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How to Do A Chest Supported Row - Form, Muscles Worked and Alternatives

by RitFit Sports 01 Mar 2023 0 Comments

Developing a powerful back is essential to a strong and attractive physique. Therefore, you need to maintain a workout routine with exercises that help you achieve that. One of the best exercises you can do to build a muscular and thick back is a chest supported row.

It can be intimidating at first because of the cluster of all the required equipment. However, if you get it right with adequate information, it is one of the best back exercises because it isolates your back muscles like no other movement.

This write-up will guide you everything you should know about a chest supported row and clear your confusion. So, keep reading till the end if you want to build the back of your dreams.

What is a Chest Supported Row?

It is an exercise to train your mid, upper back, and rear delts, which can also help people with shoulder issues and face problems while performing overhead presses. The primary mechanism behind this exercise is rowing, just like we row in a boat.

An inclined bench is a must for this exercise because it offers the best position for exerting the back muscles you want to target. However, if you do not have an inclined bench, you can prop up a flat bench on a box to get the right angle.


Chest Supported Row Form & Technique 

How to Do a Chest Supported Row? 

Step 1: Adjust the inclined bench at a 30-45° angle.

Step 2: Lay on the bar with your legs straight and your head hanging while keeping your neck neutral.

3rd Step: Row your arms to your ribcage until your lats and mid back are fully contracted.

Step 4: Momentarily pause in the fully contracted position and squeeze your shoulder blades. 

Chest Supported Row Common Mistakes to Avoid 

Using Excessive Weight 

Using too much weight is a mistake committed by many. Pushing too much makes you use momentum instead of lifting the weight to target muscles. You should start with a weight your body can support to avoid this mistake and go for 8-12 reps.

Flaring the Elbows 

The row is meant to target the mid and upper back with lats. Flaring the elbows leads to unnecessary pressure on the shoulders, resulting in injuries. Ensure you keep the elbows close to your body, keeping the target muscles engaged.

Not Squeezing the Shoulder Blades 

Not squeezing the shoulder blades enough doesn't target the muscles appropriately and restricts the results. Moreover, it doesn't help with getting the correct posture many people desire. Make sure you're squeezing your shoulder blades on top of the movement to engage rhomboids as much as possible.

Lifting the Chest 

The key to performing a quality row is only moving your arms. If you lift your chest off the bench, it starts pushing your lower back, which can result in injuries. Moreover, it prevents you from targeting the muscles you want to target.

Make sure your chest is firmly pressed against the bench throughout the movement. It'll ensure that you're targeting the mid back and lats while avoiding any lower back exertion.

Limited Range of Motion 

Any exercise is beneficial only when using the full range of motion; the chest supported row is no exception. People get lazy during the movement and want to push their partially, which leads to ineffective movements and compromised results. Make sure you're lowering your arms entirely at the lower end of the movement and squeezing your shoulders firmly on the top to get the best results.

Chest Supported Row Muscles Worked 

All row exercises are intended to target your back, and the chest supported row does the same. Here are some of the muscles that it targets. 

Latissimus Dorsi/Lats 

Chest Supported Row Muscles Worked Latissimus Dorsi/Lats

Lats are the primary pulling muscles in your back and the largest in your upper body. They're present in the mid & lower back and connect the upper arms to the spine and hips. Many people are interested in developing a V-shaped back; lats can help you achieve that if you train them properly.


Chest Supported Row Muscles Worked Trapezius

This kite-shaped muscle spans your upper back and runs down your spine from the lower neck towards the mid back. Horizontally, it spans across your upper back to reach the shoulders.

It is used in stabilizing your shoulder blades. So, when you do a row, the trapezius is exerted aggressively.


Chest Supported Row Muscles Worked Rhomboids

Rhomboids are rhombus-shaped muscles in your upper back, which sit between the inner shoulder blades underneath the trapezius. It has two parts:

  • Rhomboids major
  • Rhomboids minor 

Both these muscles help you pull your shoulder blades back during the row. These allow you in both pushing and pulling movements. These are the primary muscles it targets. 

However, some secondary muscles are also exerted during the exercises, such as:

  • The biceps help flex the elbow so that you can bend your arm.
  • Teres major is deep within the upper back muscles and helps lift the humerus.
  • Teres minor is an important muscle within the rotator cuff and helps move the deltoid muscles.

Benefits of Chest Supported Row 

Isolates Back Muscles for Greater Activation

Moving the upper body often engages muscles we intend to avoid incorporating into the movement, which is okay if we are doing athletic activities. However, if we want to focus on the growth and activation of the back, it is always advisable to isolate these muscles.

A chest supported row is a perfect exercise for accomplishing this goal. When you lie on an inclined bench and squeeze your shoulder blades on top, your back gets isolated, and its muscles feel the heat from the movement.

No Lower Back Stress 

Many back exercises demand lower back stability from you, such as standing rows, deadlifts, etc. Although they are quality movements, they tend to put you at risk of lower back injury and pain, which can harm your workouts in several ways. One of the best ways to avoid this issue is to incorporate a row into your workout routine.

If done correctly, it only involves your arms and back without involving any other part of your body. Hence, it reduces the chances of lower back pain by putting it completely out of the equation.

Trains to Failure 

Exercises like bent-over rows are incredible, but they involve a lot of muscles, making it complicated to maintain a perfect form throughout. When fatigue sets in, maintaining the right form gets harder and harder, which can result in injuries.

A row eliminates this problem by supporting your body on a bench. It allows you to train for failure without worrying about fatiguing muscles other than what you intend to work.

More Pulling Power 

Although you eliminate body motion during a row, it doesn't mean you cannot lift heavier weights. During other back exercises, such as deadlifts, you have to exert pressure to your core and stabilizing muscles to perform a pulling movement.

On the other hand, a chest supported row helps you push into the bench to generate the necessary force. Doing so allows your muscles to lift more weight without exerting any other muscle group.

Chest Supported Row Variations 

Chest Supported Incline Row

Step 1: Set the bench at a 30-45° angle and lie flat on it with legs on either side. 

Step 2: Push through your arms without moving any other body part.

3rd Step: Ensure your arms reach above your rib cage and your shoulder blades are tightly squeezed. 

Step 4: Come down slowly and repeat the movement until the set is completely used.

Chest Supported Dumbbell Row 

Step 1: Take two dumbbells in both hands and lie on a bench inclined at 30-45°. Keep the body flat and your legs on either side.

Step 2: Lift the arms and take them above the rib cage. Squeeze the shoulder blades on top of the movement for maximum gains.

Step 3: Slowly bring the dumbbells down with full control and complete the rep.

Chest Supported Barbell Row 

Step 1: Lie on a bench incline at 30-45° while holding a barbell. Press your chest against the bench, and your legs are on either side. 

Step 2: Pull through your arms towards your back. You won't be able to squeeze as much as with dumbbells but go as far as possible.

Step 3: Hold a few seconds on top of the movement. Bring down the barbell slowly to complete the rep and start again.


Chest Supported T-Bar Row  

Step 1: Lie down on the bench and grab the t-bar handles with both hands using an overhand grip. Keep the hands closer if you want to target the lats and broader if you're going to target the upper back.

Step 2: Pull the elbows up towards your back while keeping the chest pressed.

3rd Step: Always keep the movement under control and bring the t-bar up and down slowly.

Step 4: When done with your reps, place the t-bar on its resting point instead of dropping it on the floor.

Chest Supported Machine Row 

Step 1: Sit on the machine with legs on either side. 

2nd Step: Grab the handles and pull them back with full force but slowly.

Step 3: Your back is arched, and your chest is upright at the very top of the movement. Squeeze thoroughly to gain maximum benefit from the exercise.

Chest Supported Rear Delt Row 

Step 1: Lie flat on the bench with your legs on either side.

Step 2: Since it is meant to focus on rear delts, start the movement right in the center and pull through your elbows.

3rd Step: Make sure you lift as much as possible and squeeze the shoulder blades on top.

Step 4: Keep the movement under control and come down slowly.

Chest Supported Row Alternatives 

Some people do not enjoy the row, do not have the right equipment, or may not prefer it for other reasons. Let's look at some alternatives that you can try instead.

Seated Bent Over Row

To do a seated bent-over row, you require a narrow spot to sit on and dumbbells in both hands. Here's how you can perform this movement with excellent form:

seated Bent Over Row

Step 1: Sit on the bench or the chair while placing the dumbbells on the floor by your sides.

Step 2: Grab the dumbbells with each hand while keeping your back straight. Tilt your upper body backward and keep your arms stretched to make the dumbbells farther away from the ground.

Step 3: Bend your elbows backward until your hands reach your body. Make sure you're working your back muscles, the focus of this exercise.

Single Arm Row 

To perform a single arm row, you need a weight in one hand, such as a kettlebell, dumbbell, a cable machine, and a knee-high place to sit. Here's how you can perform this movement:

Single Arm Row

Step 1: Sit on the bench and hold the weight in one hand.

Step 2: Bend the knee of the other leg and put it on the bench. Also, rest the hand on this side on the bench. 

Step 3: Bend the elbow of the arm in which you're holding the weight and squeeze on top of the movement. The goal is to exert your back muscles, so ensure you have the right mind-muscle connection.

One advantage of this exercise is that you focus on one side at a time, avoiding any potential muscle imbalances. However, it takes more time than the row.


Lat Pulldowns 

The lat pulldown is performed on a seat with two pads that hold your legs in place to prevent you from pulling yourself up. Here is how to do this movement:

Lat Pulldowns

Step 1: Sit on the seat with your thighs beneath the anchors and select a suitable weight.

2nd Step: Grab the handles with your palms facing downwards and lean back slightly.

Step 3: Pull down the bar until it reaches your chest, and squeeze your shoulder blades together.

Chest Supported Row FAQs 

Q: Can beginners perform chest supported rows? 

Yes, beginners can perform rows with the right technique and form. However, they should always pick a suitable weight or learn the movement without any weight first. It is better to have a trainer or a friend as a guide when performing the movement to avoid mistakes. 

Q: How often should I perform chest supported rows?

Since it is a back workout, you can incorporate it into your back day routine. If you do a push-pull legs routine, you will do it twice a week. Similarly, a full body routine will involve this exercise twice or thrice a week.

Q: How many sets and reps should I perform during a chest supported row workout? 

Here's a simple breakdown depending on your goals:

For muscle endurance: 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps with lighter weights and 2-3 minute breaks in between. 

Muscle strength: 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps with heavy weights and 2-3 minute breaks in between. 

For muscle growth: 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps with the heaviest weight you can handle. Take 2-3 minute breaks in between.

Q: How much weight to use for chest supported rows? 

The weight you should use depends entirely upon your experience and strength. If you're a beginner, use a lightweight and focus on learning the movement first. As you gain some strength & experience, you can dial up the weight gradually.

Q: How to implement chest supported rows into my training? 

Here are a few tips to implement chest supported rows into your training:

  • Always use a sturdy machine to avoid any mishaps. 
  • Adjust the machine according to your height.
  • Warm up before the exercise but also choose the right weight. 
  • Keep it slow and controlled throughout the movement, and focus on your back.

Q: How do I progress and make chest supported rows more challenging? 

Although one way of making the row more challenging is by doing more reps and sets, you must go further with that. A better approach is to add heavier weight to this exercise so that you experience more resistance without spending more time on additional reps and sets.


If your goal is to strengthen your back with excellent muscle development, few exercises surpass the chest supported row. The biggest thing in its favor is that it isolates the back and doesn't let you support it by exerting other body muscles. However, any exercise is as good as the form and technique you employ while performing it. 

Ensure you're setting the bench at the right angle and lifting weights your body can handle. Get help from a friend or a trainer to gain maximum benefits from a chest-supported row and build the back you have always wanted.

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