Barbell row vs the dumbbell row-which works better ?

Building a large back especially one that is wide gives a wider appearance too the shoulders. I have always had a great interest in Back training because there is a wide range of exercises that you can perform for back as well is it being a larger muscle group and it takes a lot of strenuous energy to get through the back workout.

Today I am going to be talking about the barbell row versus the dumbbell row and which works better, both exercises have their own unique adaption to a Back training workout, I will be looking at which one works better or maybe incorporating both together in your back training which could have some great benefits.

What do Rows do

Which ever type of rowing movement you are doing in your back training program works the thickness and density of the upper back region. there are other back training exercises like the wide grip chins and lat pull downs but these exercises develop the lat muscles which give the back a wider appearance.

Now there are different types of rows that you can do for your back training program, there are the barbell rows which are the bread and butter for building a thick upper back and there are the dumbbell rows which are a good contribution to the back training program as well.

In this post I am going to be taking a look at some of the differences between the barbell row and the dumbbell rows.

The barbell row

The barbell row has always been a mainstay when it comes to building thickness for the upperĀ  back region and there is some good reason for this. Any time it comes to doing a movement with a barbell versus the dumbbell the barbell always wins this game because you can pile more weight on bar to perform an exercise than you can with a dumbbell.

And this is very true as well when it comes to doing barbell rows for your back training. Any bodybuilder/weight lifter in the gym will always tell you the same thing, it takes plenty of weight in your weight training to build thick massive amounts of muscle and performing these exercises with dumbbells are great but you simply cannot use as much weight when performing these exercises with dumbbells as you can with the barbell.

There are other variations to the barbell row that you can perform also such as reverse grip barbell rows, this exercise will target your back at a slight different angle because you have your hands at shoulder width grip palms facing away from you and when you pull the barbell back your elbows are inwards towards your sides instead of out to the side so this will target your back at a different angle.

There are other variations similar to the barbell row such as the T bar row which is when you have a bar at a fixed position on one end and you simply put the weights on the other end of the bar that you are lifting, as well as you are standing on something such as a wooden block so that you can get a fuller stretch at the bottom portion of this movement.

Dumbbell rows

Dumbbell rows are a great exercise as well for developing the thickness or density of the upper back but with this exercise you are not able to pile on as much weight as you can with the barbell.

The difference with doing dumbbell rows is you get a wider range angle meaning when you use a barbell your hands are in a straight fixed position but when you are using dumbbells you can do things such as rotate your wrists in the middle of the move which will give a different twist to doing an exercise which will target your back at a different angle.

When it comes to doing dumbbell rows there are few different variations to performing this exercise which I will cover a couple of them here.

One arm dumbbell rows

The one arm dumbbell rows are a great exercise when it comes to working your upper back region, because when performing one arm dumbbell rows you can rotate your shoulder to the arm that you are working forwards thus getting a better stretch to your lat muscle.

This is also a great exercise because you perform this exercise with one arm at a time, this way you can put more concentration into one side of your back at a time stimulating the mind muscle connection to a greater degree.

Two arm dumbbell rows

The two arm dumbbell rows are similar to the barbell rows in that you would typically perform this exercise in a standing position bent over and you can keep your hands fixed in similarly the same position as you would with the barbell or you can rotate your hands when performing this exercise which is altogether stressing your back muscles at a different range.

Another variation to performing two arm dumbbell rows is you can lay face down on an incline bench and let your arms hang down at the sides holding on to a pair of dumbbells when performing this exercise.

Also when performing the two arm dumbbell rows you can pull your arms back further than you would be able to with a barbell because when you use a barbell you can only go back as far as what the barbell will allow you to.


Back training can be a lot of hard work but it can also be an enjoyable muscle to train with a vast amount of exercises to target your back and many different angles. I hope that you have taken something beneficial away from this as it has always been my goal to help others in achieving theirs.

There is a lot more to training the back than just rowing movements, as well rowing exercises can also be performed with weight machines but there are other exercises that make up a back workout such as the picture shown above “wide grip chins” that will be covered in a different article.

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