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November 04, 2022
Chances are, regardless of whether you are new to lifting or a seasoned weight room vet, you have heard of the coveted V taper. In fact, this oh-so-desired upper body physical attribute may even be one of the reasons you began hitting the gym in the first place. Achieving this look requires the right exercises, one of which is the one arm dumbbell row.
The single arm row is beneficial for building the wings of your upper body, AKA your lats. The unilateral movement enables you to easily hit different back muscle angles while simultaneously addressing any imbalances.
Now, don't get us wrong. Big barbell movements, like the bent over barbell row, are fantastic, and as such, should have a front-and-center spot in your workout routine. But the freedom you get with the one-arm dumbbell row is second to none, making it another essential exercise for your back-building regimen.
This article will discuss:
The one arm dumbbell row is a unilateral compound exercise that works one side at a time. It is also a horizontal pulling exercise, meaning you're pulling the weight toward your chest similar to a bench press. Horizontal pulls like strengthen your posture muscles and balance your upper body. A general rule of thumb is to do 2 pulling exercises for each push exercise that you perform.
This dumbbell row variation provides plenty of bang for its buck and deserves a spot in your program. A popular way to perform this move is with a knee on a bench, which helps keeps your back flat as the exercise isolates one side at a time. The cool thing about this row is that it can be done from many angles and with several different setups. Don't worry, we will discuss all of this.
This isolation exercise will help you build muscle and develop functional strength that carries over to many other lifts included in your workout split.
Barbells are great, but if you are like almost everyone (except those who regularly do their unilateral exercises!), you have one dominant side stronger than the other. This can make it tough to equalize your muscle, ensure symmetry, and identify strength imbalances. This is just another example of why the dumbbell row is so effective.
Let’s dive into what muscles it hits.
Nothing is better than finding an exercise that gives your back the attention it deserves. What makes the one arm row even better is that it also activates several other upper-body muscles, making it a great compound lift to include in an upper body workout.
Here's a look at the muscle groups worked during one arm rows. We didn't include the core here, but it's important to note that your core muscles will also be hard at work supporting your trunk.
The most eye-catching perk of the one arm dumbbell row is obviously going to be the V taper width that comes from building up your lats. However, the one-arm dumbbell row is loaded with other benefits as well.
Here's a look at this move's best benefits.
Anytime you do a compound movement like a bent over barbell row, your strong side will likely take over and put in more work than your weaker side. With this row variation, you can focus on one side at a time, allowing your weaker side to catch up not only in strength but also in symmetry.
Sure, it’s going to be tough to be perfectly symmetrical on each side, but adding this to your routine will certainly balance out any glaring weaknesses and differences.
Whether you are a powerlifter, strongman, Olympic lifter, athlete, cross fitter, or you are just in the general population, the one-arm dumbbell row is going to give you unique strength benefits.
A stronger back and grip will help with your pushing and pulling movements, squats, and deadlifts. That’s a pretty big list of exercises it will help you get stronger with! It also makes everyday tasks like pushing a stroller, picking up kids or things off the floor, and moving furniture much more effortless.
Strength gains all over the place!
Barbell exercises may allow you to lift more weight and build serious muscular strength, but performing the one arm row will help even out imbalances. This enables you to lift even heavier and more effectively during those barbell lifts you love so much.
In a society built on slouching and rounded shoulders, posture is an issue for many of us. Strong middle and upper back muscles built with this exercise are key for maintaining a healthy spine and continuing the activities you enjoy well into your old age. Plus if you can maintain proper posture throughout the day, you'll look and feel more confident.
Bilateral barbell exercises not only increase your existing muscle imbalances, they actually decrease your range of motion. Doing one side at a time with this row will allow you a bigger and safer range of motion, all while building muscle and strength.
It also gives you more freedom to experiment with multiple variations and angles, while a barbell if often limited to one movement path.
Even though this exercise isn’t a rotational movement, the anti-rotational aspect of keeping your hips still while pulling with one arm will build a stronger rotation for your core. This has a direct carryover to sports, including anything involving throwing, pushing, sprinting, and jumping.
We've just discussed some great benefits, but without the correct form, you won't get nearly as much out of this move. Master the steps below, and you'll see some serious gains!
We're highlighting the version that has you place one leg on a bench, but for more core activation, you can also split your feet around the bench instead. Also, we suggest using a bench for this move, but feel free to use whatever is available at home or the gym - a plyo box or kitchen bench will do the trick - as long as it provides you with a stable surface.
How to do the One-Arm Dumbbell Row:
Again, this unilateral exercise is amazing, as long as you're doing it correctly. Avoid these common mistakes with the bent over row, and you'll be well on your way to muscular hypertrophy.
Variety is the spice of life, and these row variations may be just what your routine needs when things start to feel stale.
Set up an incline bench at a 45-degree angle and lean into it with your chest. From there, you can reduce the load on your lower back and focus more on building the upper back muscles and of course, the lats.
This will remove some of the difficulties of keeping your back flat, while also removing the core benefits of the one-arm dumbbell row.
This is another variation of the dumbbell row that puts your body in a different position. Set up in a lunge position and hinge forward to a 45-degree angle. You can either balance in this position, placing your non-working hand on your knee, or you can use a bench or rack for support.
During this movement, you will feel an intense glute contraction on the side holding the lunge while you work the lat on the opposite side.
The degree of difficulty for this move is a bit higher, but the functional strength and athletic benefits are off the charts. It's a great addition to any back workout!
For the Meadows row variation, you can set up a knee on the bench like the one-arm dumbbell row, or you can keep both feet on the flour and place your non-working hand on your knee.
You will use a barbell (landmine if you have access to it) as your resistance. This movement will not be pinned to your side. Instead, it will have your elbow flaring to an angle similar to the bench press.
The thicker bar has excellent grip benefits and will help strengthen your back in different ranges of motion.
This move is for the more advanced lifter. The renegade row is simply a single-arm dumbbell row done from the plank position. This variation is the ultimate test for core strength, as you must tighten up every muscle to keep your body from rotating during the movement.
The one-arm dumbbell row is a must-add to your routine. Depending on your preferred split, it can be easily added to your back or pull day. It can also be added to a superset push-and-pull routine that focuses on chest and back exercises.
This can be done as a standalone pull exercise or used alongside barbell rows. It will take some trial and error to figure out what you like most and what combination gives you the best results.
Here's some guidance to get you started:
Here's a sample back routine that shows you how to best program single arm rows (and a few of its variations!).
It’s safe to say the one-arm dumbbell row has your back, no matter your goals. Add this dumbbell back exercise to your routine ASAP to see benefits for muscle growth, strength, and all-around functional movement.
That V taper isn’t going to build itself, and it won't be perfectly balanced unless you add this move into your program. So get on it!
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