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Helms Row [Exercise Guide]

Helms Row

What Is Helms Row?

Helms row is a chest-supported row exercise named after its inventor Eric Helms. The movement’s technique reminds of Pendlay row, but there are a few differences. The Helms row is practiced with dumbbells and implies using a bench as a support for the chest area. When doing the Helms row, you can hold the dumbbells with either an overhand grip or an underhand grip, depending on your preference. Read on to know more about the move’s benefits, proper form, and alternatives.

What Muscles Does Helms Row Work

The helms row exercise primarily targets two muscles: 

  • latissimus dorsi
  • trapezius

Helms row relies heavily on the lats. It is the teres major’s job to assist in bringing the humerus toward our bodies, but latissimus dorsi will carry the most of the weight. The traps come into play when you relax your shoulder blades, bringing them away from the spine, before compressing them at the movement’s top. Helms row an isolation workout perfect for those who want to load mentioned muscles to the maximum.

Secondarily, the workout loads rhomboids and biceps. The technique will keep these muscles in shape and make them more enduring. However, it won’t make them grow.

How to perform Helms row

Step 1. Get into the starting position

Grab the dumbbells and bend forward to make your chest contact the bench’s tip. Your torso should be roughly parallel to the floor. Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Choose the correct distance away from the bench. Ensure its surface gives you enough support. Don’t go too far. On the other hand, going too close is not good either. It will turn Helms row into a regular row.

Step 2. Raise the dumbbells

Pull the weights up. Maintain a modest bend in the knees, but keep it to a minimum. Also, it’s crucial to keep your elbows back as you begin the exercise to ensure optimum lat-tightening. The elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Avoid tucking the elbows in too much or flaring them; find and maintain middle ground. Ensure you pull your shoulder blades together and feel the tension in your lats.

Step 3. Lower the dumbbells

Come back down, maintaining a neutral spine and focusing on targeted muscles. One rep is finished when you straighten your arms.

Advantages of Helms row

Larger stretch

When you bend over, you let dumbbells swing forward (not only backward). This allows for a bigger range of motion and gives your lats, traps, and rhomboids a bigger stretch. It’s an impossible luxury for most rowing exercises, especially the ones with a barbell.

Maximum isolation

Thanks to the fact the chest is supported, you can push the sets hard. You don’t have to rely on other muscles except for the targeted ones. Overall stability and core strength won’t be limiting factors here. You may load your lats and traps to the maximum.

Minimum risk of injury

The presence of support contributes to the correct posture position during the exercise. Also, you don’t load your spine much because of the support. That means the risk of injuries decreases significantly.

5 Helms row alternatives

Barbell Row

The barbell row is one of the most important exercises to bulk up your back. It also helps to strengthen your shoulders, hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors. The technique is pretty simple because it’s a basic exercise.

How to do barbell row:

  • Get into a position in which the middle of your foot is beneath the bar. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend over and grab the bar with a neutral grip. Your hips should remain elevated while you unlock your knee joints.
  • Bring the bar up to the ribcage maintaining a neutral spine.
  • Come back to the start, straightening your arms and lowering the bar. That’s one rep.

Pendlay Row 

The Pendlay row is another fantastic exercise for developing muscle and improving back strength. It develops both static and concentric strength.

How to do Pendlay row:

  • Make sure the bar is evenly loaded on both sides and put on safety clips. The exercise puts your back in a mechanically disadvantageous position. Don’t go too heavy to avoid injuries. 
  • Stand with your shoulder-width apart. Rotate your knees externally to prevent your knees from getting in the bar’s path. Push your hips back to bend your body correctly. 
  • It would be best if you kept your shins maximally vertical. Locate the barbell over the mid of your feet.
  • Grab the bar with an overhand grip going slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. The distance should be enough for your upper and lower arms to create a 90-degree angle at the movement’s top.
  • Bring the bar up, initiating the movement by pulling the shoulder blades together. Drive your elbows up and slightly back. 
  • After the bar touches your lower sternum area, lower the bar in a controlled movement. One rep will be finished when you reach dead stop pull, and the bar touches the ground.

Chest Supported Row

The exercise works the mid-to-upper back and the rear delts. To perform the chest-supported row, you will need dumbbells and an incline bench.

How to do chest supported row:

  • Set up a bench to create a 30-45 degrees angle with the floor. Grab the dumbbells and lie on your chest. Make sure you are comfortable and feel enough support.
  • Raise your arms to your elbows and make a rowing motion. Lifting your arms should be accompanied by tightening your lats and midback.
  • Focus on straining with your elbows rather than your hands to get the most out of your workout.
  • Return to the starting position. Don’t extend the elbows beyond your shoulders; keep them in line.

T-Bar Row

Your upper and middle back, as well as your arms, shoulders, core, and grip, are all worked out during this exercise. It also improves posture and stability. You must use a t-bar row machine to do this workout. If you don’t have access to one, a squat rack will suffice.

How to do T-Bar row:

  • Take a broad stance and stand tall. Keep your chest parallel with the ground as you lean forward.
  • Grab the bar, maintaining a neutral spine and tight core muscles.
  • Exhale and raise your arms in the air. Keep your knees bent and parallel to the ground as you pull up.
  • Come down nice and slow.

You may also like: 9 Best T-Bar Row Alternatives.

Inverted Row

There is a greater emphasis on the upper body compared to a regular pull-up in this workout. The lower body is also heavily included because you must keep your glutes and hamstrings engaged throughout the whole motion.

How to do inverted row:

  • Put the weights on the bar to keep it from moving around. 
  • When you’re hanging from it, the bar should be at a comfortable height for you.
  • Grab the bar and ensure that your wrists are erect. Only your toes should be on the ground at all times. Maintain a straight plank stance with your spine in a neutral position.
  • Pull yourself up to the bar until your chest touches it.
  • Come back to the starting position.


What is Helms row good for?

The main benefit of Helms row is total isolation of the lats. It means you can target and pump that muscle to the maximum by practicing this movement.

What muscles does Helms row work?

The exercise loads latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, and biceps.


Helms row is a dumbbell exercise that primarily loads lats and traps. Athletes value the movement for maximum isolation of targeted muscles, minimum injury risk, and a full range of motion. Also, the technique is pretty simple. So you don’t need prep exercises to enjoy all the helms row benefits. Try it now!

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