The one-arm dumbbell row is not an advanced movement and does not require a lot of weight to be effective but is an excellent exercise for strengthening and growing the upper back, it is really great because it can be used by anybody at any level, from a hardcore bodybuilder to a middle-aged newbie.
Like any exercise in the gym however, the single arm dumbbell row can be done wrong as well. With the wrong form and control, you are at risk of injury and the badly done exercise is also unproductive.
This exercise can be done using a bench but I prefer to use the dumbbell rack, stand close to the rack so that you can reach it without stretching too far but not too close so that you can’t have a flat back position. Separate your feet, bend your knees and lean down on the rack. Lean forward and imagine falling on the rack.
Look down at the gym and don’t arch your neck. Your head, neck and back should be a straight line. Try not to flex the spine, keeping it flat with a mild arch in your lower back, the goal here is to maintain this position throughout the set.
Now is the time to pick up a dumbbell. Before rowing with it, make an effort to retract your shoulders and keep them there. Your shoulders should never protract (pull down and forward) as the weight goes down, your arm can come down but your shoulders should not follow them.
Keeping your shoulders retracted and the upper back tight as you pull the dumbbell up, think about pulling your elbow up towards the ceiling, your elbow does not have to go above your body, pull the weight until it comes to hip level.
Row the weight, hold it at the top of the movement for a second and then slowly lower it down, your body may move a little bit from side to side but do not let your whole body rock, if you need that much momentum to row then the dumbbell is too heavy, with less control you are more likely to get it wrong and get inured.
Your intention is to row with perfect form and control, put all of your focus and energy into doing that.
Just as performing one arm dumbbell rows right can give you a great back, doing other core lifts correctly like the back squat, biceps curl and lat pull-down will make sure that you get the most bang for your muscle buck.
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