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The single arm db row is an excellent exercise for building back thickness and strength. Unfortunately, it’s also an exercise that can be easy to injure yourself on if you’re not careful. Below are a couple tips on getting more out of the single arm db row as well as making sure you stay healthy and injury-free.
The biggest detractor to the dumbbell arm db row is that it’s really entirely too easy to use too much weight and cheat. When using proper form, your torso should remain absolutely stationary and only your arm should move. This is crucial to lower back and overall spine health.
Too many times, trainees will grab a dumbbell that’s too heavy, and heave the weight up by twisting the torso. The shoulders should remain in line with each other and horizontal throughout the entire range of motion. If when pulling with the left side, your left shoulder dips below your right shoulder at the bottom of the movement, then ends up higher than it at the top, you’re twisting your torso instead of pulling with your lats and rhomboids.
This is dangerous for the lower back, and injuries can be a frequent occurrence. While keeping perfect form may be a blow to the ego as you can’t lift as much weight as you could if you were heaving a huge dumbbell, it’s going to be much safer in the long run.
Although seen less often, another issue that can arise with the single arm db row is straining the shoulder. If the weight is too heavy, not only will you want to twist to heave the weight up, but you’ll often shrug the shoulder back, too.
By not keeping the shoulder locked in the socket, you allow the rotator cuff to be put in a vulnerable position from all the drastic and chaotic movement. At the same time, heaving too hard could result in a strained deltoid. This would be especially true if you can’t control the weight on the way down, and rear delt has to strain too hard to try to keep the shoulder in place.
You’ve no doubt seen lifters doing a single arm db row without placing both their opposite hand and knee on a bench. Maybe they braced themselves with only their hand on the bench. Similarly, you may have seen trainees brace themselves by putting their hand on a dumbbell rack or piece of equipment. Others will even just support themselves by putting their opposite forearm across their knee, using nothing external for support.
These are all viable options, but should be avoided if you’re a beginner. This is because you won’t yet have proper technique perfected, and could be much less stable. As a result, the aforementioned heaving and twisting could end up occurring. You can try one of these unsupported single arm db row as you gain experience, but even then, they’re not necessary.
This is because in the end, sticking with the basics will always be your best bet. Bracing yourself on a bench while using manageable weight will give you the best possible chance to maximize your single arm db row form. Doing this will build more muscle, get you stronger, and minimize risk of injuring your lower back, too.