Exercise Profile
  • Target Muscle Group
  • Exercise TypeStrength
  • Equipment RequiredDumbbell
  • MechanicsCompound
  • Force TypePull (Unilateral)
  • Experience LevelBeginner
  • Secondary Muscles
    Abs, Biceps, Lats, Shoulders
Target Muscle Group

Upper Back

Upper Back Muscle Anatomy Diagram

One Arm Dumbbell Row Overview

The one arm dumbbell row is a variation of the dumbbell row and an exercise used to build back muscle and strength.

The back is a muscle group that requires a fair amount of variation. So, experiment with several different angles and hand positions to maximize your back muscle growth.

Rows are a foundational movement pattern and are very important to train for balanced muscle growth and strength. So, experiment until you find a rowing variation that you enjoy and work on it.

The one arm dumbbell row can be performed during your back workouts, upper body workouts, pull workouts, and full body workouts.

One Arm Dumbbell Row Instructions

  1. Assume a standing position while holding a dumbbell in one hand with a neutral grip.
  2. Hinge forward until your torso is roughly parallel with the floor (or slightly above) and then begin the movement by driving the elbow behind the body while retracting the shoulder blade.
  3. Pull the dumbbell towards your body until the elbow is at (or just past) the midline and then slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position under control.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions on both sides.

One Arm Dumbbell Row Tips

  1. Experiment with head position and see which option (looking forward vs. packing the neck) works better for you.
  2. Fight the urge to use your opposing arm to brace against your leg or any other implement.
  3. Keep some tone through your abdominals as you pull the dumbbell into your body to ensure you don’t arch excessively through your spine.
  4. Don’t allow momentum to dictate the movement, control the dumbbells throughout the entirety of each rep.
  5. If you feel your biceps being overused and your back remaining under active, consider utilizing a false grip (i.e. don’t wrap the thumb around the dumbbell).
  6. Don’t allow the head to jut forward as you pull.
  7. Similarly, ensure the shoulder blade moves on the rib cage. Don’t lock the shoulder blade down and just move through the glenohumeral joint.
Posted on: Fri, 03/22/2024 - 05:57

Should you complete all sets with a single arm before switching to the other arm? Or do you alternate so that your set with one arm is the rest for the other arm? Does it even matter? Thanks!

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Posted on: Tue, 03/26/2024 - 19:55

Ultimately, it would be a time saver if you alternated before taking a rest, Drew. I would suggest starting with the arm you consider the "weaker" side. Do that side, then the other, then rest.

The way that you would be consistent doing it is what matters most, though.

Posted on: Fri, 01/26/2024 - 22:21

I keep feeling my lower back because I'm constantly trying to fix my arch, what do I do?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 01/30/2024 - 09:18

Hey Martinez, try doing this while lying on an incline bench stomach down. You may have to use less weight, but it's more stable and you will have lower back support. You can also feel the lats working harder. Hope this helps!

Posted on: Fri, 12/22/2023 - 02:24

Hi there, what's the difference between doing this standing up and doing the exercise on a bench?

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Posted on: Thu, 12/28/2023 - 21:05

The difference is the bracing on the bench for stability and the angle in which you're pulling. Bracing can help isolate the lats, which is what most people want.

Posted on: Wed, 11/22/2023 - 18:19

Hi, i have a lot of muscle soreness in both upper and lower body. Should i wait until i recover to continue with the routine? It bothers me if i miss any workout day.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 11/29/2023 - 20:51

If you're dealing with soreness and not full-blown pain, take extra time to warmup and prepare first, but don't skip workouts. When it's painful to the point you can't stand it, skip the workout.

Posted on: Tue, 04/04/2023 - 22:46

Is there any difference if iI do this with cable?, the same movement and unilateral

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Posted on: Sat, 04/22/2023 - 13:44

A little different. You can keep constant tension on the muscle with the cable, but strength gains may be less than if you were to use a dumbbell. That said, you should be fine.

Posted on: Thu, 02/23/2023 - 12:29

Your elbow should never go after your back, this will cause your bicep to be in control and it would be a bicep workout, this is really bad demonstration, literally found a video with proper position and it fixed this bicep issue, you want your make your elbow do the work and pull up so the elbow is leveled with the back, and do a false grip as well, This will ensure your bicep isn't doing most the work!

Posted on: Mon, 10/30/2023 - 15:24


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Posted on: Mon, 10/30/2023 - 18:02

I don't think we have a link for that on M&S, and I can't post outside links. Apologies for that.

Posted on: Fri, 12/16/2022 - 04:05

When I do this after dumbbell stiffleg deadlift, my legs feel weak. Is it normal or should I change something?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 12/23/2022 - 12:45

You pre-exhausted your legs when you did the stiff-legged deadlifts, so that makes sense and it would be normal. If you want to change this, start with the standing one arm row first.

Posted on: Thu, 07/14/2022 - 10:16

when I make the workout should make my back in straight and make my ass tight to prevent injury ??

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Posted on: Sat, 07/23/2022 - 19:41

Both would help.

Posted on: Sat, 02/19/2022 - 11:41

Hello could i replace this with seated row?

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Posted on: Sun, 02/20/2022 - 21:10

Yes, Josh. You could do a single arm seated row machine and it would serve a similar purpose. The only difference is the machine keeps you in a fixed path of travel while the dumbbell version forces you to control the weight.

Jeff Kinley
Posted on: Sat, 10/09/2021 - 09:26

What is the difference between doing this standing or using a bench for support? As someone with lower back problems, this seems problematic for lower back.

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Posted on: Mon, 10/18/2021 - 21:01

Hey Jeff, doing it without a bench forces the core and lower back to stabilize the body during the movement. If you have lower back issues, use the bench.

Posted on: Tue, 07/06/2021 - 13:51

Hello so to clarify should I do 3 sets of 6-12 reps for each arm?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 07/07/2021 - 09:42

Hey John - depending on the specific workout, yes, that should be the case.

Posted on: Sun, 11/14/2021 - 12:10

Yes, exactly that.

Posted on: Fri, 04/02/2021 - 17:48

Any reason not to do this on both arms simultaneously?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 04/06/2021 - 09:33

Hey Dylan - that is a different exercise which you can find here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/bent-over-dumbbell-row.html

Posted on: Sun, 04/07/2024 - 04:23

What is better the single arm or double arm db row? I’m currently doing the M&F split.

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Posted on: Sun, 04/07/2024 - 08:18

If you want to promote balance and stability, go with the double arm row. If you want to focus on each side and maximize power, go with the one arm row.

Ali Khattab
Posted on: Wed, 02/24/2021 - 13:26

This hurts my lower back, is that normal? what am I doing wrong. Also I am doing these after a squat workout so I find this stance hard on my thighs.

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Posted on: Thu, 02/25/2021 - 09:52
Robert B. Mille...
Posted on: Wed, 10/21/2015 - 00:14

Get exercise but the demonstration shows improper form... Try not bouncing at the top.. The weight is slightly heavy and loses some focus on the main muscle isolation. Also the head and neck are not aligned causeing undo stress on the thoracic spine. And the back isn't aligned properly. The back should be straight and aligned.

Posted on: Mon, 01/13/2014 - 14:22

@Yogesh verma: Hopefully it will work better than your keyboard and grammar teacher put together.

Yogesh verma
Posted on: Mon, 07/08/2013 - 12:50

Kee ur hand aligning to your hand downwards den pull it to your waist / weight should come up in dis angle / den this thing ll really work very well.....

Yogesh verma
Posted on: Mon, 07/08/2013 - 12:49

All of you plz pay attention to it... START FROM D DUMBELL KEEPING ON D ALIGNMENT OF YOUR HAND DOWNWARDS DEN PULL IT TO YOUR WAIST..... Dis way it gonna work really good

Shannon Macri
Posted on: Mon, 06/17/2013 - 00:08

The man in the video is performing the exercise with just his arm. Amazing how 75% of even fitness experts perform this exercise all wrong. Typical of the "Machine" generation. Terrible demonstration of such a basic "Back" exercise.

Posted on: Wed, 04/03/2013 - 05:10

i do dis excercise every week...bt i didn't see ny spl results

Posted on: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 11:07

ConArtist: I've been using my couch table for about 6 months now lol, it works great.

Posted on: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 18:42

Any other way of doing this work out? I have no bench right now

Posted on: Mon, 02/11/2013 - 14:32

use a chair/chairs.

Posted on: Sun, 09/16/2012 - 13:43

this feels like a bicep workout to me. i dont really feel anything in my back or shoulders. is this normal or is my form probably wrong? and should we have most of our weight on our arm and leg on the bench? or on the foot? or even?

Posted on: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 11:13

Really concentrate on pulling back and up with your middle back and lats. I find this exercise most effective when using lighter weights and lifting to burn reps, focusing on form.

Posted on: Sat, 10/06/2012 - 05:20

Your probably lifting too much weight for your form!

Posted on: Thu, 12/20/2012 - 15:48

my strength and conditioning coach always tells me when i go down over extend until i feel the muscle contract, and it is also better to actually whening going down let your arm go under the bench and hold then pull back up as high as possible. hope this helps best of luck

Posted on: Fri, 02/22/2013 - 23:30

Your doin somethin wrong dude. FOcus on the back., pull with the back :D
Go with light till you go right(form) :D

Posted on: Sat, 04/27/2013 - 12:26


Posted on: Tue, 06/19/2012 - 20:15

Should the weight come up to the hip?

Posted on: Tue, 05/01/2012 - 14:28

Your shoulder blades should be pulled back throughout the set.