Single Arm Row

What is the single arm row?

The single arm row is a compound exercise for the back and arms using a dumbbell. The exerciser supports themselves on a workout bench while leaning over and moving the dumbbell upwards and backwards by bending the elbow.

What muscles are used in the single arm row?

The single arm row uses the back muscles (latisimus dorsi and trapezius) primarily, while also working out the back of the shoulder (posterior deltoid) and biceps. This is a simple and highly effective workout for the back, shoulders and arms.

single arm row

Benefits of the single arm row

The single arm row is an effective exercise for greater isolation of the whole of the back area, particularly the lats and traps.

This exercise is a great addition to your workout and can combine well with the lat pull down and the seated row for extra targeting of the back for stronger overall development.


Because the single arm row is excellent for working out the rear shoulder (posterior deltoid) as well as the back (lats and traps) this is a great balancer exercise.

This exercise is ideal for evening out all the work done on the chest and front shoulders (anterior deltoid) – areas of the body that tend to get more attention in general during a workout.

The single arm row is the perfect counter balance to the bench press, working the opposite muscles to create a balanced physique with a strong back. This balancing of muscle development reduces the risk of injury.

Performing the single arm row

To perform the single arm row, place one knee on the workout bench and the other foot on the floor. Bend over the bench so that your back is parallel with the floor and rest your supporting hand on the bench, directly beneath your hip.

Your spine should be neutral with abdominals braced and shoulders square with hips. Pick up a dumbbell in your free hand and prepare to lift.


To ensure good single arm row technique, the dumbbell should be positioned directly beneath your shoulder with arm outstretched.

single arm row using chair

With shoulders horizontal, spine neutral and no twisting at the hip, slowly ‘row’ the dumbbell upwards, using the back muscles to lift the weight as you bend your arm and lift the dumbbell towards your waist in an ‘arch’ movement.

Your arm should bend no more than 90 degrees, with elbow kept tucked in close to the body at all times. Once you have completed the last rep, place the dumbbell on the floor and then repeat the exercise on the other side.

Single arm row variations

The single arm row can be used in combination with other exercises to create a more interesting and beneficial workout. For example, the single arm row with lunge combines these two exercises to create a conditioning move that works the arms, back and legs.

single arm row lunge

To perform the single arm row with lunge, firstly lunge forward with one leg and extend the arm towards the floor, while holding the dumbbell. Then bend the elbow to raise the weight towards your shoulder. Next, you can extend your arm behind you before bringing it back to your side.

By extending your arm behind you the shoulder becomes more engaged to keep the weight stable and drive it back. You can repeat the motion using alternate legs. Doing this at speed will also add a cardio element to the workout.

Other variations on the single arm row with a dumbbell include: the single arm cable row and single arm row with resistance band. These work in a similar way the cable and resistance band used in the different types of seated row.

Read about the seated rowlat pulldown and shoulder press for more excellent back and shoulder exercises.

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