There’s much room for hyperbole when it comes to strength training, but there are a few tired and true exercises that will never go out of style—most barbell exercises and the old dependable single-arm dumbbell row. Although chinups and barbell rows remain the gold standard for a beefy back, single-arm dumbbell rows have their benefits.

Benefits of Single-arm Dumbbell Rows

  • It allows for more freedom of movement and doesn’t lock your joints into a fixed range of motion.
  • Increased upper back strength.
  • Reduces strength imbalances between sides.
  • Improved grip strength and the ability to grip the dumbbell overhand, underhand, and with a neutral wrist.
  • Unilateral dumbbell rows strengthen your anti-rotation muscles, protecting the lower back.

Although you will always move more weight with the big bilateral barbell and chin-ups/pull-ups, dumbbell rows provide variety, changes of angles, and body positions to ensure better muscular development. I thought I’d performed and seen every dumbbell row in the universe until coming across this variation by Gareth Sapstead (MSc CSCS),

Here, the physique training specialist, Olympian coach, and Author of Ultimate Abs, shows you his new twist on the dumbbell row.

Reasons Why Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows are Great

Although many single-arm row benefits are listed above, Gareth’s English accent makes it sound much cooler. Please read below in your best English accent, but not out loud.

“ Single-arm dumbbell rows are a staple unilateral exercise that targets the back muscles, including the lats, rhomboids, and traps. This asymmetrical nature helps reduce any muscular imbalances that may have crept in, promoting better overall symmetry and strength.

The increased range of motion of the single-arm dumbbell row allows for a deeper stretch and contraction in the back muscles, fostering greater muscle activation and muscular development.” explains Sapstead.

Although Sapstead didn’t mention the biceps, core, and grip strength, dumbbell rows are a fantastic exercise for all three.

The Latest Single-Arm Dumbbell Row Variation: Ipsilateral Dumbbell Row

Let Sapstead explain what makes the Ispilateral dumbbell row different and is, in some ways, more effective than the traditional single-arm dumbbell row.

“Lifters can enhance their back engagement by placing the weight over the forward leg and using an incline bench for elbow support. This variation limits momentum through the pelvis, requiring the back muscles to work harder for a more intense contraction.

The close positioning of the forward leg and arm concentrates the contraction in the lats, promoting better muscle isolation and engagement for hypertrophy. This improved engagement establishes a stronger connection with the back muscles, fostering a more balanced and defined physique.” says Sapstead.

That sounds great, but how do you do it effectively? Don’t worry—Sapstead has your back on that, too.

Ipsilateral Dumbbell Row Form Tips

Here are five essential technique tips for the ipsilateral dumbbell row in the Sapstead style. And if his physique is anything to go by, you need to read and follow his form tips.

  1. Packing the shoulder: Pack your shoulder down and back before starting. This will help stabilize your shoulder joint and prevent excessive stress on the rotator cuff. As you row down, let your scapular “roll” around your ribcage to get a full stretch.
  2. Controlled eccentric: Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position with a controlled tempo. Avoid letting the weight drop quickly, as this can increase the risk of injury and limit the exercise’s effectiveness.
  3. Weight distribution: Your weight should be over the forward leg – the same side as the weight. You should feel a lot of support and stability down that side, while the non-working side leg should almost feel like you could lift your foot.
  4. Elbow mechanics: Focus on driving your elbow towards your hip during the rowing motion. This will help maximize the recruitment of the lats and reduce the involvement of the biceps.
  5. Mind-muscle connection: Throughout this exercise, maintain a solid mind-muscle connection with the target muscles. Visualize the lats and mid-back muscles contracting as you perform each repetition to ensure better muscle engagement and results.

Programming Suggestions

Sapstead suggests three to five sets of five to eight reps can work well for strength.  If your goal is more muscle, two to four sets of eight to 15 reps with a strong mind-muscle connection and controlled tempo work well.