The dumbbell row is a popular exercise to grow the back muscles. It primarily targets the traps, rhomboids, teres major, and the lats.
Dumbbell row demo
Dr Mike Israetel, PhD in Sport Physiology and cofounder of Renaissance Periodization, breaks down the most common one-arm dumbbell row mistakes.
1 – No deep stretch
The first mistake is not stretching your scapula fully when you start and end the exercise. You want your scapula to really protract and retract so all the muscles around it get bigger, says Israetel.
Fix it: perform a deep stretch at the bottom and come all the way up at the top for every single rep.
2 – Not touching at the top
You need to standardise your range of motion by touching something at the top of the rep. If you don’t do this, it’ll become harder to determine when you’ve reached failure.
Fix it: touch anywhere around your chest with the dumbbell so you know you’ve completed a good rep.
3 – Rotating torso
Rotating your torso as you row your dumbbell up and down reduces the range of motion, making your dumbbell rows easier.
Fix it: keep your torso inline and don’t move your spine throughout the exercise.
4 – Uncontrolled descent
The eccentric phase of the dumbbell row, and other fitness exercises, is incredibly hypertrophic, so performing an uncontrolled descent is cheating yourself away from good training.
Fix it: remember that the exercise involves both bringing the dumbbell up and lowering it back down. Take about 2 seconds to take the weight down for each rep.
5 – Moving the whole body
Adding momentum to your dumbbell rows will only increase your risk of injury and decrease the benefits from performing the exercise.
Fit it: remember that your whole body, with exception of the working arm and back, should remain stable in one place throughout this exercise.
6 – Choosing the wrong weight
If you want to see the best results, choosing a dumbbell that’s too heavy can mean your form breaks down and choosing one that’s too light won’t be as effective.
Fix it: choose a weight that will allow you to perform between 10-15 reps per set. Five reps below or above this is still okay, but other exercises might be more effective anywhere outside of that.
7 – Letting grip limit you
One of the most common one-arm dumbbell row mistakes is letting grip be the limiting factor. Your body is in an incredibly strong and supported position during this exercise, allowing you to use a fair amount of weight. Don’t stop training before you have to because your grip has given up on you.
Fix it: get some chalk on your hands, use straps, or strengthen your grip.
8 – No variation
Varying your one-arm dumbbell rows will allow you to target different muscles, and you’ll need this based on your strengths and weaknesses.
Fix it: vary where the dumbbell hits your body at the top of the exercise or use a more upright position. In essence, vary things up!