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Single Arm Dumbbell Row Exercise

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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Are you looking for a way to mix up your workout routine? If so, then consider adding the single-arm dumbbell row exercise. The one-arm row is a healthy routine for targeting your back, shoulder, and arm muscles.

This article will discuss the single-arm dumbbell row exercise in more detail. We will cover how to do the exercise, targeted muscles, its benefits, and pro-tips. By the end of this article, you will have all the information you need to add this exercise to your routine.

a man doing a single-arm dumbbell exercise
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How to Perform a Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

dumbbell row form
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Bodybuilding and Weight-lifting

To perform a one-arm dumbbell row, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Starting Position

Pick the correct dumbbell weight from the dumbbell rack. Start by holding a dumbbell in your left hand. Then place your right hand on a flat bench, a stable surface, or a stability ball. You can also use the dumbbell rack for support.

Bend your knees and hinge at the hips. This positions your torso at about a 30-45 degree angle to the floor. Allow your free arm to hang straight down from the shoulder, with the palm facing your thigh.

Step 2: Lifting the Weight

Exhale and drive the elbow of the working arm back and up. Do this while keeping your back straight and your upper arm close to the side of the body.

Row the dumbbell up to your chest. Squeeze your shoulder blade back and down as you row the weight up. Also, keep your elbow close to your side throughout the movement.

Step 3: Lowering the Weight

Pause for a moment at the top of the movement, then slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position. Continue the downward movement until your upper arm is parallel to the floor.

Repeat for your desired number of reps. Switch sides, and repeat with the dumbbell in your right hand.

You can also incorporate different arm dumbbell row variations as below:

  • Reverse grip: Perform this variation with an overhand grip, palms facing away from you.
  • Split stance: Start in a split stance, with your right foot forward and your left foot back.
  • Hip shift: Perform this variation with a neutral grip, palms facing each other.

These simple variations emphasize the isolation of each arm and lats, thus increasing the correct muscle engagement.

Targeted Muscles

barbell row form illus
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The one-arm dumbbell row is an effective exercise for targeting the following:

  • Trapezius: The trapezius is a large muscle extending from the skull’s base to the middle of the back. It stabilizes your shoulder girdle and moves the shoulders.
  • Latissimus Dorsi or Lats: This large, triangular back muscle pulls the arm down and back.
  • forearms and Biceps: The forearms grip and hold objects, while the biceps lift and move objects. The rowing motion puts a lot of stress on the forearm and biceps, making them work hard to stabilize the weight.
  • Spinal erectors: The spinal erectors are responsible for maintaining the spine’s natural curvature. They also help the body to move and stay upright.

You can either use a lighter weight to focus on endurance or a heavier weight to focus on strength.

Benefits of Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

barbell row benefits
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Strong man picking up weights

Is a single-arm dumbbell row worth it? Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of this exercise. Here are the top benefits of a single-arm-row exercise.

Strength and Stability

The single arm row develops strength and stability of the body. The exercise will challenge your core muscles. This, as a result, helps to improve your balance and coordination.

It also helps to build bone density and can be a great way to increase the intensity of your workout routine.

Building Back Muscles and Shoulders

Single-arm-rows work different muscles in the upper body. The exercise strengthens the back and shoulder muscles. It also helps keep the spine aligned, and the shoulders pulled back. The correct alignment, thus, improves posture and reduces the risk of back pain.

Additionally, the exercise helps to stretch and lengthen the muscles in the back. This aims at reducing tension and pain.

Correcting Imbalances

Muscle imbalances between the left and right sides of the body can often cause pain and discomfort. This unilateral exercise works the muscles on both sides of the body, which helps to promote balance.

Pro Tips and Safety

Maintaining good form when performing a single arm dumbbell row is important. This will help you get the most out of the exercise. Here are some professional tips to help you maintain good form.

Tip #1: Grip

For a single arm row, you will want to use an overhand grip with your palms facing down.

When gripping the dumbbell, make sure that you wrap your thumb around the bar. This will give you the grip strength to stabilize the weight and prevent it from slipping out of your hand. Consider keeping your grip as close to the center of the dumbbell as possible.

Tip #2: Stance

Your stance is also important when performing single arm dumbbell rows. The correct form is to stand with your feet hip-width apart, and your knees slightly bent. You can place your free hand on support for balance if needed.

 Tip #3: Row

While doing the row, always squeeze your shoulder blade muscles back and down as you row the weight up. Support your lower back by keeping your core engaged throughout the movement.

You should also avoid swinging the dumbbell up as this can stress your lower back.

Tip #4: Elbow Position

Make sure you have the correct elbow positioning when performing a row. You will want to keep your elbow close to your body throughout the entire movement. This will help target the back muscles and prevent you from using momentum to swing the weight.

If your elbow is flaring to the side, you may want to use a lighter weight. Maintain lighter weights until you build strength to keep your elbow in a proper position.

Tip #5: Breathing

As you lift the weight up, inhale deeply and fill your lungs with air. Then, as you lower the weight back down, exhale slowly. Focusing on your breath will enable you to prevent using momentum to swing the weight.

Common Mistakes You Can Avoid

Here are five common mistakes people make when performing the single-arm dumbbell row.

  1. Lack of Full Range Motion. Be sure to row the dumbbell to your chest and squeeze your shoulder blade at the top of the movement.
  2. Not Keeping Your Core Engaged. Brace your core throughout the movement. This will increase your core strength to avoid excess weight movement and decrease stability.
  3. Using Heavy Weights. Always use a moderate weight you can control throughout the entire range of motion.
  4. Not Maintaining a Neutral Spine. Keep your spine in a neutral position throughout the exercise. Moreover, avoid rounding your back.
  5. Not Maintaining a Strong Grip. Keep a strong grip on the dumbbell throughout the movement to avoid losing control.

Single arm dumbbell is a great exercise

The single arm dumbbell row is a great exercise for developing strength and mass in the upper back muscles. You can perform this exercise with various weights and grip positions to target different primary muscle groups.

So, if you are looking for a challenging and effective back workout, give the single-arm dumbbell row a try! Always remember to focus on quality over quantity when performing this exercise.


Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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