The one arm dumbbell row is a great back exercise that allows you to work each side of your back (and supporting muscles) unilaterally.
Traditional dumbbell rows see you hold a dumbbell for the entire duration of a set. When the dumbbells get heavy this really tests your grip and while it’s great for increasing grip strength, your forearm and grip usually gives way before your back has been fully worked.
It’s for this reason I prefer to teach a variation of this movement that was introduced to me by Celebrity Personal Trainer Mark Alexander.
Since learning this version of the one arm row I’ve never looked back and been able to increase the weights drastically!
This article will teach you how to power up your one arm dumbbell row and take your back training to new heights!
How To One Arm Dumbbell Row
To perform the dumbbell row you need a flat bench and a dumbbell.
Create a Strong Foundation
- Place the dumbbell on the floor next to the bench and the place your left knee of the bench
- With your right leg take a wide stance with a straight leg, go as wide as comfortable
- Lean forwards and grab the edge of the bench with your left hand
- Your legs should feel tight and provide a solid base
- Extend your right arm so it’s straight, the dumbbell should be directly underneath
- Grip the dumbbell tightly
- Ensure your back isn’t rounded by flattening your lower back
- Ensure your head is in a neutral position and you’re not looking up
- Before your first rep take a deep breath and tighten your core
- Explosively pull the dumbbell towards your hip by pulling it up and backwards
- Keep your elbow close to your body at all times
- Return the dumbbell to the floor by controlling the downward movement
- Rest the dumbbell on the floor but don’t let go of it just relax your grip slightly
- Take 2-3 deep breaths, tighten your grip on the dumbbell again
- Perform your remaining reps in the same fashion
Top 3 One Arm Dumbbell Row Tips
Tip #1 – Think Deadlift Technique
This version of the one arm dumbbell row should be thought of like a deadlift. The weight is on the floor stone dead and you explosively lift the weight up and then return it to the floor.
Similarly to the deadlift, ensure the weight rests on the floor between reps for 3-4 seconds, don’t cheat by bouncing off the floor to start the next rep.
Tip #2 – Say No To Straps
Don’t use straps wrapped around the dumbbells to perform the dumbbell row. People use them to prevent their grip failing before their back has been worked and whilst this is the right principle, using straps actually prevents your grip from developing.
Also, this version of the one arm dumbbell row removes this issue as you get to rest your grip in between reps as you’re not holding the dumbbell throughout the set.
Tip #3 – Don’t Twist Your Torso
This movement should be performed in strict form and your back should remain straight. When the dumbbell arrives at your hip and your elbow is pulled back your torso should still be straight.
If you are lifting explosively you may notice you twist left or right slightly, this is OK but if you’re twisting lots to get the weight up there’s a problem.
Usually it’s because the weights are too heavy, drop the ego and the weights and your back will thank you for it!
You’ll work the muscle better, prevent injury and not look like a clown in the gym. Win-win-win!
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