One of the finest dumbbell back exercises is the classic dumbbell row. But its also a tricky culprit to perfect form-wise. You have to read carefully around lower back issues and technical errors, and, very often, that can result in sub-par results.

The standard dumbbell row can start from a rough position in itself, with your feet staggered in a position that invites positional errors. Thats largely why we at MH teach it differently , but just for as a refresher course in the row, lets look at a typical setup.

Youre on a flat bench, one leg on the bench, one leg on the floor, feet staggered and leg on the ground bent to attain a flat spine. You start with the dumbbell on the floor underneath your shoulder and, without twisting, you row to waist level using your upper back muscles.

We dont teach that method here, instead pushing for a more balanced lower-body stance that doesnt have a knee on the bench. But youll still see plenty of people rowing the wrong way. That invites them to rotate too much through the mid-back and lumbar regions, and it stops the upper back from being the prime mover of the lift. For lifters with a history of lumbar issues, the last thing they need is a one-sided load combined with an uneven hip position.

Theres another way to juice this row, and thats called the Fisherman Row. The fisherman row makes a technique change thatll fire up your abs a bit, too: Both knees are on the bench, not just one.

Heres your game plan on the Fisherman Row.

  1. Use any flat bench. Set it in an open area along with one dumbbell.
  2. Place the dumbbell on the floor near the bench, and kneel across the bench diagonally. Both knees should be on the bench, and one hand, supporting your torso, also on the bench.
  3. Mildly arch the lower back by pushing the chest and butt up simultaneously. It helps to slightly sit back toward the heels while doing this.
  4. With the free hand, reach down for the dumbbell. Maintain a flat back and row the weight in the same fashion you would with a classic single arm DB row. Its okay to really stretch at the bottom of each rep too, as long as the spine stays neutral. Remember to keep the chin packed, to ensure your neck stays in line with the mid and lower back.
  5. Focus on sets of 12-15 reps per side. Do 3 sets.

It seems like a small adjustment right? But its the key to keeping your hips level and avoiding any unwanted lumbar rotation. Plus it keeps your shoulder square. And even when you do fatigue, the fisherman row helps; youll feel your obliques kick in to help protect the spine from a stable, bilateral base.

And a little extra ab work never hurt anyone.