Row Incline Bench

Start Position
End Position

Starting position:

  1. Lie facedown on an incline bench (angled 30 to 45 degrees).
  2. Grab the dumbbells with a closed, pronated grip.
  3. Extend the elbows fully (keeping a slight bend in them), allowing the dumbbells to hang straight downward.
  4. Keep your head in a neutral position and in line with the vertebral column while looking down at the floor.

Upward movement/concentric phase:

  1. Pull the dumbbells upward toward the bench just beneath your lower chest/upper abdomen.
  2. Maintain the torso in a rigid position with the lower back flat.

Downward movement/eccentric phase:

    1. In a controlled fashion, slowly lower the dumbbells by allowing the elbows to extend back the to the starting position.
Do not hold your breath. Exhale during the concentric/phase phase and inhale during the eccentric/lowering phase.


Exercise Data

  • Primary Muscles: Latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius, rhomboids, teres major
  • Synergists: Posterior deltoid, biceps brachii, brachialis
  • Stabilizers: Wrist flexors and rotator cuff muscles
  • Type: Strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance
  • Mechanics: Scapular retraction, horizontal shoulder abduction, and elbow flexion
  • Equipment: Two dumbbells and an incline bench
  • Lever: 1st class lever
  • Level: Intermediate to advanced
  • FAQ'S & FACTS ABOUT Row Incline Bench

    What Is A Dumbbell Incline Bench Row?

    A dumbbell incline bench row is a compound resistance exercise, which targets the upper and middle back including the latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius, rhomboids and teres major. This exercise is performed with two dumbbells. It is performed lying face down on a flat bench.

    The concentric portion of the lift is scapular retraction, horizontal shoulder abduction, and elbow flexion. The eccentric portion is scapular protraction, horizontal shoulder adduction, and elbow extension as the dumbbells are lowered.

    The purpose of the dumbbell incline bench row is to strengthen the latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius, rhomboids and teres major while also promoting the hypertrophy (increases in size) of these muscles.

    Why Do A Dumbbell Incline Bench Row?

    Dumbbell incline bench rows strengthen and develop muscles of the upper and middle back. This exercise requires less stabilization from the back muscles, abdominals, and legs compared to the bent-over row. Therefore, the dumbbell incline bench row allows the lifter to place grater isolation on the latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius, rhomboids and teres major as the scapula retracts.

    The bench supporting the body weight also omits the factor of low back fatigue that can occur with dumbbell bent-over rows. This position may accommodate to lifters with a compromised back.

    The inclined position of the bench stresses the muscle fibers of the corresponding muscle groups from a different angle. Stressing muscle fibers from different angles optimizes strength and hypertrophy gains.

    Performing incline bench rows with dumbbells allows the lifter to horizontally abduct both shoulders independently as the scapula retract. In addition, dumbbell incline bench rows may identify weaknesses of either side, if present. Performing row variations with dumbbells also grants an increased range of motion and may be easier on the wrists.

    In addition to serving as an exercise that enhances the aesthetics of the upper and middle back, dumbbell incline bench rows also complement weightlifting and sport performance.

    Anatomy Of A Dumbbell Incline Bench Row

    The latissimus dorsi is a broad, flat, and triangular-shaped muscle of the lower back. When defined, the “lats” form a “v” shape of the torso as they angle toward the waist. The latissimus dorsi is a primary shoulder adductor and shoulder extensor. In this exercise, the latissimus dorsi is responsible for extending the shoulder as the dumbbells are lifted upward. Its origin is located along the spines of the lower six thoracic vertebrae, lower 3 to 4 ribs, and iliac crest of the pelvis. Its insertion spirals around the teres major as it inserts into the intertubercular groove of the humerus.

    A flat and triangular muscle, the trapezius is the most superficial muscle of the posterior thorax. The middle fibers run horizontally to the scapula. Its origin is located at the occipital bone, ligamentum nuchae, and spines of C7 and all thoracic vertebrae. Its insertion is located along the acromion and spine of the scapula and lateral region of the clavicle. The middle trapezius retracts the scapula. As a superficial muscle, developing the middle trapezius contributes to the overall aesthetics of the upper back.

    The rhomboids are two rectangular muscles that lie underneath the trapezius just below the levator scapulae. The rhomboids consist of the rhomboid minor and rhomboid major. The rhomboid minor is located above the rhomboid major and is more superficial. The origin of the rhomboid minor is located at the spinous processes of C7 and T1. The origin of the rhomboid major is located at the spinous processes of T2-T5. The insertion of both rhomboids major and minor is located at the medial border of the scapula. The rhomboids are synergists with the middle trapezius when retracting the scapula.

    The teres major is a thick muscle located underneath the teres minor. It helps to form the posterior wall of the axilla. A synergist of the latissimus dorsi, the teres major extends the shoulder in this exercise. Its origin is located at the posterior surface of the scapula at the inferior angle. Its insertion is located at the crest of the lesser tubercle on the anterior humerus (its tendon fused with that of the latissimus dorsi).

    The deltoid is a thick, multipennate muscle that forms a curtain around the shoulder. It is the primary muscle involved with arm abduction. When developed, the deltoids give the shoulder their round shape. The horizontal abduction of the shoulder joint as the dumbbells are lifted activates the posterior fibers of the deltoid. The origin of the deltoid is located at the insertion of the trapezius, lateral third of the clavicle and the acromion spine of the scapula. Its insertion is located at the deltoid tuberosity of the humerus.

    The biceps brachii consists of two heads, the long head and the short head. The long head tendon helps stabilize the shoulder joint and its origin is located at the tubercle and lip of the glenoid cavity of the scapula (shoulder blade). The short head origin is located at the coracoid process of the scapula (shoulder blade). The long and short head unite as the muscle bellies run down the front of the arm. Both heads merge, sharing insertion into the radial tuberosity of the elbow joint. The biceps brachii flexes the elbow joint as the dumbbells are lifted upward.

    The brachialis lies underneath the biceps brachii, originating at the front of the lower end of the humerus bone. Its insertion is located at the coronoid process of the ulna at the elbow joint. The brachialis is a primary elbow flexor.

    The rotator cuff muscles help stabilize the shoulder joint as the scapular retract and the shoulder horizontally abducts. The wrist flexors maintain the wrists rigid and stabilized throughout the exercise.

    Variations Of A Dumbbell Incline Bench Row

    Dumbbell [flat] bench row, one-arm dumbbell row, barbell bent-over row, two-arm long bar rows, one-arm long bar rows, seated rows, T-bar rows, standing one-arm low-pulley rows, machine rows.

    How To Improve Your Dumbbell Incline Bench Rows

    Strategically varying your row exercises (e.g. barbell bent over row, seated row, one-arm bent over dumbbell row) can optimize the muscle fiber recruitment of the activated muscles. Over time, this will enhance the strength and hypertrophy of the corresponding upper and middle back muscles.

    Strategically alternate dumbbell bench rows to standing bent-over rows if the lower back is not compromised.

    Focus more on the horizontal shoulder abduction and scapular retraction to lift the dumbbells upward as opposed to focusing on the hands dominating the effort of the lift. This will not only optimize muscle activation, but also prevent strain on the biceps brachii that could increase the risk of injury.

    Focus on the concentric portion of the contraction, concentrating on “squeezing” as the scapula are retracted (“shoulder blades” are squeezed together).

    Emphasis on eccentric contractions, prolonging the eccentric portion of the contraction, may also be incorporated in a training program focused on increasing strength. This should be implemented accordingly and with adequate muscle recovery as eccentric contractions cause substantial damage to muscle tissue.

    It’s important to note that your repetition and set volume will depend on your goals (e.g. strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance). It is also important to allow adequate recovery days in between back, shoulder, and biceps training days to allow muscles to repair.

    Common Mistakes When Doing Dumbbell Incline Bench Rows

    Using momentum to lift the dumbbells (e.g. jerking the torso for assistance) minimizes the potential of force production of the involved muscles and can increase the risk for injury. It is important that both the eccentric and concentric phases of the exercise are controlled.

    Injuries Or Ailments & Their Effects Regarding Dumbbell Incline Bench Rows

    If the lifter has a compromised range of motion of the shoulder joint and/or performs this exercise incorrectly, this exercise can increase the risk of injury and/or exacerbate a previous injury.

    If proper technique and recovery are not adhered to, impingement syndrome, rotator cuff injuries, and/or lower back injuries may occur.