One Arm Dumbbell Row

One Arm Dumbbell Row

The one arm dumbbell row is a great back exercise, and doesn’t require gym equipment. And there are countless resistance exercises to pick between when putting together an effective workout. This is particularly true when talking about large areas like the back. But this one’s a keeper!

Today’s post will cover one back exercise that doesn’t get as much attention as it should: the one arm dumbbell row.

Read on to learn what makes the exercise great, how to do it, and much more.

What Is The One Arm Dumbbell Row?

The one arm dumbbell row is a multi-joint exercise that works perfectly with other proven movements: pull-ups, deadlifts, bent-over rows, etc.

The dumbbell row primarily trains the lats and are fantastic for improving your mind-muscle connection, leading to better muscle activation. 

Secondary muscles involved in the activity include the biceps, forearms, and other back muscles: trapezius, rhomboids, infraspinatus, rear deltoids, etc.

How to Perform The One Arm Dumbbell Row (Step-By-Step)

  1. Grab a dumbbell and stand in front of a flat gym bench.
  2. Lean your torso forward and place your free hand on the bench, straightening your elbow for support.
    NOTE: You can also perform one arm rows without a bench as shown in the video below.
  3. Position the dumbbell to your side, bring your shoulders back, and engage your abs.
  4. Stagger your stance by bringing one foot forward and the other back for balance.
  5. Take a breath and pull the dumbbell, keeping your elbow close to your body.
  6. Row until your elbow is at torso level, and squeeze your back muscles at the top.
  7. Slowly lower the dumbbell by extending your arm without allowing your shoulder to protract. Exhale on the way down.
  8. Once finished training one side, grab the weight with your opposite hand and do the same number of reps.

What Makes The One Arm Dumbbell Row Great?

The one arm dumbbell row is great for many reasons. First, it is one of the few home exercises you can do and train your back, even if you only have a single dumbbell.

Second, dumbbell rows force both sides of your body to work independently, which prevents side-to-side muscle imbalances.

Third, dumbbells allow you to use a slightly longer range of motion, stretching and contracting your lats more effectively.

In addition, there are several variations of the exercise that make it one of the most versatile activities for the back. Let’s go over some modifications.

How To Do One Arm Dumbbell Rows

Safety and Modification Tips For The One Arm Dumbbell Row

Don’t have a bench or table to support yourself? A great variation is the two arm dumbbell row, where you hold a pair of weights, lean forward, and row them to your torso, similar to a bent-over barbell row. (1)

Two Arm Dumbbell Rows

You can also position yourself face down on an incline gym bench and do chest-supported incline rows. The variation prevents you from using momentum and forces your back muscles to work extra hard.

As far as dumbbells go, it’s best to use weights coated with rubber. Most dumbbells are steel or cast iron and coated in rubber to protect your floor and furnishings. Also, the handles should have good knurling (tread) for a firm grip. A smooth grip might feel more comfortable in your hands, but there is a risk of slipping if your hands get sweaty.

Finally, be careful when handling weights because dropping them can result in trauma or damage to the floors. Avoid jerking motions; lift and lower the weights smoothly and with excellent control.

Warm-up well to ensure your body is ready for the training stress. A few minutes of low-intensity cardio and some dynamic activities are generally enough. (2)

Click for more dumbbell workouts.

Philip Stefanov

Philip Stefanov

Philip is a fitness writer, blogger, certified personal trainer, and the founder of He has spent the last nine years writing fitness content and training men and women in the gym, as well as online. His passion is fitness and exercise, and helping others improve their fitness and wellness.

See All Posts


  1. Leaf Group. (n.d.). The 8 best dumbbell row variations to build a stronger back | livestrong. LIVESTRONG.COM.
  2. Contributors, W. M. D. E. (n.d.). Warm-up exercises: Do they improve performance and reduce injuries? WebMD.

Click to see our medical disclosure.