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One armed dumbell rows are one of the most commonly performed exercises in the gym. Given their minimal equipment requirement of just a single dumbbell and an optional bench, they are actually a great exercise for home workouts too since you can do them with your hand supported on a piece of furniture. The problem is, the one armed dumbbell row is also one of the most abused and misperformed exercises which can quickly ruin your back up and down your spine if you don’t fix how you’re doing them. In this video, I’m going to show you how to perform a dumbbell row safely so you can build your muscles without wrecking your back.
The problem with the one armed row starts with the position of your feet during the exercise. If you let your feet get too close to your arm planted on the bench you will be forced to row too high which will take the focus of the exercise away from your lats. Instead, you will build up your upper back with the dumbbell row far more than your lats and lose out on the benefits of the exercise for building a bigger wider back.
To fix this, take a step back with your foot that stays on the ground and slide the knee that is on the bench further back on it. Then, reach forward more with your hand that is supported by the bench. Not only will this help you to put the lat more on stretch and get it involved in the movement more but it will help you to start fixing the second and much more serious problem we commonly see and that is the bad positioning of the thoracic spine.
When you row, either with a dumbbell or standing with a barbell for that matter, you must be able to stick your chest out and get into thoracic extension. If you cannot, then by virtue of the fact that your spine is one continuous unit, will find that your lumbar spine has a harder time getting into the proper position which can leave you at risk for a lower back strain.
The two tips you want to visualize to ensure that you can get your back into the right alignment to perform the row is first you want to raise your butt up towards the ceiling. The second is that you want to stick your chest out as far as you can. If you can do both of these then you will not only get more from the exercise but you will be doing it as it was intended. If you cannot get into this position not all hope is lost. You can actually do the mobility drill I show you here as well as foam roll the thoracic spine prior to your back workout.
The one armed row is not a bad exercise. It just happens to be one of the most common exercises that is performed in the wrong way quite often. If you are knowingly doing this wrong then it will be easy for you to fix this after just watching the correct form. If you are struggling to do it right I would advise you to use the mobility techniques a few times to allow your mobility to improve enough to do the exercise more safely.
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