Chest Supported Rows vs Single Arm Rows

Chest Supported Dumbbell Row vs Single Arm Dumbbell Row

It’s important to understand the different exercises you can do to target specific muscle groups and improve your overall strength. Two exercises that focus on your upper back and shoulders are the Chest Supported Dumbbell Row and the Single Arm Dumbbell Row.

Both exercises can be a great addition to your strength training program, but it’s important to understand the differences between them.

In this article, I’ll compare the Chest Supported Dumbbell Row and the Single Arm Dumbbell Row. I’ll also explain how to properly perform each movement along with their benefits. In just a few minutes you should have a good understanding of which exercise (or maybe both) is a good fit for you based on your training goals and experience.

Chest Supported Dumbbell Row

Equipment Needed

  • Adjustable Bench
  • Dumbbells

Muscles Worked

  • Back (Lats, Rhomboids, Traps, Infraspinatus)
  • Biceps (Biceps Brachii, Brachialis, Brachioradialis)
  • Shoulders (Posterior Delt)

How To

  • Set up an adjustable bench at a 45-degree angle.
  • Lay on your stomach with your head hanging just above the edge of the bench.
  • Grab a dumbbell in each hand and set up with a good posture – core and lats engaged and shoulders neutral.
  • Row the dumbbells toward the top of the stomach and squeeze the back at the top of the rep.
  • Finally, lower the dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

Make sure to maintain good posture through the movement. Oftentimes I see athletes who allow their shoulders to slouch forward and drape over the edges of the bench.

Don’t have an incline bench to use? No worries. Here are 10 alternatives for Chest Supported Rows you may be able to do instead.


There are several benefits to doing Chest Supported Rows, including:

  1. Building strength and hypertrophy in the upper back, including the lats, rhomboids, and rear deltoids.
  2. Improving posture by strengthening the muscles that support the spine.
  3. Reducing the risk of back injuries by strengthening the muscles that help to stabilize the spine..
  4. Providing an alternative to other rowing exercises like Barbell Bent-Over Rows, which can put strain on the lower back.

Single Arm Dumbbell Row

One Arm Row

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells
  • Bench (optional)

A bench is helpful, but not totally necessary. Bracing one arm against the rack or even on your leg can work as well.

Muscles Worked

  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Teres Major
  • Posterior Deltoids
  • Trapezius and Rhomboids (at contraction)
  • Secondarily: Biceps (Biceps Brachii, Brachialis, Brachioradialis)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab a dumbbell and a bench*.
  • Place the dumbbell next to the bench and set yourself up.
  • If rowing with the right arm, place the left knee and left hand on the bench. Keep the right foot flat on the ground.
  • Make sure the back is flat (neutral) to slightly arched.
  • Brace the core and pick the dumbbell up.
  • Row the dumbbell up, keeping the elbow close to the body as the dumbbell raises.
  • Squeeze the back at the top of the rep and then lower the dumbbell down until the arm is fully extended.
  • Repeat for the designated number of reps and then switch sides.
One Arm Rows without a Bench
Just do NOT brace yourself on an actual dumbbell on a rack as they WILL flip off the rack on you.

*One Arm Rows do not have to be done with one knee on a bench. You can keep both feet flat on the ground and lean forward and brace yourself with your off-hand on something sturdy. You can even lean your off forearm on your leg for support if necessary.

Coaching Points

The most common mistake I see athletes make when doing One Arm Rows is not maintaining a flat back. The back should stay engaged and slightly arched – similar to the starting position of a Power Clean. Do not let the back round as this can cause unnecessary stress on the spine.

Also, do not twist and turn while rowing. You’re not starting a lawn mower. If you need to use your whole body to twist and rock the weight up then the dumbbell is too heavy. Lower the weight and maintain proper form.

Finally, make sure to give yourself enough room to ‘spread out’ and get into a good position.

Often times I see athletes place their off-hand too close to their knee on the bench and/or place their grounded foot too close to the bench. This leads to them being too cramped, making it difficult to achieve proper positioning.


Some of the benefits of One Arm Dumbbell Rows include:

  1. Increased upper body strength: The One Arm Dumbbell Row targets multiple muscle groups in your upper body, including your lats, biceps, and shoulders. As you progress with the exercise, you’ll be able to lift heavier weights, which can help to increase your overall upper body strength.
  2. Improved stability and coordination: The Dumbbell One Arm Row requires balance and coordination, as you need to maintain control of the dumbbell with one hand while performing the exercise. This can help to improve your overall stability and coordination.
  3. Increased muscle mass: By consistently performing One Arm Rows, you can build strength and size in your back, shoulders, and arms, which can contribute to an overall increase in muscle mass.

Chest Supported Rows vs One Arm Rows: Which is Better?

Now, let’s take a side-by-side look at both exercises to see if one is better than the other for some common lifting goals.

Better For Strength and Hypertrophy: One Arm Rows

Let me start off by saying this is extremely close and one could easily argue that the two exercises are tied when it comes to strength and size development. To be clear, both are excellent movements for building upper back strength.

But, let me tell you why I think One Arm Rows are just slightly better.

Generally speaking, exercises that allow you to lift more weight will do a better job of developing pure strength. It’s why barbells almost always have an edge over dumbbells. And, in theory, since both of these movements use dumbbells they should be even.

However, in practice, I’ve always found it extremely awkward and difficult to get set up with really heavy dumbbells when doing Chest Supported Rows. I’ve always utilized them with a little less weight, slowed the tempo of the movement down a bit and focused on strict form.

When I wanted to row big weight, One Arm Rows are just a way better option. You can get set up and pretty much row them right from the ground. This is why I’m giving the edge here to Single Arm Dumbbell Rows.

Better For Beginners: Toss Up

For a beginner, I think either exercise is perfectly okay to start with. Both exercises are relatively easy to learn and execute. You can also start off either with dumbbells as light as necessary and then gradually increase in weight as you get more proficient at the movements and stronger overall.

Final Thoughts

I’ve just spent the last section of this article comparing which of the two rowing movements is better, Chest Supported Dumbbell Rows or Single Arm Dumbbell Rows. But, the truth is, assuming you have the necessary equipment there is no reason to not have both in your strength training program.

Both are excellent options for building upper back strength. And, incorporating both within your program can add variety and help keep your workout from getting stale.

So, instead of trying to choose between these two back exercises, my suggestion would be to figure out how you can utilize both Chest Supported Rows and Single Arm Rows.

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