The One Arm Dumbbell Row is a good exercise for building thickness in the lats and mid-back area.
If done properly, with correct body position, it can also develop strength in the lower back. If done improperly, this exercise can aggravate the lower back and lead to injury.
How to Do One Arm Dumbbell Rows:
Put one knee up on the end of a flat bench then place the hand of the same side on the bench.
Your other foot will be on the ground (knee slightly bent), not directly beside the bench but about a foot out to the side. This completes the triangular base of support.
Grasp a dumbbell in the other hand. Stretch your shoulder down and forward to get a complete stretch then pull the dumbbell back and up towards your waist/lower abdomen in an arc, not a straight up and down movement.
The dumbbell will come up the outside of your thigh when you are using lighter weight.
When you start using heavier weight, the dumbbell should come up the inside of your thigh. This is contrary to what you may see elsewhere but it is a more comfortable and healthier position for your lower back when using heavier weight as the resistance is within the base of support rather than outside it. This means less torque on the lower back.
Your upper body should be parallel to the ground.
It is also very important that your lower back be arched throughout the movement to maximally activate the lats. This arch also helps to protect your lower back from injury.
Bring the elbow back and up as far as you can go.
The range of motion will depend on the amount of weight being used, though try to keep the range as large as possible even when using heavy weight.
Lower slowly, down and forward, rotating the torso in that direction to get a fuller stretch.
Tricks for Performing One Arm Dumbbell Rows:
1. Ensure you're not hunched
To ensure you are not hunched over for this movement, move your hand further forward on the bench. This will force you to stretch out and will automatically flatten your back. Another way to accomplish this is to look up and forward rather than down.
2. Keeping a tight back
If you find that you can't keep your back tight during this movement, try doing it without your knee on the bench. Keep both feet on floor. Strive to maintain a horizontal upper body position. Keeping your knee off the bench will tighten your back on the non-working side during the movement.
3. A better grip
To get a better grip, hold the dumbbell so that your thumb and forefinger are pressed right up against the inside of the forward dumbbell plates. This trick can be used with all grip-limited dumbbell exercises to prolong your grip without using straps.
4. Keeping the shoulders square
If you have a tendency to twist and jerk the weight, look to your non-working shoulder during the movement. This will help counteract that tendency by forcing you to keep your shoulders square.
Common Errors in the One Arm Dumbbell Row Exercise:
1. Rounded lower back
This is rowing in a hunched over position.
This is very harmful for your lower back as the erector spinae (stabilizers) are not able to contract to support the spine, therefore the load goes directly onto the spine.
You want to maintain a relatively neutral spine position. Look at the end of the bench. Don't look straight down or up in front of you, either (looking up can put stress on the neck).
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