Single Arm Dumbbell Row Form : A Complete Guide

single arm dumbbell row form

In this short guide I am going to show you everything you need to know about the single arm dumbbell row form.

We will cover the different muscles worked, different variations, and most importantly the do & dont’s of this movement!

Because trust me, NOTHING is worse than going into your workouts doing things incorrectly.

It’s not only limiting your results and not using your time as efficiently as you could, but it also vastly increases your risk of injury.

Which, if you get injured, kiss those gainz goodbye my friend.

To avoid all that, let’s dive into everything you need to know about the single arm dumbbell row form.

Single Arm Dumbbell Row Form


To start us off one of the main benefits of doing the single arm dumbbell row is that you can strengthen your back muscles.

Now, just saying “your back muscles” actually is not doing much justice because there are many different parts of your back muscles you can hit.

Don’t worry, we are going to be covering that in a hot second.

I want to expand a bit on the benefits of working your back muscles.

What do we as humans do a good 6-12 hours of the day?

Either sit at a desk hunched over typing on our keyboard, or, staring down at our phone typing / scrolling.

( Hell, you are doing one of those 2 things right now in fact! ).

This makes it very easy for our posture to be very anterior dominant leading to weak posterior muscles.

Okay, those two fancy words just mean

Anterior – the front side of your body

Posterior – the back side of your back

If you are consistently in a position of being hunched over on the computer or phone, you start to develop imbalances.

These imbalances lead to poor posture and strength which then lead to injury over time.

Not to mention a lot of what people do either on a daily basis or in their workouts are what we call PUSHING movements.

These are movements where you are PUSHING things away from your body.

Think like a push up or a chest press. Or, you can think about lifting something overhead to put in your cabinet.

People do not do nearly enough PULLING movements, things like pull things into your body.

Think about it, are you ever just going around the grocery store doing cart pulls? Where you walk backwards and pull the cart into you as you walk?

You’d look more like a weirdo than you already are, right?

Thought so.

The biggest reason people tend to have shoulder, mid back, or neck pain is because of weakness in their posterior muscles.

Then what people try to do is “stretch” their neck, back, etc. While this can be a PART of your routine, what you really need to do is strengthen your posterior muscles (back muscles) through proper exercise.

( Hence, why we are covering the benefits of proper single arm dumbbell row form! ).

I cannot tell you how many people I have coached who I’ve helped with their neck, shoulder, or mid back pain just from simply strengthening their back muscles via proper exercise.

When you strengthen these muscles, you help the imbalance. When you help the imbalance, it leads to better posture and less stress being placed on your shoulder / neck / mid back area.

Thus, leading to less injury over time.

Help With Pushing Movements

Another benefit from getting down some good single arm dumbbell row form is actually to help with your pushing movements.

We talked about these pushing movements above and how a lot of people do them mostly in their workouts or day to day life.

That is not to say pushing movements are inherently bad, because they’re not. It’s kinda like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You gotta do your best to mix a bit of both in, ya know?

Pushing and pulling movements are no different.

In any of my programs I write inside of my Clubhouse I like to have at least a 1:1 push to pull ratio.

Meaning, for every 1 push exercise that I do I like to have 1 pulling exercise.

So if I do a chest press, I will do a single arm row.

I can give some more examples of pushing and pulling movements below.

Pushing –

Shoulder press

Flat chest press

Incline chest press

Push ups

Chest flys

Pulling –

Single arm dumbbell row

Cable rows

Lat pulldowns

Chin ups

Face pulls

Rear Delt Flys

In your training program I’d encourage you to see if you are having at least a 1:1 push to pull ratio. If not, I may look to make that one slight correction.

Not only will this help prevent injury like we stated earlier but it will also actually help you get stronger at your pushing movements!

Your back provides the “base” to push from. If you work your back muscles, you are going to have a much stronger, stable base to PUSH from.

If you are looking to improve any of the pushing movements mentioned above but just can’t seem to get stronger at it, try throwing in some of these pulling movements.

I think you’d be shocked at how much they help.

Single Arm Dumbbell Row Form : Do’s And Don’ts!

When it comes to the single arm dumbbell row form, as we mentioned, there are actually multiple different ways to complete this exercise!

None are “right” or “wrong”, they’re just depending on what muscles you are trying to work!

The form will be slightly different depending on which muscle you’re targeting, yet a few things hold true for a single arm dumbbell row no matter what.

Let’s cover those first, and then we can get into more specifics. It will make more sense that way.

Shoulders Down

Whenever you are doing any sort of row variation, you typically want to think about keeping your shoulders down and away from your ears.

A cue I like to use is “shove your shoulders down into your back pocket” or “create space between your ear and shoulder”.

You do not want to be shrugging your shoulder UP as you go to do a row.

This is going to cause some massive discomfort and strain on your neck area leading to injury.

You also just won’t work your back muscles as much, you will usually end up working more of your forearm or bicep muscle this way.

As well as your neck like we talked about, it’s just not in a “good” way.

So really try to be sure to keep your shoulder down and away from your ears, tucked into your back pocket.

Do Not Pull UP

Probably the most common mistake when it comes to the single arm dumbbell row form.

You are thinking about coming UP with the weight.

I get it, you’re thinking of moving your hand up to move the weight.

I want you to try and rid your mind of that.

Instead, think about going DOWN and BACK first, THEN go up.

Again, this is going to vary slightly depending on what muscle you’re targeting, but you never want to think solely about coming UP.

This lead to you shrugging your shoulder up, using more of your bicep and forearm.

If you have ever wondered why your elbow hurts, this could be a reason why. You’re putting strain on your elbow and forearm muscles instead of your back muscles.

You’re asking your elbow and forearm to do work that your back is supposed to do. That is no bueno my friend. That will end up in an injury every time.

Think about starting the movement by going down and back almost like you’re scooping the ground with your elbow to start, then you can lead with your elbow going back and up wherever you need it to go (depending on the muscle you work).

Which that is the next correction.

Lead With Your Elbow, Not Your Hand

single arm dumbbell row form

Okay this is actually probably the most common mistake.

Because the weight is in your hand you are thinking about moving the weight, thus, moving your hand.

I don’t want you to think about moving your hand.

I want you to think your hand is just a hook. Your hand is simply along for the ride.

Instead you are really trying to lead with your elbow and pull through your pinky as opposed to pulling through your pointer finger.

If you think about leading with and moving your hand, you’re bound to make one of the mistakes mentioned above.

Whereas if you think about leading with your elbow and pulling through your pinky, you will be SHOCKED at how much more you feel your back muscles working.

(And how much less you feel your forearm, bicep, and elbow!).

Don’t Grip The Damn Thing So Hard

When talking about the single arm dumbbell row form, this isn’t necessarily a “form” correction, more so just a tip.

Stop gripping the dumbbell so damn hard dude.

You’re choking the damn thing which again is leading you to work a lot of your forearm and bicep because you’re death dripping it so hard.

I want you to either

  1. Get a lighter grip where you aren’t acting like you’re holding on for dear life
  2. Go a thumbless grip

This way you will take stress off your elbow and forearm muscle and put it more on your back muscle.

I’d also recommend you using wrist straps as you get into heavier weight rows as well, I will talk about that at the end of this article.

Control The Way Down

Most people think the movement is “done” when you actually row the weight up to your body.


That’s ½ of the movement down.

The other half of the movement is you controlling what we call the ‘eccentric’.

This means on the way down.

The eccentric part is where you are stretching your muscle under load (load being the weight you are using).

This is an integral part of gaining strength and muscle so if you just kind of let gravity take the weight back down…

You are missing out on literally 50% of the movement. Which means you are missing out on 50% of the potential results.

Be sure to give a good 1-3 second count on the way down. Control the weight don’t let it control you.

Single Arm Dumbbell Row Form : Muscles Worked

Now that we know some basic form tips, one of the of the really cool parts about a single arm dumbbell row is that you can target different muscles by slightly changing up the variation.

Any sort of row variation is going to primarily target your back.

Yet, there are different parts of your back that you can look to hit!

The 4 main muscles we are going to take a look at here are the lats, rear delts, traps / rhomboids / mid back, and upper back!

single arm dumbbell row form muscle worked

The reason this is important is because to target each of these 4 areas your form is going to be SLIGHTLY different.

All of the main form tips apply from above, but do you remember the one form tip we talked about?

Lead with your elbow not your hand?

This is how you are going to determine what part of the back you are working most, where your elbow travels.

Lat Focus

When you are trying to work more of your lats during a single arm dumbbell row, then you want your elbow traveling down and back towards your hip.

You also want to keep your elbow tight to the side of your body.

Notice how in the video my elbow is NOT going past the mid line of my body though? If you were to cut my body in half from the top of my head down to my feet (please don’t do that though, I know this article isn’t the best ever but still!)

That would be the midline of my body. During a lat focus row you do not want your elbow traveling past the midline of your body. This will turn it more into a a mid back movement as opposed to working your lats.

Therefore with those couple of things you will be hitting a lat focused single arm dumbbell row form!

Rear Delt Focus

If you are focusing a little bit more on your rear delt, you want to think more about driving your elbow back at a 45 degree angle.

Not keeping it super tight to your body but also not flaring it out SUPER wide.

Drive the elbow back at a 45 degree angle and really think about moving your shoulder back with you. Not SQUEEZING your shoulder like you’re trying to pinch a pencil between your shoulders.

More so extending your shoulder back like you’re chicken winging your arm back behind you.

Upper Back Focus

Now if you’re working more of your upper back, you are going to drive your elbow a little farther out wide at a 75ish degree angle.

( You don’t have to get out your damn protractor, but hopefully you see the difference here ).

I used to coach people going out at a 90 degree angle, but I do not coach that anymore.

Reason being is when you flare your elbow out that wide you open up your shoulder joint and make it more vulnerable.

This is where it can feel very uncomfortable and it leads to a higher risk of injury.

Therefore, keep it “wide” but not SO wide… make sense?

Mid Back Focus

Last but not least if you are working your single arm dumbbell row form to hit your mid back area.

You want to get your elbow tight to your body, driving to the middle of your body, and this time you DO want it to go past the midline of your body.

Unlike the lat focus row where you were NOT trying to past the middle of your body!

Wrist Straps!

Okay, now that we know form and know what muscles we are working, lemme give you a quick tip.

Your back muscles, no matter WHAT muscles you are trying to work, are infinitely stronger than your forearm / bicep muscle.

Therefore once you start doing rows beyond just the first few weeks of you working out in the gym, I highly recommend looking into getting some wrist straps.

Reason being is because you want the limiting factor of your rows to be your BACK muscles, not, your FOREARM muscles.

If your forearms give out before your back does, then you are limiting the gainz you could be having with your back.

Not to mention if your forearm muscles have to work so hard you’re not going to work your back muscles because all you will feel is your forearms burning!

This will stall progress and potentially lead to injury over time.

Therefore, I recommend grabbing some wrist straps that you can use during your workouts.

I can link my favorite ones here below!

Versa Gripps HERE

Regular Straps HERE

I will also drop a video below I did on how to use wrist straps!

Btw, I would use these for all pulling movements, lower and upper body.

So rows, pulldowns, deadlifts, RDL’s.

Even for things like holding weight during a lunge or bulgarian split squat!

If you can make the limiting factor of the movement the muscle you’re actually trying to work, NOT, your grip.. You will see better progress every single time.

Single Arm Dumbbell Row Form : Final Word!

Welp, there you have it! I told you you’d learn everything you needed to know about the single arm dumbbell row form right here right now!

I hope you enjoyed this article and found value from it.

If you are interested in gaining access to content like this on steroids and all of my best workout programs, consider joining myself, my team, and all of our members inside The Clubhouse.

The Clubhouse is my training program where we get strong as hell, lose body fat, and have a fun a** time doing so.

You can check it out right HERE.

Beyond that, hope it helped, and chat soon!