Dumbbell Rows With a Twist

Do you have trouble isolating your back? Do you feel back-specific movements more in your arms or rear delts? 

Try this variation of a dumbbell row to take those support muscles out of it. Don’t kneel on a bench in a parallel position as you normally would for this exercise, but instead stand in a crouched position, bracing yourself against a bench or weight rack with a staggered stance.

Start with a pronated grip position with your knuckles facing out and pull the dumbbell up tight to the side of your body with a brief squeeze at the top. As you pull the dumbbell up, rotate into a neutral grip with your palm facing the side of your body at peak contraction. The hip on the side you are rowing with should be slightly below the other to emphasize the stretch at the bottom of the movement.

The squeeze, combined with the rotation of the dumbbell, forces your back to do most of the work. Start with a lighter weight to get a feel for it and work your way up with each set until you can’t get 10 clean reps.


Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Heavyset in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life.