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If you’re not doing dumbbell rows with the heaviest weight in the gym, you’re missing out on everything this exercise has to offer. Failure to row with the heaviest possible weight both impedes your back development and limits how much you can bench. None of these outcomes is acceptable. I don’t care if the dumbbell rack in your gym goes up to 220—you’re capable even if you don’t know it yet.
You’ll never find a heavy bencher who doesn’t have huge lats. This is no accident. Contrary to what most amateurs believe, lowering the bar on the bench press is not only an eccentric movement. When you lower the bar, you should actually “pull” it to your chest, engaging your lats the whole way. This controls the descent and prepares the lats to flare at the bottom of the movement, which then propels the bar of the chest at the movement’s start.
Sadly, most guys consider dumbbell rows a throwaway exercise. You’ll rarely see dumbbell rows in excess of 90–100 pounds in a commercial gym. This isn’t a physiological limiting factor—it’s a psychological one. Dumbbells heavier than 100 pounds simply sit outside most guys’ comfort zones. When I trained in a gym where the dumbbells went up to only 150, I took rows out of my routine because they were too easy—then immediately noticed that my bench was suffering. I reversed course, adding rows back in by custom-building handles of my own that would allow me to go as heavy as I wanted. “Kroc Rows” became my calling card. Every time I went to the gym to row, I had one goal: to use a heavier weight than I had the previous workout, for as many reps as I possibly could. My personal record is a set of 13 on each arm with 310 pounds.
|Deadlift (Warmup)||3||10 8, 6|
|Dumbbell Row (Warmup)||2||
|Kroc Row||1||Failure (each side)|
|Chin-up||As many as necessary||100 total|