Muscles Targeted: The one arm dumbbell row is mainly a back exercise but also uses several other upper body muscles. It is a great way to target the latissimus dorsi (lats), which are the largest muscles of the back, and the trapezius (traps). It also targets the rear deltoids (shoulders), biceps and lower back, to a lesser extent. This style of rowing movement will work your abs as well because your core has to stabilize the whole body with each repetition. You will also feel a lot of tension and stimulation in your biceps while doing one arm dumbbell rows.
Exercise Instructions: Place your left knee and left hand on a flat bench with your right leg set firmly on the floor. Lean forward so that your back is flat and parallel to the floor. Grasp a dumbbell in your right hand with your palm facing in toward your body and lift or “row” the dumbbell up and into your outer rib cage area. Pause at the top for a brief moment for a peak contraction and then slowly return the dumbbell back down to the starting position and repeat.
Why This Exercise is Important: This exercise will allow you to truly isolate and target your back muscles. It will also balance out your chest and front deltoids which will provide a very symmetrical look to your physique. It is the perfect counterpart to the bench press, which targets the pectoral and front shoulder muscles. It will help to improve your posture by strengthening the spinal column and the supporting muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Esthetically, one arm dumbbell rows will add thickness to your torso which is the great for attaining that coveted “V-taper” look with a wide back and lean narrow waist.
Things To Avoid: Make sure you do not round or hunch your back when performing this exercise. Rounding the back can put potentially injurious pressure on the three columns of muscles responsible to keep your spine correctly aligned (the erector spinae). A rounded back will change how the shoulder performs the upward pulling motion, influencing which back muscles are targeted by the exercise. Not only is rounding your back dangerous, it will neutralize the efficacy of the row. Make sure you do not keep your head up while performing the exercise. Instead, keep your head in a neutral position and look down. Do not use your body to get momentum on the lift. The movement should be done strictly by lifting the dumbbell up with your arm and back muscles. Do not hold the dumbbell horizontally in your hand. Hold it slightly tilted to the back, with your thumb and forefingers pressed against the forward plate of the dumbbell. This will allow you to use heavier weights. This grip is recommended for all rowing exercises and is particularly useful for people with small hands or people who lack grip strength.
Reps and Sets: Aim for 3 sets of 12 reps for each arm or do 4 sets of 10, 8, 6 and 6 reps respectively, for each arm. You can include each set into one superset with other exercises (see “Other Exercises To Use” below for exercise ideas) or do the sets consecutively.
Other Exercises To Use: The one arm dumbbell row is a fantastic exercise and can easily be added to your back workout. To create an effective and complete back routine, add wide grip pull ups, deadlifts and seated cable rows to your workout. If you wish to add the one arm dumbbell row to a complete body workout, mix in some burpees style workouts. Do a regular burpee, stay in plank position and do 1 row for both arms. This counts as one burpee. Add weighted lunges, weighted squats and pushups for a fat burning, full body workout. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the back.