How to do One Arm Dumbbell Rows Correctly and Safely

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INTRODUCTION: ONE ARM DUMBBELL ROW

The bent over one arm dumbbell row is one of the most basic yet fundamental exercises in the fitness library.

The dumbbell row strengthens numerous muscle groups including the posterior shoulder, the upper back, and the latissimus dorsi.

As simple as this exercise is, many people perform it incorrectly.

Today’s post will go over the proper way to perform the dumbbell row, and mistakes to avoid.


ONE ARM DUMBBELL ROW FORM VIDEO

 

BENEFITS OF THE SINGLE ARM DUMBELL ROW

  • Strengthens the upper back muscles including the rhomboids, the mid-trapezius, the posterior shoulders and the latissimus dorsi, as well as your grip and forearm muscles
  • Helps improve a rounded shoulder position which results from poor posture
  • Places less stress on the lower back then the barbell row since the exercise requires you to have an external base of support

MUSCLES WORKED IN THE DUMBBELL ROW

  • Rhomboids
  • Posterior Deltoids
  • Mid-Low Trapezius
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Forearms/Grip
  • Biceps

PERFORMING THE ONE ARM DUMBBELL ROW WITH CORRECT FORM

  • Grab the desired dumbbell and place it next to an olympic bench
  • Place your knee and outstretched hand on the bench, and bend forward until your back is parallel to the floor
  • Straighten your back and ensure that you maintain a natural flat posture throughout the entire exercise

 

 

  • Reach down to grab the dumbbell, and immediately resume a flat neutral spine posture
  • Ensure that your neck is also neutral (this means looking down, not up or forward)
  • Keep your core muscles activated at all times

 

  • This is where the most common mistake occurs: Initiate the row by
    • Squeezing your lat muscles
    • Driving your elbow up towards the ceiling
    • Actively retracting your scapula towards your spine

 

  • If done correctly, the dumbbell should touch your lower chest and your elbow should not go much higher than the level of your back
  • Also, avoid excessive rotation of your torso when rowing the dumbbell up

 

 

  • When reversing the movement, do not let your shoulder blade protract all of the way down. Keep some level retraction in your scapula at all times.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

THE BENT OVER DUMBBELL ROW

  • If you do not have a bench to use as support, simply place your outstretched hand on a sturdy surface. Assume a shoulder width stance with your feet in line with each other, not a staggered stance.
  • The remainder of the exercise should be performed exactly the same as described above
  • Keep your back flat, your neck neutral and your focus on your lats and scapula.

 

 

COMMON BENT OVER ROW MISTAKES

USING TOO MUCH MOMENTUM

When the weight starts to get heavy, it is inevitable to use a little momentum. With that said it’s really easy to get carried away. If your back is excessively rotating, or you need a lot of momentum to initiate the movement, then the weight is too heavy.

 

USING YOUR ARMS TO ROW THE WEIGHT

Again, it is important to use your lats and your scapula to bring the weight up, and not your biceps.  If you don’t actively focus on using your back muscles, then you are wasting your time. If done correctly, the weight should not travel a very long distance.

 

 

INTEGRATING THE SINGLE ARM DUMBBELL ROW INTO YOUR WORKOUT

Want to know how to use this exercise in your workout? Check out The Best Workout Template For Busy Individuals to learn how to integrate it into your training!

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

I DON’T FEEL THE  DUMBBELL ROW IN MY BACK

This is a common problem. The dumbbell row is for the back, not your biceps. If you only feel this exercise in your arms, then you are performing it incorrectly. Squeeze your lats, bring your elbow to the ceiling, and retract your scapula.  You bicep will inevitably be involved in the movement, but you should also feel your back muscles working.

 

DO I NEED TO DUMBBELL ROWS ON A BENCH?

The bench is the easiest way to perform the dumbbell row exercise, however it can be performed on any sturdy surface. Check out the dumbbell bent over row above.

 

OTHER DUMBBELL ROW VARIATIONS

Another variation that you can perform is the Chest Supported Row.  This exercise also requires a bench, but instead you lay flat on your chest while rowing the dumbbells up towards the bench.

 

 

You can also choose to flare your elbow out 90 degrees rather than tucking it up towards the ceiling. This dumbbell row variation will emphasize the posterior shoulder more.

 

HOW CAN I INTEGRATE THE DUMBBELL ROW INTO MY TRAINING?

Check out The WCT Best Workout Template For Busy Professionals to find a simple way to add the dumbbell row and other great exercises into your routine.

 

DUMBBELL ROW ALTERNATIVES AND SIMILAR EXERCISES




 


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Alex Robles, MD / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH

Alex Robles, MD / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH

Alex & Brittany Robles are OBGYN's, fitness experts, and founders of The White Coat Trainer, a site dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy individuals. Their advice has been featured on KevinMD, The Doctor Weighs In, My Fitness Pal, Reader's Digest, and The Active Times. Learn more about them here.

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