One Arm Dumbbell Row Overview
The one-arm dumbbell row is a variation of the dumbbell row and an exercise used to build back muscle and strength.
The back is a muscle group that requires a fair amount of variation. So, experiment with several different angles and hand positions to maximize your back muscle growth.
Rows are a foundational movement pattern and are very important to train for balanced muscle growth and strength. So, experiment until you find a rowing variation that you enjoy and work on it.
The one-arm dumbbell row can be performed during your back workouts, upper body workouts, pull workouts, and full-body workouts.
One Arm Dumbbell Row Instructions
- Assume a standing position while holding a dumbbell in one hand with a neutral grip.
- Hinge forward until your torso is roughly parallel with the floor (or slightly above) and then begin the movement by driving the elbow behind the body while retracting the shoulder blade.
- Pull the dumbbell towards your body until the elbow is at (or just past) the midline and then slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position under control.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions on both sides.
One Arm Dumbbell Row Tips
- Experiment with head position and see which option (looking forward vs. packing the neck) works better for you.
- Fight the urge to use your opposing arm to brace against your leg or any other implement.
- Keep some tone through your abdominals as you pull the dumbbell into your body to ensure you don’t arch excessively through your spine.
- Don’t allow momentum to dictate the movement, control the dumbbells throughout the entirety of each rep.
- If you feel your biceps being overused and your back remaining under active, consider utilizing a false grip (i.e. don’t wrap the thumb around the dumbbell).
- Don’t allow the head to jut forward as you pull.
- Similarly, ensure the shoulder blade moves on the rib cage. Don’t lock the shoulder blade down and just move through the glenohumeral joint.
Tips On How To Workout With Dumbbell
There’s no sidestepping it — if you want a bigger, wider back, your back workout needs to include two types of movements. One is a pulling motion from overhead downward, such as in a pull-up or cable pulldown. The other is a row, where you pull against resistance from a position in front of your body into your torso. When it comes to rowing, the standing barbell row is a sturdy and valuable option, but dumbbells allow for a longer range of motion, as well as the ability to apply intense focus to each side of your back. For the best results, you’ll want to schedule both for regular appearances in your workouts.
Muscles Worked: The fan-shaped latissiumus Dorsi muscles running from underneath your arms down to your lower back are the main movers, with key assistance from the rhomboids and trapezius.
Starting Position: Bend at the hips and place one knee and the same-side hand on a flat bench. Keep your other foot on the floor beside the bench. You’ll hold a dumbbell in your free hand, letting it hang straight toward the floor with your elbow lose.
Action: Pull the weight toward your hip, keeping your elbow in close as you flex your back, bend your arm and bring your shoulder upward. At the top, your elbow should be pointed toward the ceiling as you squeeze your shoulder blades together. Lower the dumbbell under control along the same path. Complete your reps for one side, then switch arms and do the same amount of reps for the other — that’s one set.
Do: Allow your shoulder to shift back on the ascent and down on the descent. This action means your back is contracting and extending. If this isn’t occurring, the biceps are taking on the brunt of the load.
Don’t: Turn the exercise into more of a curl by bending your elbow too much (inside 90 degrees) as you raise the weight. The weight should stay oriented toward the floor — think of your arm as merely a hook to connect the resistance to your lats and mid-back muscles.
Variations: The row is often done as described here, with one hand and one leg on a bench, but the bench isn’t required. You can also keep both legs on the floor and bend over, bracing yourself on the top of a short-back bench or even the dumbbell rack as you row.
Uses: The dumbbell row is at home either as an anchoring exercise or an ancillary move. You can do it early on in a back workout and go heavy, down in the 5-to-8–rep range, or save it until later in a workout and approach it as a detailed exercise, going lighter for more overall reps.
Advanced Technique: Because it’s easy to change weights, the dumbbell row lends itself to drop sets, repping to failure and then dropping down to the next dumbbell, continuing until you can no longer rep with good form. For an unorthodox option, you can also try one-arm rowing with a barbell, which introduces a lot of extra balance challenges and unique lines of pull into the equation.
How To Do The One-Arm Dumbbell Row
Exercising your upper back without machinery isn’t easy, but the one-arm dumbbell row does a good job. This exercise also strengthens your biceps and shoulders. Be especially careful if you have lower-back problems.
Performing the one-arm dumbbell row
Follow these steps to perform this exercise:
- Stand to the right of your weight bench, holding a dumbbell in your right hand with your palm facing in.
- Place your left knee and your left hand on top of the bench for support. Let your right arm hang down and a bit forward.
- Pull your abdominals in and bend forward from the hips so that your back is naturally arched and roughly parallel to the floor, and your right knee is slightly bent. Tilt your chin toward your chest so that your neck is in line with the rest of your spine.
- Pull your right arm up until your elbow is pointing to the ceiling, your upper arm is parallel to the floor, and your hand comes to the outside of the ribcage.
- Lower the weight slowly back down.
Tips For Performing The One-Arm Dumbbell Row
- Concentrate on pulling from your back muscles (right behind and below your shoulder). Don’t just move your arm up and down. Although your arm is moving, this is a back exercise. Think of your arm as a hook that connects to the weight and is pulled by the back.
- Keep your abs pulled in tight throughout the motion.
- Don’t let your back sag toward the floor or hunch up.
- Pull your shoulders back and down to set the shoulder blades.
One Arm Dumbbell Row Muscles Worked
The main muscle group worked during the single-arm row is the latissimus dorsi ( lats ). You also engage the entire back, shoulders, and arms (the trapezius, rhomboids, teres major and minor, deltoids, infraspinatus, biceps, brachialis, brachioradialis, and even pecs).
One Arm Bent Over Dumbbell Row
- If you do not have a bench to use as support, simply place your outstretched hand on a sturdy surface. Assume a shoulder-width stance with your feet in line with each other, not a staggered stance.
- The remainder of the exercise should be performed exactly the same as described above
- Keep your back flat, your neck neutral, and your focus on your lats and scapula.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Are one arm rows effective?
A. Every time you step into the gym, you have a virtually endless array of exercises at your disposal. Knowing the benefits of each exercise and the effect it can have on your performance is an incredibly valuable piece of knowledge. One type of movement with an especially huge number of variations? The Row.
The basic movement of a Row is like a reverse Bench Press. You use your upper body to pull a load rather than push it. But within that basic description, there is lots of room for variation. Over the years, the number of Rows has increased in popularity and found their way into workout routines. With that in mind, STACK took a look at eight popular Row exercises to inventory the pros and cons of each. Which row is right for you?
1. Bent-Over Barbell Rows
The Bent-Over Barbell Row is an old-school exercise that is super effective for building back mass and strength. It’s a favorite of legendary bodybuilders like Ronnie Coleman and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and top teams like Maryland Lacrosse integrate it into their routines.
“In terms of overall strength and hypertrophy for the posterior chain, it’s tough to beat the Bent-Over Barbell Row,” says Kasey Esser, C.S.C.S. and certified personal trainer.
The Bent-Over Barbell Row is an anti-flexion exercise, which means your lower back must keep your torso from folding over. This is excellent for building lower-back strength and stability. The position for this Row closely mimics the position for the Deadlift, and Esser sees a positive relationship between the two exercises. “I’ve found them to have a big-time carryover,” he says.
Bent-Over Barbell Rows are great if performed correctly, but that’s not often the case. Typical form issues include poor hip hinge, incorrect weight distribution, improper tempo, and lifting with a flexed spine. “I wouldn’t say it’s a beginner’s movement,” says Esser. If you’re new to Row exercises, Bent-Over Barbell Rows might not be the best place to start.
2. Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows
Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows differ significantly from both the Bent-Over Barbell Row and the Seated Cable Row. They are performed single-arm-style using a dumbbell. They can be done either free-standing or with the support of a bench. Athletes like Antonio Gates use them in their routines.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows do a great job of targeting both the back and the core.
“Every time the dumbbell is lowered, the torso has to stay stable. So you’re training the core to resist rotation,” Esser says. Since you Row with one arm at a time, Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows allow you to focus on your form and build both sides of your back equally, decreasing the likelihood of developing muscle imbalances.
However, Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows have a couple of drawbacks. Since they heavily challenge your core and force you to lift with one arm at a time, you probably have to use a lighter weight than you do for other types of Rows. There’s also a common form problem: athletes twist their torso at the top of the movement to help them generate momentum; but that can be corrected by focusing on maintaining a flat back and using lighter weight.
3. Inverted Rows
The Inverted Row is a bodyweight exercise that requires you to fight gravity to pull yourself up to a fixed bar. It is one of the best bodyweight exercises you can do to build a stronger and broader back.
Inverted Rows are a full-body exercise. Keeping your body in perfect posture as you progress through the movement requires not only back strength but also glute and core strength. Inverted Rows encourage you to control your own body weight in motion—which is what sports performance is all about. One concern with Inverted Rows is that pulling yourself all the way up to the bar can put extra pressure on your shoulders, elbows, and wrists. To avoid this, add a small pad around the bar or pull yourself within 3-4 inches of the bar at the top of the movement.
Q. Are bent over dumbbell rows good?
A. The bent-over dumbbell row is widely considered to be one of the best muscle building exercises for the back and also for the shoulders. It works both areas well and has been known to improve overall strength and also build muscle. … The lifter’s back should be kept straight throughout the exercise.
Q. How many dumbbell rows should you do?
A. Remember, to keep your back parallel with the floor resting one arm and a knee on a bench. Grasp the dumbbell with the free arm, raise the dumbbell right up to your side squeezing the lats then lower the dumbbell to the starting position about an inch off the floor. Do 6 to 8 reps for 3 to 4 sets with each arm.
Q. Are dumbbell workouts effective?
A. Definitely! Dumbbells can give you a great full-body workout and are ever preferred for certain exercises by some. For each body part, there is a wide variety of dumbbell movements that can be preformed, some barbell movements can also easily be adapted and tweaked slightly to be performed with dumbbells. Definitely!