Dumbbell One Arm Row

Exercise Name:
Name: Dumbbell One Arm Row
Also Called: Dumbbell Bent Over Row, Unilateral Dumbbell Row
Muscles Worked:
Primary: Back
Secondary: Biceps, Lats, Shoulders (Rear Delt), Triceps
Function: Strength
Mechanics: Compound
Force: Pull
Main: Dumbbell
Ancillary: Weight Bench
Optional: Chalk, Weight Lifting Straps
Experience: Beginner
Rep Range: 8-15
Training Tempo: 2 – 1 – 1 – 0
Related Exercises:
Variations: Cable One-Arm Row, Bilateral Dumbbell Row
Alternatives: Barbell Bent Over Row, Inverted Row, Cable Seated Row, Machine Row, T-Bar Row

Instructions with Pictures

Note: Pictures coming soon!

1. Starting Position

  • Place dominant knee and shin on bench; plant opposite foot on floor to the side, to support hips.
  • Bend at hips to lower torso to nearly parallel; place right hand on front of bench to support torso.
  • Pick up dumbbell from floor with left hand, using a neutral grip (palm facing body).
  • Hang arm straight down with elbow slightly bent and dumbbell directly below shoulder.
  • Rotate shoulder blade upward; don’t let shoulder droop/hunch over.
  • Arch upper back (thoracic spine) to keep torso straight; keep neck in line with torso.

2. Concentric Repetition

  • Pull upper arm backward, bend elbow and retract scapula to bring dumbbell up and back until it touches bottom of ribcage.

3. Midpoint

  • Pause at the top to squeeze your mid-back and rear delt muscles.

4. Eccentric Repetition

  • Lower upper arm, straighten elbow and protract scapula to lower the dumbbell down and forward until you’re back in the starting position.

5. Repeat

  • Repeat the movement for as many repetitions as is called for. Then change sides and perform the same number of repetitions. This completes one set.
  • Start with the 8-15 rep range for this movement. I’ve found that using good form becomes increasingly difficult as you go heavier/do fewer reps.

Common Dumbbell One Arm Row Errors to Avoid

Mistake: Solution:
Rotating torso and hips Don’t rotate your torso or hips to lift the weight, as this provides momentum. Your torso should be parallel to the floor. Also, keep your shoulders aligned; don’t allow your shoulder to stretch down to floor at the bottom of the motion. If you’re advanced and have mastered the technique, some torso rotation when using heavy weight is okay.
Rounding back Keep both your lower back arched and upper back arched so that your torso remains straight during the movement. This position protects your spine and allows you to activate the target muscles properly.
Hyperextending neck Keep your neck neutral. That is, look down and in front of you; so that your neck is aligned with the rest of your spine. Don’t strain your neck by bending it to look straight ahead.

Dumbbell One Arm Row Tips

  1. Keep your elbow in close to your side to keep the focus on your back muscles; not on your arms or shoulders. Plus, you can lift heavier weight when the dumbbell is closer in.
  2. Upwardly rotate shoulder blades to achieve maximum activation of the target back muscles. Maintain this shoulder blade position for the duration of the lift.
  3. Lead with your elbow, pulling back and up. This tip (along with the one above) led a breakthrough for me: It taught me how to activate my back muscles instead of relying on my arms to do the lifting.
  4. Flex your abs hard to support the arch in your back and to prevent your torso and hips from rotating.
  5. Train your weaker side first so you can balance the difference in strength between the two sides, faster. So, train your left side first if you’re right-handed; and train your right side first if you’re left-handed.
  6. Ensure your elbow is slightly higher than your rear delt at the top of the motion.
  7. Switching sides: If able, switch to the other side and begin training it immediately. But if you’re particularly winded or fatigued after doing the exercise on the first side, take a 15-30 second break before switching sides. After completing both sides, rest for 1-2 minutes.

Is This Exercise Right for You?

The dumbbell one arm row can work great for weight lifters of all experience levels; beginners, intermediates and advanced weight lifters, alike.

For beginners, it’s an exceptional tool for it teaches how to activate the back and rear deltoid muscles and not use the arms to do the lifting. Some lifters never master this skill and their back development is stunted as a result.

If you’re an experienced lifters, this back exercise is for you if you want a thicker upper back with wider lats, as well as improved strength and muscle symmetry. Of course, it can also serve the aforementioned purpose of teaching/reinforcing back activation.

You may need to avoid the one arm row if you suffer from lower back or shoulder/scapular issues.

About the Author Alex

Hey! My name is Alex, and I'm the owner and author of King of the Gym. I started this website back in late 2009 during college, and it has been my pet project ever since. My goal is to help you learn proper weight training and nutrition principles so that you can get strong and build the physique of your dreams!

follow me on:

Leave a Comment: