There are many movements to get in a horizontal pull workout. Find out how to do chest-supported rows and whether you should.
Chest-supported rows are a row variation where you lean on an incline bench with your chest.
Compared to the classic bent-over rows, the chest-supported version engages your erector spinae (lower back), glutes (butt), and hamstring (back thigh) muscles less.
Additionally, using two-handed weights like a barbell becomes more challenging to do.
If you already do a lot of lower back and glute exercises, chest-supported rows can be helpful to really focus on your latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and biceps without fatiguing other muscles.
On the flip side, if you don’t train these secondary muscles that much, you miss out on some muscle endurance training by choosing chest-supported rows.
How to do a chest-supported row
To do a chest-supported row you first need an incline weight bench.
Besides that, you also need some type of back workout equipment as resistance.
One-handed exercise equipment options like dumbbells are typically better but you could be able to use a barbell too.
Once you have the required gear, take the following steps to do a chest-supported row:
- Put the incline weight bench at about a 45-degree angle.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lie down with your chest against the weight bench. Let your shoulder blades and arms hang down for now.
- Slowly raise the dumbbells as far as comfortable by pulling your shoulder blades back and folding your arms. Keep your upper arms close to your sides.
- Lower the dumbbells again in a controlled motion.
If you notice that your forearm grip muscles fatigue before the main target muscles, you can also consider doing chest-supported rows with weight lifting grip pads or straps.
Chest-supported row muscles worked
Chest-supported rows mainly work your latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back), trapezius (upper back), biceps, and potentially forearm grip muscles.
Compared to the more standard bent-over row, the chest-supported version works your erector spinae (lower back), glutes (butt), and hamstrings (back thighs) less.
You would likely not grow these muscles with bent-over rows anyway but improving their endurance still offers benefits.
On the flip side, chest-supported rows make it easier to work the main muscles involved without having to pay too much attention to technique.
One thing you do want to note is that it becomes harder to use a barbell in this horizontal pull exercise since the weight bench gets in the way.
If the dumbbells or other weights you have available are too light, this can be a big downside.
Chest-supported row benefits
For the right people and situations, chest-supported rows offer valuable benefits. Some of these include:
- Stronger muscles: By doing chest-supported rows enough times with enough repetition, you can grow and strengthen a variety of muscles.
- Can improve posture: If you find it easier to really engage your trapezius with chest-supported rows, this variation could make it easier to improve your posture.
- Technique becomes easier: By not having to worry about things like keeping your spine straight, chest-supported rows make the exercise technique easier.
- Can help avoid muscle imbalances: Chest-supported rows with one-handed weights make it easier to work each side about equally.
- Bigger back: The muscles you work with chest-supported rows offer you a bigger back. Many people will find this a visual benefit.
Chest-supported rows are not unique in all these benefits but they can be a helpful choice.
Chest-supported row alternatives
While they can be good, chest-supported rows are also not for everyone.
If this applies to you, one of these chest-supported row alternatives could be a better idea:
- Rows with one hand and one knee on a horizontal weight bench
- Seated rows
- Other row variations
- Lat pulldowns
What muscles you do and don’t want to work will influence what chest-supported row alternatives are ideal for you.
Are chest-supported rows a good exercise?
Chest-supported rows can be a good exercise to really focus on the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and biceps for people who already work the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings a lot.
Additionally, because you have less to worry about, chest-supported rows are somewhat easier in terms of technique.
People who don’t work out that often do miss out on some extra muscle endurance training by not choosing the popular bent-over row alternative.
Besides that, you also need to be able to use enough weight to see results.
It is somewhat harder to use a barbell in chest-supported rows.
Lastly, personal preference matters a lot too. There are many other good compound back exercises that offer great results too.
Are chest-supported rows better?
Chest-supported rows are not necessarily better or worse than typical alternatives like the bent-over row.
Your training goals, the rest of your workout program, and your preferences will influence what exercise is the best.