One-Arm Dumbbell Row Exercise
Dumbbell rows are a great way to target the lat muscles and doing them one arm at a time, as in the one arm row, allows you to lift heavier weights and focus more on the lats as well as the biceps (which also work during this exercise). One-arm dumbbell row is an easy exercise from which you can get great results in back strength and development with minimal risk of injury. Performing the row exercise using one arm at a time affords a more satisfying squeeze in the latissimus muscle.
One-Arm Dumbbell Row Exercise Instructions
STARTING POSITION (EXERCISE SETUP): Set a dumbbell on the floor near one end of a bench. Position yourself so that one foot is firmly on the floor next to a flat bench, and the opposite leg’s knee is on the centerline of a bench. Grasp a dumbbell with the other hand (on the side where your foot is on the floor) using neutral grip. Your knee should be directly below your hip and your hand directly below your shoulder. Your spine should be horizontal and parallel to the bench.
MOVEMENT (ACTION): Pull the dumbbell up and in toward your torso (to your lower rib cage). Your elbow should be pointing up at the top of the movement. Retract your working scapula at the top. Reverse the movement, but do not take tension off the musculature or let the dumbbell touch the ground. Keep your torso still during the exercise, and keep the extraneous movement to a minimum. Perform all the reps for one side, then all the reps for the opposite side. Work your weaker side first.
Additional Tips & Key Points
- Keep your back straight and your eyes facing down.
- Straighten your back and set your torso perpendicular to the bench and the floor, or just above perpendicular (your shoulders can be slightly higher than your hips).
- Pull the dumbbell up and in toward your torso, raising it as high toward your chest (just below the armpit) as possible. Your working elbow should point up toward the ceiling as you lift. Focus on leading with your elbow, initially pulling it straight up toward the ceiling, then angling it back slightly.
- Your shoulder and elbow joints should be your only moving parts; your lower body and trunk should remain still.
- Concentrate on using your middle and upper back muscles to pull the dumbbell up and back toward your hip. Make sure you row the dumbbell to the side of your ribcage – do not pull it up to your shoulder.
- Avoid allowing your working elbow to migrate away from the side of your torso during any part of the movement. Also, avoid any spinal movement or hip rotation. Do not jerk the weight up or rotate the body during the lift. If this happens, you are lifting too much weight
- Pulling the dumbbell toward the chest works the upper latissimus and lower trapezius. Raising the dumbbell through a lower trajectory toward the abdomen targets the lower lats.
- Inhale just before you bring the dumbbell up, hold your breath at the top of the movement and exhale as you lower the weight.
- When you complete the set, set the dumbbell on the floor and then stand on the other side of the bench.
- Main muscles: latissimus dorsi, teres major and minor, deltoid (rear)
- Secondary muscles: rhomboids, biceps, brachialis, brachioradialis, trapezius, erector spinae
- Antagonists: pectoralis major, triceps, deltoid (front)
Some bodybuilders prefer this movement standing up holding on to the dumbbell rack with the non-lifting hand. You can also try:
- Two-arm dumbbell rows
- Standing pulley rows
- Bent-over barbell rows
- One-arm seated cable rows
Replacement Exercises for the One-Arm Dumbbell Row
To add variety to your middle back workout routine, replace the one-arm dumbbell row with a different exercise that works the same muscles (latissimus dorsi). Use the barbell, cables, a gym machine or your own body weight to perform the rowing motion without a dumbbell.
Let’s look at the best middle back exercises with the rowing motion for building muscle and strength.
- Seated cable row
- Smith-machine bent-over row
- Machine row
- T-bar row
- Supported T-bar row
- Body row
Closing Thoughts About The One-Arm Dumbbell Row
What is so special about the one-arm dumbbell row? This is a traditional exercise for beginners and experts alike and it allows you to lift considerable weight with little risk to your back. The main advantage of this great middle back exercise is that it works one side of the back at a time, making it possible to isolate and strengthen the latissimus dorsi (middle back), rhomboid (upper back), and trapezius (upper back and neck) muscles individually. So if you have trouble feeling your muscles work when you use both arms during rows, then unilateral work will likely solve your problem. In unilateral work, the stretch and especially the contraction are much better than when working bilaterally, and the movement is exaggerated.
On the other hand, the main difficulty is ensuring that you actually work the lats. Keep the movement vertical so that the load will always be working against gravity (the key to training with free weights) and to focus the work in the lats. In conclusion, always keep your head, neck, and spine aligned during the exercise. Lifting your head or turning your neck to see the weight can strain your neck muscles. Instead, look down at the bench—or the floor in front of you—as you row.