I was an internet warrior once. You know the guy that comments on the YouTube message board, behind the glorious protection of their keyboard? Before I had the wherewithal to do a few minutes of research before I posted, or you know, not be a douche, I was that guy several times.
Several years later, I prefer to cue good exercise selection and technique, rather than lambasting exercise technique online. I referenced the misuse of “Kroc Rows“ in a post last week, and then proceeded to use them two workouts in a row. Pun intended.
While I enjoy using this single arm rowing variation, it’s not one that I program for my clients. The first single arm rowing progression that I typically use leaves less room for error:
This allows you to focus on proper posture and technique, rather than throwing around some heavy weights. If you do plan on doing dumbbell rows, it’s in your best interest to make it a deadstop variation, like this one from Tony Gentilcore, a Boston based Jedi Knight:
Tony’s variation is a great way to minimize the lawn-mower starting movement that’s often confused for a dumbbell row. As the load used becomes challenging, it typically becomes a bent over pseudo-shrug and back extension combo; certainly not the best for the spine. I’m a fan of a three point bent over row in this position:
Obviously, with an appreciable amount of weight. This variation can give you a little bit more stability and help you create a safer spinal pattern when you’re rowing. An added benefit to the pulling pattern is that there’s also an anti-rotation component to it, which helps you develop rotatory stability at the same time. It becomes more complex to coordinate, but it offers more bang-for-your-buck than other rowing variations. (Note: All unilateral variations include some level of anti-rotation requirement.)
If the load that you’re handling for the three point row becomes too much to maintain good form, move on to a different variation and reduce the load, providing that your goal is to slowly overload the new movement. Here is a bent over single arm row variation that you might progress to:
This variation requires you to sit back into a hip hinge pattern, maintain a tall chest position, and resist the pull of the dumbbell. You’d be surprised how taxing it can be on your abdominals; I’d suggest utilizing it either as a light rowing variation in your warm-up, or after using a heavier pulling variation, such as loaded chin-ups, earlier in the workout.
Each of these single arm dumbbell row variations are beneficial for pulling strength and overall back development. They vary in their technique demands so it’s best to progress through them at an appropriate place. Incorporate them into your workout and let me know which one you used, how they felt, and which training partners were doing them with you.