In this article we are going to talk about how to correctly perform a dumbbell seal row. Seal rows are a great exercise which target your back muscles, especially your lower lats, and are a great move for avoiding injuries and improving form. They are shockingly uncommon to see in gyms and we are not quite sure why, because they are so effective and much safer than many other pull exercises for your back.
You won’t need to worry about keeping a neutral spine or making sure you don’t cheat by using momentum to help you – they’re basically the perfect move for all experience levels. Keep reading to find out why we think they’re so great!
Get yourself in the right set-up
Before getting down to performing seal rows, you will need to ensure that you have a good set-up which is nice and sturdy. You perform seal rows lying face-down on a utility/weights bench with your arms fully extended in front of your body. To allow for the full range of motion that this exercise requires, you will need to make sure the bench is high enough that you can fully extend yours arms whilst holding the dumbbells without touching the floor.
There are not many gyms equipped with seal row benches as they aren’t very popular or in high-demand, even though they are a great exercise! You can create your own make-shift seal row bench by using boxes (or anything with a bit of height that is stable and won’t slip) under either end of the bench so that it is suspended higher in the air. With dumbbells, you can just take a bench and elevate it high enough. It’s really important to make sure that your set-up is safe, strong and stable before lying on it!
Then you will need to get your dumbbells into position in line with where your arms will be. We recommend placing the dumbbells on something such as a plate or propping them up on another dumbbell so that you can reach them without straining too hard (as you should be able to fully extend your arms holding the dumbbells without touching the floor). You want something that will not be in the way once you begin, so ideally you would roll the propping dumbbell away or have a buddy slide the plates to one side. Once you have done this you are all set and ready to begin your sets!
Begin holding the dumbbells with your palms facing inwards. Next, you want to pull the dumbbells up towards the bottom of your ribcage. Make sure to fully contract your back muscles by squeezing at the top and then lower the dumbbells down in a slow and controlled manner until your arms are fully extended. You should have your shoulder blades retracted and be puffing out your chest.
If you want to target your lats more heavily then you should keep your elbows tucked in close to your body. If you want to work more on your upper back then you want to angle your elbows slightly more widely. Aim to perform sets of around 10-15 reps of seal rows, for a total of 4-6 sets. They are a great addition to any back workout!
Why are dumbbell seal rows a good exercise for your back?
Seal rows are often considered to be one of the best exercises for working on your back for numerous reasons. Firstly, they are a really good way to activate and engage your lats, whether you’re a beginner who is still trying to figure out how to get your lats involved in movements and gain some strength, or have been training back for years but want a more intense focus on the pull muscles in your back.
Lying face-down on the bench removes any element of momentum from the movement so you can’t compensate for weakness in your lats and upper back by creating swing with your more dominant muscles. That means it’s almost impossible to cheat when performing seal rows and they will give you a true reflection of where your weaknesses may lie.
Another huge bonus to performing seal rows while lying on the bench is that it protects your spine and neck by automatically putting you in a neutral, well-aligned position. That means they are actually incredibly safe and causing yourself an injury due to bad form is unlikely.
The horizontal positioning keeps your spine flat and minimises the tension in your neck which can occur in other row variations such as bent over rows.
It also takes any pressure off your lower back so if you suffer with lower back pain or have had a lower back injury, they are great for continuing your training in a safe manner. The same goes for lower body injuries as you don’t need to support or stabilise yourself using your legs.
If all of that still wasn’t enough to convince you how great seal rows are, they can also be performed with a barbell and you can adjust your grip to target different areas of your back! A narrow grip will work on your mid-back, a wide grip targets your external lats. They are so adaptable!
We hope that this article has inspired you to try out seal rows as part of your next back workout – we promise it will be worth the slight inconvenience of setting up your bench properly! If you’ve been looking for a safe, effective and versatile pull exercise to really get those back gains going then look no further! In addition,
you can also have a look at this article on seal rows which explains why it is a great exercise for beginners to feel their back. Let us know how you get on, we love to hear how our recommendations work for you.