The single-arm bent-over row is recommended for anyone with a weak back or for those who are just starting to strengthen the back. If you have never performed a bent-over row, I recommend that you start with the single-arm bent-over row.
The single-arm bent-over row performed with a dumbbell strengthens the entire back by targeting the erector spinae, or back extensor muscles. The back extensors run along the entire length of the spine, from the base of the skull to the base of the spine in the pelvis. These muscles are responsible for holding the back upright and strong.
Bonus: The exercise also helps strengthen the deltoids at the shoulder, the trapezius and the rhomboids in the middle of the upper back, the abdominals, the gluteals in the buttocks and the hamstrings, which run down the backs of the upper thighs. This exercise will help keep your back pain-free and will reduce the risk of back injury. Recreational activities, such as golfing, fishing or bowling, and daily tasks, such as gardening, cleaning and picking up heavy bags or suitcases, require a strong back.
Dumbbells are available at most fitness equipment stores. They come in a variety of sizes and materials (neoprene are best – they're easy to clean and easy to grip). Buy a range of sizes so you can progress as you become stronger. If you don't have dumbbells, try a soup can, a book or a bag filled with sand.
Single-Arm Bent-Over Row
1. Hold a 3- to 10-pound (1.5 to 5 kilogram) dumbbell in your left hand. Place your right foot in front of your left, keeping your feet hip-distance apart to ensure a stable base. Keeping both knees bent, lean forward from the hip, supporting your right hand on the top of your right thigh and keeping your elbow bent.
2. Pull your shoulders back, pull in your abdominals and lean on the front thigh as little as possible. Align your shoulders and hips and keep them facing forward to minimize any twisting in the spine.
3. Lower your left hand down toward the floor until your arm is straight. Inhale as you lower the weight in a slow, controlled movement.
4. Exhale as you pull the elbow back and draw the dumbbell up toward the back of the hip. Pause. Inhale and slowly lower the weight to the starting position.
Repetitions and Sets
Repeat the exercise eight times, then stand up. Switch sides; repeat the exercise with the dumbbell in the right hand and left arm resting on the left thigh. Perform two or three sets on each side. As you become stronger, increase to 15 repetitions in each set or increase the weight instead and keep the repetitions the same. Increasing both the weight and the repetitions will give you the best results. If you can, progress to an unsupported bent-over row with a weighted bar after four weeks of doing this exercise three times per week.
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