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Single-Arm Dumbbell Row 101 Video Tutorial

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Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

Exercise Synopsis

Target Muscle Group

Upper Back

Secondary Targets



Force Type


Required Equipment


Fitness Level










The Single-Arm Dumbbell Row is a compound exercise designed to target the upper back muscles with a primary focus on the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius. Executed with a dumbbell, this unilateral movement allows for independent strengthening of each side of the upper back, promoting muscle balance. As the individual pulls the dumbbell towards the hip, the exercise engages not only the upper back but also secondary muscle groups, including the biceps, shoulders, and lats. Additionally, the Single-Arm Dumbbell Row activates the core muscles, contributing to overall stability. With the flexibility to adjust the weight according to individual strength levels, this exercise is an effective choice for improving upper back strength, enhancing posture, and achieving a well-rounded back development.

How to Perform

  1. Begin the Single-Arm Dumbbell Row by standing and grasping a dumbbell in one hand using a neutral grip.

  2. Hinge forward at the hips, allowing your torso to reach approximately parallel with the floor, or slightly above, ensuring a stable and supported position.

  3. Initiate the movement by driving the elbow behind the body while simultaneously retracting the shoulder blade, emphasizing the engagement of the upper back muscles.

  4. Pull the dumbbell towards your body until the elbow reaches or slightly surpasses the midline, promoting a full range of motion for optimal muscle activation.

  5. Execute a controlled descent, lowering the dumbbell back to the starting position with precision, maintaining tension on the targeted muscles.

  6. Perform the desired number of repetitions on one side before transitioning to the other, promoting balanced development and strength on both sides.

  7. Focus on maintaining a stable core throughout the exercise, engaging the abdominal muscles to provide additional support and enhance overall body control.

  8. Experiment with different hand grips, such as an overhand grip, to target various areas of the upper back and stimulate diverse muscle fibers for comprehensive development.

  9. Avoid excessive body rotation or jerking movements, ensuring that the motion is controlled and deliberate to prevent unnecessary strain on the lower back.

  10. Gradually increase the weight as your strength improves, tailoring the resistance to your individual fitness level for continued progress in upper back development.


  1. Explore different head positions during the Single-Arm Dumbbell Row, such as looking forward or packing the neck, to determine the option that feels more effective for you individually.

  2. Resist the temptation to brace the opposing arm against your leg or any external object, ensuring that the targeted upper back muscles bear the primary workload during the exercise.

  3. Engage your core by maintaining abdominal tension as you pull the dumbbell towards your body, preventing excessive arching of the spine and promoting stability throughout the movement.

  4. Avoid relying on momentum to drive the movement; instead, concentrate on controlling the dumbbell's motion throughout the entire range of each repetition, maximizing muscle activation.

  5. If you sense your biceps dominating the movement while your upper back remains underactive, consider employing a false grip by not wrapping your thumb around the dumbbell, promoting a more balanced engagement.

  6. Prevent the head from protruding forward during the pull, maintaining a neutral neck position to safeguard against unnecessary strain and maintain proper spinal alignment.

  7. Ensure proper movement of the shoulder blade along the rib cage; refrain from locking the shoulder blade down, allowing it to move through the glenohumeral joint, contributing to optimal shoulder stability and muscle engagement.

  8. Experiment with variations in hand placement on the dumbbell handle, such as a wider or narrower grip, to target different areas of the upper back and enhance overall muscle development.

  9. Gradually increase the weight while maintaining proper form to challenge the upper back muscles progressively and facilitate continuous strength gains.

  10. Incorporate controlled breathing into your routine, exhaling during the pulling phase and inhaling during the descent, to establish a consistent rhythm and optimize oxygen intake during the exercise.

How Not to Perform

  1. Avoid Excessive Neck Movement: To prevent mistakes and potential strain, refrain from excessive neck movement during the Single-Arm Dumbbell Row. Keep your neck in a neutral position, avoiding unnecessary twisting or tilting that may divert focus from the targeted upper back muscles.

  2. Prevent Using Excessive Body Momentum: Avoid the mistake of relying on body momentum to lift the dumbbell. Execute each repetition with controlled movements, preventing swinging or jerking motions that could compromise the effectiveness of the exercise and waste energy.

  3. Do Not Overextend the Elbow: To protect against injuries, do not overextend the elbow joint during the pulling phase. Maintain a controlled and deliberate movement, preventing the elbow from surpassing the midline of the body, and ensure that the upper back muscles bear the primary workload.

  4. Refrain from Arching the Lower Back: Prevent mistakes by avoiding excessive arching of the lower back during the row. Maintain a stable and slightly forward-hinged position to engage the upper back effectively, and prevent unnecessary stress on the lower back.

  5. Avoid Using Momentum from the Opposing Arm: Resist the urge to use the opposing arm to generate momentum or provide additional support. Keeping the non-working arm relaxed ensures that the targeted upper back muscles are fully engaged, preventing energy wastage.

  6. Prevent Overreliance on Biceps: To avoid overuse of the biceps, ensure that the pulling motion is initiated by the upper back muscles. Refrain from relying solely on arm strength, and focus on contracting the upper back muscles throughout the movement to prevent energy dispersion.

  7. Avoid Jerky Shoulder Movements: Prevent mistakes by maintaining smooth and controlled shoulder movements. Refrain from jerky or abrupt motions that can strain the shoulder joint, and prioritize a controlled and deliberate rowing motion.

  8. Do Not Neglect Core Engagement: Prevent energy wastage and maintain stability by engaging the core muscles throughout the exercise. A stable core not only enhances overall posture but also supports the targeted upper back muscles during the row.

  9. Refrain from Holding Your Breath: Avoid the mistake of holding your breath during the exercise. Breathe naturally, inhaling during the descent and exhaling during the pulling phase, to maintain a consistent rhythm and optimize oxygen intake.

  10. Prevent Rounded Shoulders: To protect the shoulder joint and enhance muscle engagement, avoid rounding the shoulders during the row. Keep the shoulders pulled back and down, ensuring proper scapular retraction to target the upper back effectively and prevent unnecessary strain.


Variations of fitness exercises refer to different ways of performing a specific exercise or movement to target various muscle groups, intensities, or goals. These variations aim to challenge the body differently, prevent plateaus, and cater to individuals with varying fitness levels.