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Chest Supported Row [Exercise Guide]

chest supported row

A chest supported row can help you strengthen your back muscles without extra tension on your spine. Read on to know the correct technique, find out exercise variations, and how to tweak the movement to get the most out of it. 

What Is A Chest Supported Row?

The chest supported row is a back exercise performed with dumbbells on an inclined bench. The exercise reinforces the mid to upper back muscles and the rear delts. The movement technique is the same as the standard bent-over row. However, the support in the chest area significantly reduces the load on the spine. This fact makes the exercise especially attractive for beginners and those who have injuries. The chest supported row is also recommended for the rehabilitation of people with shoulder injuries who cannot perform overhead presses.

What Muscles Does Chest Supported Row Work?

A chest supported row is a compound exercise that works multiple muscle groups. The main target muscles are the latissimus dorsi (lats) and rhomboids. The rear deltoid becomes dominant at the end of the movement as soon as the shoulder extension turns to hyperextension. The posterior deltoid and teres major assist in the movement. 

Knowing all the info above would minimize the risk of wrong technique and injury. During practicing chest supported row, the most common mistake is spreading elbows wide and high. This is a different exercise that involves posterior deltoid and focuses load on elbow flexors.

How to Perform Chest Supported Row

Step 1. Get in position

To perform a chest supported row, you need dumbbells and an incline bench. What to do if you don’t have a bench? You can create the same angle (30-45 degrees) by yourself, putting the regular horizontal bench on any stable platform of the desired height. Then take your dumbbells and lean your upper body against the support area. Lie down on your belly with your head straight. Keep your legs together and your hands – on both sides of the bench.

Step 2. Initiate the movement

Bend your arms in elbows and row up. Your lats and mid-back should be squeezed back together as you lift your arms. It’s crucial to initiate the movement by pulling your shoulder blades together and keeping your elbows close to your body. Avoid pulling your elbows past your shoulders because it puts your body in the wrong position.  

Step 3. Come back into the starting position

Put your hands in the starting position slowly and carefully, controlling your movements. To maximize the load of targeted muscles, focus on tugging with your elbows rather than hands. Keep elbows in line with the shoulders all the way.

Advantages of Chest Supported Row

The chest supported row provides a few notable benefits over typical bent-over rows.

Due to the fixed position of the chest, the target muscles tense as much as possible, namely lats, rhomboids, traps, and rear delts. This condition makes workouts more effective. During non-supported rows, you depend on your core and stabilizing muscles to provide resistance. Things are different when you do similar actions with chest support. You may produce greater power. It means you’re really enabling your muscles to draw more weight.

The exercise is suitable for any fitness level, as the technique is simple, and you can choose the weight of the dumbbells. The supported part of your body serves as some insurance for beginners. You can work out without the fear of being hurt.

The presence of support also contributes to the correct posture position during the exercise. Body mobility is permitted or even encouraged in most rows. That will not be the case with chest supported rows. The lack of load on the spine makes the chest supported row available even for injured athletes.

5 Chest Supported Row Alternatives

Pendlay Row

Pendlay row is a great exercise to build muscle and strengthen your back. Unlike traditional barbell bent-over rows, this variation is an explosive off-the-ground movement that helps to activate deep muscle fibers in your back.  

How to perform the exercise:

  1. Bend over. Ensure you are as parallel to the floor as possible.
  2. Utilize an overhand grip to hold a barbell.
  3. Thrust the weight out to about your mid-torso or below the chest.
  4. As soon as you pull the barbell all the way up, let it go down to the ground.

The goal here is not to lift the back to create momentum. As you get heavier, you can do a modified version where you put a little bit of oomph into it. In that case, you will set and maintain a strong hip and back angle all the time.

Seated bent-over rows

Many people prefer the seated equivalent of the same exercise. Firstly, you don’t need an incline bench to practice this exercise. And secondly, it’s suitable even for beginners. But we should warn you that the lower back works harder during seated bent-over rows.

How to perform the exercise:

  1. Sit in the chair.
  2. Put a cushion on your legs (if needed).
  3. Bend your elbows behind you. Tilt forward and pull arms with dumbbells up.
  4. Return to the starting position.

It’s crucial to keep the back flat while exercising. The arms should be extended to the floor, palms facing forward. 

Standing bent-over rows

This exercise works well for overweight people and those who have breathing issues. There won’t be any pressure on the chest. However, standing bent-over rows require some experience and good stability.

How to perform the exercise:

  1. The starting position is legs slightly bent and fixed at the knee.
  2. Bend over (about 60-degree angle) and tilt forward from the pelvis. 
  3. Hold your back straight, don’t arch.
  4. Pull dumbbells up and down. 

There is a variation where you can use an overhead grip. Anyway, you would work with muscles in your back and involve your abs and biceps.

Seal rows

This exercise variation boasts of the fantastic effect and the lack of overall lower back tightness. You need dumbbells or barbells and a horizontal bench for practicing seal rows. The movement targets the rhomboids, lats, and mid-back pulling muscles.

How to perform the exercise:

  1. Lie down on the bench, letting your arms hang down.
  2. Adjust your grip width depending upon how tall you are, and grab a barbell.
  3. Make a bend in your elbows and bring them as close to your body as possible. 
  4. Slowly return to the starting position.

The goal is to maintain the prone position without having to extend the head upwards or lift the foot to create momentum. Rely on the rhomboids and the pulling muscles to generate force and strength. The targeted muscles depend on where your arm ends up in terms of its relation to the torso. The exercise will help load the upper back and rear delts if the arm is out. If it’s in, you are targeting lats.

Inverted rows

To perform this kind of row, you are going to need a rack to adjust a barbell or a smith machine. Inverted rows are easy and effective movements.

How to perform the exercise:

  • Lay on the ground under the barbell. Ensure you are not hitting the ground with each rep.
  • Retract the scaps and engage the upper back before starting the movement.
  • Set the back and initiate the row.
  • Drive the elbows to the floor and get your chest as high as possible.
  • Return to the starting position.

Remember to lead with the chest, not the hip, to achieve the desired effect. No matter what fitness level you are in, you can find needed variation. Advanced athletes can add weight, while beginners can scale by bending their legs.


How does the chest supported row work?

It works your back and rear shoulders. Also, it can also improve your posture and even help you with other compound movements like deadlifts. The latissimus dorsi is the primary target muscle. The rear deltoid becomes the dominating muscle towards the conclusion of the action as the shoulder extension transitions to hyperextension.

Are chest supported rows better than bent over rows?

They can be better in certain scenarios, for example, if your lower back is injured or you just don’t have enough strength in it to perform the exercise correctly. Chest supported rows are great because of the simple technique and tangible results. The exercise strengthens the mid to upper back and the rear delts muscles almost without load on the spine. Chest supported rows are suitable for individuals with lower back and shoulder injuries.

What incline for a chest supported row?

A 35-degree angle is perfect for performing this exercise. If you don’t have a chest supported row machine or an incline bench, you can create a needed angle yourself by putting a regular bench on a box or another stable platform.


The chest supported row builds the back and shoulders, improving your posture and boosting the bench press. Also, it challenges the upper back muscles, lats, traps, and posterior delts. Unlike other row variations, the chest supported row doesn’t overload your spine. Another good news is you can modify the exercise and pick the suitable variation for your fitness level and individual goals.