How To Do The One-Arm Dumbbell Row: The Complete Guide

The One-Arm Dumbbell Row is an excellent exercise that you can add into your workout routine for a bigger and wider back.

The main muscles worked by the One-Arm Dumbbell Row are the Lats(latissiumus dorsi) and the secondary muscle groups include the trapezius, biceps, rotator cuff muscles, posterior deltoid, and the erector spinae.

In addition to that, this is a unilateral exercise that is helpful in minimizing any muscle imbalances that may have occurred. Regardless of the benefits of this exercise, if you are performing this incorrectly then you may not be able to reap the full benefits of the exercise and also get yourself in trouble.

One Arm Dumbbell Row
Photo by CATHY PHAM on Unsplash

 Learning The One-Arm Dumbbell Row 

  1. You will start this motion by bending at your hips while keeping your back straight (your back will be nearly parallel to the ground) and placing one knee on the bench and the same side arm on the flat bench. You will keep your other leg on the floor in a comfortable and stable stance. This will be your starting position.
  2. Reach down and pick up the dumbbell with your other arm in a neutral grip, then hold it with your arm extended, keeping your back straight.
  3. Bring the dumbbell up to your chest, concentrating on lifting it with your back and shoulder muscles rather than your arms. Keep your chest still as you lift. At the top of the movement, squeeze your shoulder and back muscles. Lower the dumbbell slowly until your arm is fully extended again. Do all your reps on one arm before switching to the other side.

Common Mistakes

  1. Have Enough Room To Row –  One of the most common mistakes that people make while performing this exercise is that they do not create enough space on the side to row the dumbbell. Place your leg a bit far in the ground and your arm on the bench should hold in an extended position while keeping your back straight so that when you are rowing you have space to perform the full range of motion. Do not exaggerate with space as it will negatively affect you. 
  2. Pulling With Your Biceps – Once you’re in position, it’s easy to underestimate the row: Just pull the dumbbell up. But how you pull is key. It’s easy to over-involve the biceps, but this is a lat- and rhomboid-focused move. Avoid that by thinking only of pulling your elbow as high as you can—try to imagine that your forearm as a large hook that’s gripping the dumbbell. Your biceps will be involved in the row either way, but it shouldn’t be the dominant mover on every rep.


  • Maintain Mid-Back Tension – The first move when you do the row: Squeeze your shoulder blades. Doing so is will prevent you from doing the row with a rounded upper back, and it will help protect your shoulders in the long term. If you forget to do this, which a lot of new gym-goers do, you wind up trying to row from a position that invites the head of the humerus (your upper arm bone) to get close to the clavicle (your collarbone), a situation that can bug both labral and rotator cuff tendons. That shoulder blade squeeze will help prevent that from happening. It also ensures you get more out of the row; now you get a chance to activate both your lats and your rhomboids on each rep. Make this squeeze of the shoulder blades intentional at first on every rep; as you progress, it’ll happen as one fluid motion.

Related Exercises

Commando/Renegade Rows

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