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Do the chest supported row to increase back strength and size

Add the chest supported row to your training toolkit to get a lean, strong and defined back and transform your body into an athletic and impressive physique, says New Body Plan creator Jon Lipsey

The chest supported row is a massively undervalued exercise. It loses out in the popularity stakes to the barbell bent over row. But it’s an exercise that’s easy to perform and one that you can push yourself safely. That makes it a great move for building a broad back. Here’s everything you need to know about this important exercise to get the results you want.

What is the chest supported row?

The chest supported row is a resistance training exercise that you perform using a weights bench and a set of dumbbells. You can use other items of kit such as a barbell but dumbbells will give you a greater range of motion.

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What are the benefits of the chest supported row?

The main benefit of this move is that it is easy to execute. It works similar muscles to the classic bent over row but it is much easier to perform. The main reason for this is because your chest is supported by a bench.

In the bent over row you have to hinge at the hips and brace your core and hold that position. That requires good technique and body awareness. With the chest supported row the bench helps out so you can focus solely on moving the weight.That makes it great for beginners. It’s also a really useful exercise to throw in when you’re tired because you can’t get pulled out of position.

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What are the drawbacks of the chest supported row?

It’s not necessarily a drawback – just something to be aware of but this move won’t work your core muscles substantially. The reason for this is because you’re lying on the bench and so your stabilising muscles don’t have to to control your torso position.

When should you perform the move?

The chest supported row is a compound exercise. That means it works multiple muscle groups at once. You tend to do compound exercises earlier on in your workout. But because of the safe nature of this lift you can also do it when you’re starting to fatigue. It is therefore a fairly flexible exercise that can be done either at the start or in the middle of your session.

What workouts is the chest supported row suitable for?

You can do the chest supported row during any back workout. It’s also a great exercise for chest and back workouts. One time-saving option would be to pair the chest supported row with a chest exercise such as the incline dumbbell chest press. You can do those two moves back-to-back as a superset. That will both save you time and increase the cardiovascular nature of the workout.

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How to do a chest supported row

• Set up a bench so it is set at a 30 to 45 degree incline.
• Position your chest on the bench with your head above the bench and your feet planted either side of the bench on the floor.
• Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms hanging straight down.
• Bend your arms at the elbows how to draw the weights up to around waist height either side of the bench.
• Aim to squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the move and lower slowly under control

Bonus expert tips

• When you perform a chest supported row try to move your hands up in a subtle arc towards your waist rather than in a straight line

• You should aim to try and wrap your elbows around your body behind your back. This will help you contract the big back muscles called latissimus dorsi.

• Don’t just drop the weight back down to the start. Try to maintain tension in the target muscles to take full advantage of each rep.

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Chest supported row variations

Add these row variations to your workout plan to build a strong, defined and impressive back

Chest supported barbell row

This variation of the chest supported row is done using a barbell instead of dumbbells. The benefit is that you should be able to use a heavier weight. The fixed nature of the bar also makes the load easier to control. The drawback is that you may lose some range of motion because the bench will get in the way of the bar.

Chest supported cable row

In this variation of the exercise you use a cable machine instead of a free weight. Cables are great for maintaining constant tension throughout a rep. They will also allow you to move in a very precise way. The only downside is that it can take a little bit of time to set everything up and get into position. So if time is scarce it may not be the best option.

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Resistance band row

This is a great option for home workouts. It’s similar to a cable row but instead of a cable you use a resistance band. You just need an anchor point to secure the band. This is a good option if you don’t have much kit. But the nature of resistance band means that you’ll get very little tension at the start of the rap. That means you’re not taking full advantage of your strength. As the band gets stretched it becomes more challenging so it’s a useful option If you’re trying to build strength at the top range of the rep.

Seated row machine

The seated row is one of the various gym floor resistance machines that mimic the movement of a chest-supported row. Some machines put you in a very upright position. Others allow you to vary the angle of incline. Some use a weight stack and others are plate loaded. Like all machines, they tend to fix you into a path of movement which makes it easy to execute. The only thing you need to be aware of is that you get less core and stabilising muscle activity.

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