Build Your Bench Press with the Chest Supported Row

TAGS: elbows out, chest row, upper back stability, bench press builder, Dr. John Rusin, upper back strength, dave tate, bench press


In this video, I want to explain how and why you should be building your bench press with the chest supported row. A lot of people get this wrong, but with a little attention and effort, this exercise can be a powerful value added to your bench press training program.

The main reason why I am such a proponent of this exercise, even more so than a seated row that is chest supported, is because of its limited impact on your lower back. When you are putting in work on the bench, your lower back is going to be arching and straining. Even with static work, and especially when pushing for maximum weight your lower back is being taxed much more than most people realize. With this exercise, there is no need for the lower back to handle any blunt force or unnecessary strain.

WATCH: Three Exercises to Build Bigger Traps

If you don’t have a proper chest support bench, go ahead and use your regular bench but prop it up on a plate. I do highly advise using a barbell for this exercise. Dumbbells have their place, mainly working the back and shoulders. But since we are building your bench press with this exercise, I like to see the correspondence between using the same equipment.

I’m enlisting the help of Dr. John Rusin for this video, and he’s gonna be my model trainer for this particular exercise. Before we get too deep into this, I want to say this is NOT the exercise you want if you are going for lat hypertrophy. When we had bodybuilders coming in and doing this exercise, they weren’t seeing gains in the lats because this exercise is going to primarily target the rear delts and traps.

On another note, I don’t care at all about sets or reps as it pertains to this exercise. Nobody cares what your five rep max is on a chest supported row. We are using this exercise to build muscle and strength. You can see an example of what we need to focus on using Dr. John Rusin as an example.

When Rusin pulls his shoulder blades in while keeping his elbows out, there is a clear depression between his shoulder blades. What I want to see in a powerlifter is more like a hump. Not a bad hunchback hump, but a raised section of thick trap muscle. This is because the traps are going to provide stability for the bench press, squat, and deadlift.

Because Rusin is so lean, you can really see what I mean when I make him make the motion of the row with his elbows down and with his elbows out. To build that upper back strength and get the stability I am looking for, I want to see those elbows nearly parallel with his shoulders.

Both versions of the chest row are going to have a place in your program, but for the bench press stability, elbows out is what I want to see.

Benchipedia: Dave Tate's Free Bench Press Manual

iso seated-row-spiff

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