How to Do a One-Arm Dumbbell Row for Maximum Muscle Growth

How to Do a One-Arm Dumbbell Row for Maximum Muscle Growth

The best exercises are (usually) all about efficiency. So, then why would you want to do a one-arm dumbbell row when you could work both arms simultaneously in less time?

Turns out, you can lift more weight doing a supported one-arm row than you can doing a two-arm row. That’s because, when you use only one arm, your other hand stabilizes you.

“The one-arm dumbbell row allows you to lift heavier, resulting in a greater potential for growth,” says Cody Braun, C.P.T., Openfit’s assistant manager of fitness. “Plus, whenever you work the body unilaterally (one side at a time), you work core stability, which is a functional bonus.”

Yep, you get all that from a one-arm dumbbell row!

Here’s how to do the one-arm row, plus tips for working it into your routine.

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How to Do the One-Arm Dumbbell Row With Perfect Form

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  • Holding a dumbbell in your right hand with a neutral grip, place your left hand on a bench or other stable surface that’s about knee height. Step your right foot back and bend both knees slightly, letting the dumbbell hang at arm’s length toward the floor. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your back flat, core engaged, and elbow tucked, row the dumbbell to your rib cage.
  • Pause, and then lower the dumbbell back to the starting position.
  • Do all of your reps, switch sides, and repeat.


One-Arm Dumbbell Row Variations

How to Make the One-Arm Dumbbell Row Easier

  • Use a lighter weight.
  • Increase stability (and reduce the strain on your core) with the kneeling supported one-arm dumbbell row. Holding a weight in your right hand with a neutral grip and keeping your right foot on the ground, place your left hand and left knee on a bench. Allow the weight to hang at arm’s length. This is the starting position. Keeping your back flat, row the weight to your side. Pause, and then lower it back to the starting position. Do all of your reps, switch sides, and repeat.

How to Make the Single-Arm Dumbbell Row Harder

  • Use a heavier weight.
  • Decrease stability (and force your core to work even harder) with the unsupported single-arm row, keeping your free hand by your side or behind your back. You can also keep your feet parallel instead of staggered for an even greater core challenge.

Bonus Tips for Doing the One-Arm Dumbbell Row

  • Fight momentum! “It’s easy to use momentum to jerk the weight up, but if you lower the weight and control the entire movement, you will get more out of this exercise,” Braun says.
  • Always prioritize proper form. If you find that you’re using momentum to get the weight up, or you’re twisting your body to complete the move, go down in weight.


Benefits of the One-Arm Dumbbell Row

  • People often focus on their “mirror” muscles (i.e., the ones on the front of their bodies that they can see in the mirror). By targeting the lats and other muscles along the oft-neglected “posterior chain,” you’ll create a stronger, more powerful body.
  • Unilateral exercises such as the one-arm dumbbell row are great for correcting muscle imbalances—both front and back and left and right. When you do this move, you’ll probably notice that either your left or right side is slightly stronger than the other. By working both individually, you’ll help your weaker side catch up so both can become stronger and balanced.


Muscles Targeted by the One-Arm Dumbbell Row

The one-arm dumbbell row is a stellar exercise for working your back muscles, including your latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and rhomboids.

1. Latissimus Dorsi

Commonly called the “lats,” this fan-shaped pair of muscles spans both sides of your mid and lower back. As your primary pulling muscles, they are responsible for drawing your arms toward your body, and turning the front of your arms inward. When you build up your lats, they give your torso a “V” shape.

2. Trapezius

Your trapezius muscles, or “traps,” are triangle-shaped muscles that run vertically along your upper spine and fan out toward your shoulders. They help stabilize and articulate your shoulder blades, which move nearly any time your arms move. As a result, most upper-body movements involve your traps.

3. Rhomboids

The rhomboids are two pairs of muscles located on your upper back. Each pair consists of the rhomboid major and minor, which run from the inner edge of your scapula to your spine, forming a diamond shape. Their primary role is to retract the scapula and help prevent excess movement in the shoulder blades when you throw and push objects.

The one-arm dumbbell row strengthens all of these muscles, helping you become even more efficient at tasks that involve rowing, pulling, and more.


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