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March 24, 2022
Single arm dumbbell rows are a staple in many serious lifters programs because they strengthen imbalances between sides and give you better muscle development. An underrated variation of the single arm dumbbell row is the Kroc row.
Kroc rows get their name from bodybuilder and powerlifter Mathew Kroczaleski and became well-known after Jim Wendler, powerlifter and inventor of the world-famous 5/3/1 training system, saw him doing this rowing variation and named them Kroc rows.
If you’ve never heard of the Kroc row, you are in luck because it's gonna be one of your new favorite back exercises. Here we will go into what it is, how to do it, muscles trained, benefits, programming considerations, and variation and alternatives. Let's get rowing.
The Kroc row is a single arm dumbbell row variation that targets the upper back, biceps and forearms in a hard and heavy fashion. Unlike most unilateral dumbbell rows, Kroc rows essentially use a lot of body English rather than strict form. By using momentum, you can perform more reps with a heavier weight.
The combination of intensity and volume that comes with Kroc rows gives your targeted muscles all they can handle. Kroc rows give you the potential to add slabs of muscle on your upper back, especially if you are new to the stimulus provided by this new movement. But be warned, they don’t tickle.
To get the best out of the Kroc row keep these considerations in mind when going hard and heavy:
The lower body plays a supporting role with Kroc rows, but the main action is happening upstairs. Here are the major muscles trained with the Kroc row:
Note: The more upright you stand, the more your upper back muscles (posterior delts, traps, and rhomboids) will be emphasized, whereas the more bent over you are, the more your lats will be emphasized.
Kroc rows train the forearms and biceps, but the real prime mover here is the upper back. A strong and muscular upper back not only looks good but has a few important performance and health benefits too. Here are a few important benefits of strengthening and building the upper back:
The Kroc row allows you to train unilaterally and hard and heavy using momentum. Plus, this strengthens imbalances between your left and right sides and for upper back hypertrophy. Here are a few considerations to programming the Kroc Row:
Lifting heavier weights while using momentum is great for strength and muscle but can be hard on the body as there is more stress on the elbow and shoulder joint. Plus, you’re in a modified hinge position that does stress the lower back and hamstrings. These two things must be considered when deciding how often you perform the Kroc row.
The Kroc row is best performed one time (or at most, two times) a week as you should be doing other row variations and back exercises too.
Kroc rows are a variation that allows you to squeeze out a few more reps using body English after technical failure. This means you’re draining your tank more and this needs to be taken into consideration when deciding how many reps and sets you’ll do. Another is how much pulling or other exercises require grip strength as Kroc rows are tough on your grip.
Plus, because you’re in the hinge position lower back strength and endurance play a part. If your back is tired or suffering from any low back pain, it’s better to cut volume or go with other row variations.
Better to perform Kroc rows on days when you are not deadlifting and rowing hard and heavy. Play around with volume from training depending on how you are feeling and how much you have in the tank.
All in all, you should be training higher reps with Kroc rows. It's ok for the range of motion to shorten as you move through a set. Going past technical failure is the goal, whether that be 8 or 15 reps.
Note: You'll see big powerlifters, like Matt Kroc (aka Janae Kroc now), doing lower reps (i.e. 6) with super heavy weight.
SETS PER WEEK:
Every training is not separate and the types of exercise you are performing and how you’re recovering from training to training play a huge role in much you’ll lift with the Kroc row. And It always pays to pull more than you push for better shoulder health and posture.
If you’re performing 15-20 sets of pushing exercises per week, it’s better to at least 1.5x the amount of pulling exercises you do. Then performing 20-30 sets of pulling exercises per week works best and including the Kroc row for some sets works well. Generally, two to three sets of 15+ reps work well for the Kroc row.
If you are new to lifting, the above numbers are high, aim for more like 10 sets pushing and 15 sets pulling in total per week, which can be split into two-three sessions.
There are a ton of single-arm row variations, but these ones will concentrate on exercises that allow you to train hard and heavy like the Kroc row. Here are a few variations that do just that when you’re looking to add variety to your rowing routine.
The Meadows row is similar to Kroc Row as it is a unilateral row performed with a staggered stance and allows you to train hard a heavy. The landmine set up and griping the fat end of the barbell reduces shoulder joint stress while maximizing shoulder, upper back, and lat tension.
The Deadstop row uses a similar position to Kroc rows but you are using a three-point stance and you’re resting the dumbbell on the ground between reps. Because of this you’ll go through a larger ROM and the pause allows you to rest your grip, you’ll be able to go heavier than other unilateral dumbbell row variations. The stop on the floor gives you a break and this takes away the stretch reflex of the muscle, so your muscles work harder on the concentric part of the lift.
With the resistance band dumbbell row, the looped band keeps the tension high throughout the range of motion but particularly at the end when the band is stretched to the limit. This trains your lats, upper back, shoulders, and biceps hard and heavy similar to Kroc rows.
If you want to build muscle mass in your back and strengthen your posterior chain, the Kroc row is one of the best in the business. The best part is, it's a relatively safe exercise. Just make sure to pay attention to spinal stability and all will be stellar. When it doubt, just drop the dumbbell and reset. If you have questions about Kroc rows, feel free to leave a comment below.
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