Underrated Exercises: The Modified Dumbbell Seal Row


Right off the bat. Best back exercise. Ever. Hands down. Face Down. Chest Up. That's the way I like to...row.

There are so many ways to work your back. This is the best one.


Why This Exercise Rocks Your Socks Right Off

Being able to row on a horizontal plane increases your gains by a minimum of 327%. Minimum.

Also, it allows for more muscle activation in the mid/low traps because you have to hold your shoulder blades packed down while performing it. Otherwise you would end it anterior humeral glide (left). When you are working against gravity pulling on a vertical plane, you'll know pretty quickly if you are in AHG.

Anterior Humeral Glide < Proper Rowing Movement


Why Is It Better Than The Incline Bench Row?

Angles. During an Incline Bench Row, it is easier to create AHG due to angle of the pull. When pulling from this position, a more inexperienced lifter will often struggle to get engagement through the mid to low traps. They let their shoulder blades pull up towards the ears, losing engagement in the back.

By creating less of an angle, the lifter is given more opportunity to create extension in their upper back and stay away from AHG. This can be a big opportunity for shoulder health as many people performing rows feel a lot of tension and/or pain in the front delts while rowing because they're not pushing their chest out or pushing their shoulder blades down in the right position enough to create extension in the mid back.

This version is very easy to get wrong. Note the direction of force through the elbow. Pulling on a strictly vertical plane causes the elbow joint to come behind the torso, driving the humerus forward, pulling the shoulders blades towards the front of the body. This creates a shrugging movement, causing you to feel all of the tension in your upper traps and defeating the purpose of the exercise.


Got it. How Do I Perform The Row?

The Set up:

  • You'll need a 12" box or a couple of pilates risers

  • Place the bench on a slight incline (usually around level 3 on Hammer Strength equipment

  • Unless you have long arms, you'll likely want to get on the bench with the weights already in hand

  • Pull your chest off the pad

  • Keep a strong brace on your abs so you don't just use your lower back to perform the exercise

  • Set the shoulders (think roll up, back, and then down and hold)

  • Feet hanging or toes on the box

  • Pull the elbows only to the back of the torso

  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together and push them towards your back pockets (if you have pockets) or towards your butt engaging the lats.


The Result:

You looking ridiculously handsome while rowing and saving your shoulders from all the fun things like inflammation, a potential dislocation, and accidentally giving yourself a jacked neck.


James Harris is the founder of Titanium Strength Systems, as well as the head writer and coach. He trains online and in person in Chilliwack, BC. You can find his writing around the internet on websites such as Muscle & Strength, The PTDC, Fitness Pollenator, PTBIZ, and Deansomerset.com.