machine or a safe horizontal fence between your thighs and hips. Lie down on your back, chest directly beneath the bar. Grab the bar with a grip that is slightly wider than shoulder width. Pull yourself up till your chest contacts the bar while maintaining a straight line across your body.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.