Ditch Dumbbell Rows - Do This Instead

Ditch Dumbbell Rows - Do This Instead

The one arm row is a mainstay in back training. You support your one side by placing your hand on an object in front of you then with the other arm, you row the dumbbell to your abdomen.

It's a great exercise, working the latissimus dorsi (lats), erector spinae (erectors), rhomboids, lower traps, and requires a lot of stabilization from the rotator cuff. Overall this probably seems like a great, unbeatable and complete compound movement, right?

Related - How to Build a Big Back


While this is a great exercise and has been instrumental in building many big backs, it could be so much more.

I want to make it harder, or as we call in the performance training circle, a progression. For example, a progression of a goblet squat is a squat. Basically, it is more advanced and more stuff (muscles) is involved. So how can we make this already awesome move better?

Balance: By incorporating balance, the working muscles are engaged even further and all of those little assistance muscles are also activated, because falling sucks.

Awkward object: A dumbbell is easy to hold. It’s short. It’s the equivalent to carrying a chair on your own versus carrying a couch. You have to work harder to move the couch or you can do what I do, hire movers.

To nip the balance issue in the bud, let’s remove all support. Get that hand off the bench, elbow off the knee, and get that core activated. Stick that hand out freely and let it hang.

Let it fly.

Instead of being balanced, your body is forced to activate, bringing all of those muscles into play – the big ones mentioned above even moreso and all those little ones. It also engages the core much more than a stupid crunch or sit-up ever will – so you can have those sexy abs. Heck, even your glutes are engaged, so add a sexy butt to that order.

As far as being awkward, like moving in to kiss a girl on the first date and she leans in sideways for the hug, we swap out the dumbbell for a barbell. Your hand in the middle will feel like being 6 years old again on a teeter-totter, except much more uncomfortable (although the teeter-totter does help with a huge quad pump). Grab it, balance it and pull it.

Benefits of the Unsupported One-Arm Barbell Row

  1. Abs! You can do all the ab exercises in the world and it still won’t do what this does.
  2. Functionality: You have to balance. Whether an athlete or a person just trying to stay in shape, this movement will transfer into your life.
  3. Complete development: This doesn’t just hit one area of the back, it hits your ENTIRE body, from glutes to arms! 
  4. It’s different: It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Try this out to spice things up a bit!

When to Perform the Unsupported One-Arm Row

You can either do this at the beginning of the workout to hit everything or at the end as a burnout to tie your back workout together. Essentially, there isn’t a bad time to do these!

Time to ROW!

You see how to do it, you have reasons why you should do it, so next back day add this bad boy in! You will thank me later!

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