Dumbbell One Arm Rows have to be one of the most popular back exercises of all time, right alongside Pull-Ups and the Hammer Seated Row machine.
They’re easy to do, you can load up some pretty heavy weight and they flat-out work! If you’re looking to get strong and pack on some mass, Dumbbell One Arm Rows should be in your arsenal.
In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to do Dumbbell One Arm Rows, how to avoid common mistakes and a few alternatives in case you may need them.
How To Do Dumbbell One Arm Rows
- 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.
- Latissimus Dorsi
- Teres Major
- Posterior Deltoids
- Trapezius and Rhomboids (at contraction)
- Secondarily: Biceps (Biceps Brachii, Brachialis, Brachioradialis)
- 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 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.
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:
- 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.
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.
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.
DB One Arm Row Variations
Love One Arm Rows, but looking for some slight variations to change things up a bit? Here are a couple I recommend giving a try.
DB One Arm Rows with Band
One issue that some of us with garage gyms face is that you may not have as heavy of dumbbells as you really want for One Arm Rows. If that sounds like you, try adding a band to the mix.
Use a thin band and drape it over the dumbbell one time. Then step your foot on the two ends to anchor it to the floor. Now when you row you’ll get the extra resistance from the band. Once you nail the setup, with the right band, you can turn 40 or 50 pound dumbbells into what feels like 100s.
DB One Arm Rows with Pause
Adding a pause to each rep is another way to make One Arm Rows more challenging. Plus, when you’re trying to build mass, time under tension is one of the biggest driving factors. That’s why you’ll often see sets of 8 to 10 recommended for hypertrophy.
At the top of each rep, add a 1 to 3 second pause for each rep and then lower down slowly. You may be surprised how quickly this can light your back and biceps on fire even with a slightly lower weight.
DB One Arm Row Alternatives
If you can’t do DB One Arm Rows (injury, lack of equipment, etc) or you simply want to change up your routine here are a few alternatives worth giving a go.
Barbell Bent Over Rows
Barbell Bent Over Rows are basically the barbell version of One Arm Rows. They’re also one of the kings of building a big, strong back because of the weight you’re able to move with Bent Over Rows. This would be the exercise I would turn to first if I didn’t have access to dumbbells.
Just be careful with adding Bent Over Rows if you’ve already had a very taxing posterior chain day (Olympic Lifts, Squats, Deadlifts, etc).
This is because Bent Over Rows will also demand a lot of stability from the low back which becomes harder if it’s already very fatigued.
If you’ve become a little bored with One Arm Rows and are looking for an exercise that’s a little more ‘out of the box’, look no further than Renegade Rows.
With one dumbbell in each hand assume a pushup position with feet roughly shoulder width apart. Brace your core and row one arm at a time.
Renegade Rows will not only work your back, but they will light your shoulders and core on fire as you continue to maintain your body position throughout the movement.
More Links and Info
Need dumbbells for your home gym, but you’re not sure which ones to get. I have in depth articles price comparing all kinds of different dumbbells and I’ve also broken down the pros and cons of buying fixed dumbbells vs adjustable dumbbells. You may one (or both) of those helpful.
Finally, if you’re looking for more Upper Body Exercise Guides, I have a growing selection in my Exercise Library.