Humble Row Exercise Guide

Table Of Content

What Is A Humble Row

The humble row is a form chest supported dumbbell row. The difference to a regular chest supported dumbbell row, or a chest assisted incline bench row is the position of the wrist and elbows. The elbows are out far to the side of the torso. Similar to a wide-grip seated row.

The result, more engagement and activation of the rear deltoid, rhomboid, and the trap – your upper and middle back. And less activation of the lat.

To perform the humble row exercise – you need an incline bench or sturdy chair in addition to dumbbells.

How To Do A Humble Row

  • Setup a incline bench at a 30° – 45° angle.
  • Choose the weights you want to use – go for lighter weight because you aim for three to four sets of 12 to 15 repetitions in this isolation exercise.
  • Use an overhand (pronated) grip – palms facing towards your body.
  • Place yourself on the bench with your chest supported and facing the incline bench. Extend your arms in front of you – your arms hang straight, while holding the weights.
  • Keeping your core tight and without moving your hips, bend your elbows and row the weights up to the side of your chest. Important: Have your elbows out to your sides by at least 45 degrees. An angle that gets the most rear delt and trap activation. Make sure that your shoulder blades move laterally (away from the spine) at the beginning of the humble row exercise. This will allow trap contraction.
  • Pause for a second, at the top of the movement with your elbows behind your torso until you feel the maximum tightness in your back.
  • Then, release the tension in your delts, lat, and traps & lower the weights back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
  • When you’re done, rest for a minute or two and then move on to your next set.

Humble Row Form

Again, when performing the humble row, it is important to focus on keeping your elbows wide out. Similar to a wide-grip seated row. To increase rear delt and trap activation, while reducing lat activation.

Pushing your elbows out will also help you to row the weights up higher, allowing you to get a better range of motion. Make sure to keep your back straight and avoid rounding it as you row the weights up.

Keep your core tight throughout the exercise to avoid swinging the weights and using momentum.

For the activation of the traps, make sure to move your shoulder blades in a lateral movement – away from the spine (at the beginning of the exercise, when you pull your elbows back and your shoulder blades up).

The wider your elbows are outwards during the movement, the less activation from the lats and more engagement of the delts and traps muscles you achieve.

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Humble Row Benefits

The benefits of the humble row lie in the targeted activation of the traps and rear delts.

Therefore, this exercise is great for building your upper back muscles. Especially, if you are aiming to approach your workout with specific isolation exercises.

Here, you have less lat activation. This means you can balance out your back training if you feel like you are lagging in your development of the upper back area.

This form chest supported dumbbell row also restricts you from using momentum.

In addition, the Humble Row exercise is a great way to increase shoulder stability and improve posture.

This is because most of us tend to round our shoulders forward. Which puts unnecessary strain on the rotator cuff muscles and can lead to impingement syndrome.

  • Prone Trap Raise – another exercise that is beneficial for improving correct posture!

Keep In Mind

This exercise is an isolation exercise and therefore not a one-rep maximum exercise for strength and overload. Lighter weight is recommended.

Always remember to warm up properly before your workout and cool down afterwards, followed by some light stretching. This is important to prevent injuries.

Humble Row Muscles Worked

Rear (Posterior) Deltoid

The more outward to the side the elbows move during a pulling movement, the more engagement of the rear delt will be achieved.

This is the reason why the face-pull is a great rear delt exercise (arms are pulled back and to the side).


The traps (in short) give stability to the shoulder blades (scapula). Relax the shoulder blades at the start of the movement and retract them during the rep to achieve an effective workout for the traps. Use the mentioned scapular movement on top arm movement.

Rhomboids (Rhomboideus Major & Minor)

The rhomboids retract the shoulder blades and rotate the shoulder socket (glenoid cavity). This is important because during the movement of the humble row you are moving the shoulder blades away from the spine and retract them in every rep.

Lats (Latissimus Dorsi)

Like mentioned before, if you are position your elbows outwards during the movement of this row exercise, you have less lat activation. If they are placed more inside towards the upper body, you have some activation of the lat.

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Humble Row Alternatives

There are a few alternatives to the humble row that can give you similar benefits:

Seated Cable Row

The seated cable row is a great alternative to the humble row. This exercise also allows you to isolate your back muscles and get a great upper back workout.

  • To do this exercise, simply sit down at a cable machine with a rowing handle attached. Make sure your feet are planted firmly on the ground and your knees are bent at 90 degrees.
  • Lean forward slightly from the hips, keeping your back straight. Then, row the handle back towards your belly button, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  • Pause for a moment at the top of the movement, then slowly return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

This exercise is great for targeting the upper back muscles, including primary the lats and rhomboids, as well as the traps and biceps (secondary).

Wide Grip Cable Row

To work the same muscles as in the humble row, use the wide grip for the seated cable row.

If you prefer the cable, the wide grip cable row is a great alternative to the humble row, if you don’t like working with the dumbbells. Or, if you just looking for some variation to the humble row exercise in your workout routine.

Chest Supported Wide Machine Rows

The chest supported wide machine rows are also very similar to the humble row movement – elbows outwards. Therefore, this chest supported row makes a good alternative, while working the same muscles.

One thing to keep in mind, is, that less stabilization muscles will be activated and engaged, when using a machine for the chest supported row.

On the other hand, using a machine for the chest supported row allows more weight and can increase strength and size.

Include both, free weights and strength equipment like this machine to get optimal results.

One-Arm Dumbbell Rows

The one-arm dumbbell rows are another great alternative to the humble row. This exercise allows you to focus on one side of your back at a time, which can help to correct any muscle imbalances.

  • To do this exercise, start by placing a dumbbell on the ground next to your feet. Place your right hand on the dumbbell and bend forward at the hips, keeping your back straight.
  • Keeping your elbow close to your side, row the dumbbell up towards your chest, then pause for a moment and lower it back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, then switch sides and repeat with the left arm.

This exercise is a good addition to any dumbbell workout, as you are working your upper and lower back, biceps and hips, while also improving core stability.

Bent-Over Barbell Row

The bent-over barbell row is another alternative. The barbell rows allow you to use a heavier weight, which can help to build muscle mass.

  • To do the barbell rows, start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a barbell in front of you. Bend down and grab the barbell with an overhand grip, keeping your hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your knees slightly and hinge forward at the hips, keeping your back straight. Row the barbell up towards your chest, then pause for a moment and lower it back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

The bent-over barbell row exercise is mainly working the the lats, middle and lower traps, rhomboids, and the posterior deltoids.

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Final Thoughts

The humble row, as a form chest supported dumbbell row, is great exercise that can help to improve shoulder stability and posture.

It also allows you to isolate your back muscles and get a great upper back workout. There are a few alternatives to the humble row that can give you similar benefits, including the seated cable row, especially the wide grip cable row to target the same muscles as the humble row exercise.

As well as the chest supported row with the machine, which allows more weight, but engages less stabilization muscles.

So, if you’re looking for a great exercise to improve your shoulder stability and posture, or you want to build muscle mass in your upper back, give the humble row a try!

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