Humble Row (What is it and why should you use it)

Humble row

The Humble Row

You may have heard of the humble row in the gym, on bodybuilding forums or in magazine articles but what is exactly is it, how do you perform it and what are the benefits. Check out our guide below and learn how to do the humble row with the correct form and why you should add it to your workout split. 

What is a humble row?

The humble row is a variation of a dumbbell row that involves laying with your chest supported on an incline dumbbell bench. The support of the bench allows you to isolate the lats and rear delts making it a great alternative to bent over rows and cable rows.

The simplicity of the movement and the limited equipment required means that you can perform it in your home gym. You just need an adjustable bench and a pair of dumbbells. 

How to do a humble row

The humble row is one of the simplest and most effective exercises you can do for the muscles in your back. 

Humble row demo

1. Set a dumbbell bench to a 45-degree incline and grab a pair of dumbbells.

2. Lay on the bench on your front with your chest supported, dumbbells hanging downwards and your feet providing a solid stance.

3. Take a deep breath. As you exhale, row the dumbbells upwards until they are in line with your shoulders.

4. At the top of the position, squeeze the shoulder blades together and hold for 3 seconds.

5. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position.

6. Repeat for the required number of reps and sets. 

Make sure that you are keeping a straight back and breathing with each rep. Also, make sure that your shoulders are moving laterally away from the body at the start of the movement so that the traps are fully engaged at the top of it. 

Muscles worked by the humble row

The humble row is the perfect exercise for beginners. It's easy to do, and it works a variety of muscles in your back. Plus, it's a great way to increase your flexibility. Here are five reasons why you should start using the humble row:

Row muslces worked

1. The main muscle worked is the posterior deltoid at the back of the shoulders. This is activated with most rowing movements but the humble row allows you to really connect with the muscle and target it. Rear delt flys are great for rear delt development but the humble row allows you to train with a heavier load. 

2. The exercise is also great for adding thickness to the mid and lower traps. Especially if you use a slow, controlled negative and squeeze the traps at the top of the movement. Humble rows combined with heavy shrugs will give you a strong, defined upper back. 

3. Rhomboids play a large part in squeezing the shoulder blades together at the top of each movement and stretching at the bottom. The range of movement in the humble row is better than any other exercise for the rhomboids. 

4. The lats are activated with the humble row but only really as assisting muscles. If you want to target the lats, you need to focus on lat pulldowns or cable rows

Benefits of a humble row

1. The humble row is easy on your joints. Unlike other exercises that require a lot of stabilising strength and muscle, a humble row is supported by the bench and can be done by almost everyone. 

2. You can really isolate the muscles in the back without having to use your spinal erectors to keep you in an upright position or your core muscles to stop you from rocking backwards and forwards. 

3. Because you are supported at the chest in the humble row, you can use a heavier weight than you would with a bent-over rear delt fly. 

Variations of a humble row

If you do not have dumbbells, you could use kettlebells or, if you have a narrow twin cable machine, you could use pulleys for a humble row. 

The only other similar alternatives to the humble row are the T-Bar row or a chest supported machine row. These will both allow you to train the back and rear delts without putting strain on the core muscles or spinal erectors.

T Bar Row

T Bar row

Machine Row

Machine row

Alternatives to the humble row

There are a few other exercises that you can do to target the rear delts, traps, rhomboids and lats that you might want to consider for your routine:

Rear Delt Dumbbell Fly
This is a great alternative as it totally isolates the rear delts. You can not go a heavy on rear delt flys but if you use a slow movement and strict form, you can get great results with small weights. It is also a great exercise to superset with front raises or lateral raises to get a really good pump in the shoulders. 

Pec Deck Reverse Fly
Not all pec decks have a reverse fly option so if yours does, make the most of it. A reverse pec deck fly allows you to perform the same movement as a rear delt dumbbell fly without having to stabilise the core and spine. Like rear delt dumbbell flys, you can't go too heavy if you want to use good form so focus on muscle connection and time under tension. 

Cable Row
Using a cable row machine with a wide grip bar will allow you to activate the rear delts, rhomboids, lat and traps. As with other rear delts movements, use a moderate weight and focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together and holding the position for a few seconds with each rep. This will add thickness to the traps and rhomboids giving you definition in the upper back. 

Lateral Shrugs
Regular shrugs are great for adding height to the upper traps but if you want to add mass and thickness to the mid traps, change the angle of the shrug. Just raise the pulley up to waist height and shrug backwards instead of upwards. Make sure that you can feel the traps pulling the shrug to get the best result. 

Rear Delt Rows
Rear delt rows performed with a wide grip on a barbell are a great way to target muscles in the upper back. Make sure that your grip is not too narrow otherwise you will be bringing the lats in to play and the rear delts will not get as much stress. 

Face pulls
Face pulls are another good way to add thickness to the traps and add mass to the rear delts. You will need a cable pulley machine and a double rope attachment for a face pull. The only downside to this exercise is that you are fairly limited to the weight that you can use if you want to use strict form. 


As you can see, humble rows are a great exercise for isolating and targeting the rear delts, traps and rhomboids. No other rear delt movement allows you to connect with the muscle in the same way and promote hypertrophy. 

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