The Rock and Aaron Donald swear by this arm exercise — here’s how to do it

a photo of The Rock and Aaron Donald
(Image credit: Instagram/therock)

When it comes to building arm muscles, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and NFL player Aaron Donald are two guys who know a thing or two about how to do it. So what move do they challenge each other to when training arms in the gym?

Luckily for us, Instagram answers this question, as The Rock and Donald did a gym session together when the actor went to visit the L.A Rams training facility ahead of the new football season. The two can be seen working out together, and one of the moves they focused on works the biceps and back muscles. 

In an Instagram video, The Rock and Donald both grabbed a 100lb dumbbell and did synchronized split stance dumbbell rows. The duo did 20 reps on each arm, before switching to the other side, until they’ve done 40 reps on each side. The two repeated this intense superset set a total of three times, and this was just the beginning of the workout — “For the record, these were the opening supersets that brotha AD wanted to START our workout with,” Johnson wrote in the caption. 

But how do you do split stance dumbbell rows, and what are the benefits? Below, we take a deeper look at this exercise, and the modifications to try if it is currently too challenging.

Looking for more workout inspiration? Here are 7 of the best bicep exercises for building your arm muscles, plus 6 resistance band exercises to build your arm muscles without weights

What is a split stance dumbbell row? 

A split stance dumbbell row is a row variation that works the lower back, as well as the biceps. To do a split stance dumbbell row, get into a “split stance”, with one foot in front of the other, about hip-width apart. Hinge at your hips to pick up the dumbbell in the arm opposite the forward foot (for example, if your left foot is in front of your right, you’ll be grabbing the dumbbell in your right hand). Rest the arm without the dumbbell on the thigh of the front leg. From here, brace your core, and row the dumbbell up to your chest. Lower the weight with control, and then move onto your next rep. 

What are the benefits of a split stance dumbbell row? 

The benefits of the split stance are that it targets the middle and upper back and bicep muscles, as a traditional row does, but also the hips. In the split stance, the hips have to work harder to keep your body stable in the move. 

What are the different modifications to try? 

It goes without saying, what works for The Rock and Aaron Donald might not be right for you and your body, but even if you’re experienced in the weights room, lifting 100lbs is a lot. If you are completely new to the exercise, start with a lighter weight and build up. You’ll know when you’ve selected the right weight if the exercise feels challenging by the final two reps, but not impossible — you should always be able to complete the workout with good form. 

If this exercise is too challenging, try a different row variation. For example: 

Bent over dumbbell row: For this exercise, grab a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet hip-width apart, and hinge forward to 45 degrees. Keep your back straight and your core engaged, and bend your arms to pull the dumbbells up to your chest until the weights reach your torso. Think about squeezing your shoulder blades together, then lower the weights back to your starting position. 

Bench dumbbell row: To do a bench dumbbell row, set a bench up to a 45-degree angle and place a dumbbell on the side next to the bench. Leaning your left knee and left hand on the bench, so your body is parallel to the ground, grab the dumbbell in your right hand, keeping your back straight and your core engaged. Bring the dumbbell up to your chest, concentrating on lifting from your back and shoulders, rather than your arms. 

Looking for more workout inspiration? Read what happened when this writer did 30 supermans everyday for a week, plus what happened when I did Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine arm workout

Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.