Dumbbell One Arm Row Exercise Form Guide with Video & Pictures

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By Alex
Last updated on
Exercise NameDumbbell One Arm Row
Also CalledDumbbell Bent Over Row, Unilateral Dumbbell Row
Primary MusclesBack
Secondary MusclesBicepsLatsShoulders (Rear Delt)Triceps
Required EquipmentDumbbell, Weight Bench
Alternative EquipmentChalk, Weight Lifting Straps
Rep Range8-15
VariationsCable One-Arm Row, Bilateral Dumbbell Row
AlternativesBarbell Bent Over RowInverted Row, Cable Seated Row, Machine Row, T-Bar Row

Dumbbell One Arm Row Instructions

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

Rotating torso and hipsDon’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 backKeep 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 neckKeep 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.

Alex from King of the Gym
Hey! My name is Alex and I'm the founder and author of King of the Gym. I've been lifting weights seriously since 2005 in high school when I started a home gym in my parents' basement. I started writing about fitness in 2009. Then, in 2014, I got into writing home gym equipment reviews and I haven't looked back. My current home gym is in my own house and it's constantly growing and evolving. My goal is to help you build the home gym of your dreams! Read more about me here.

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