The One-Arm Row You Can Actually Feel

by Gareth Sapstead

Better Mind-Muscle Connection, Bigger Back

Make the dumbbell row work even better. Increase the mind-muscle connection with this clever adjustment.

The dumbbell row is essential for building a strong back. But what if you just can't feel it, can't get that essential mind-muscle connection? Then you need to change your setup.

The Ipsilateral Dumbbell Row

Position your forward leg (where you’ll bear the brunt of your weight) on the same side as your working arm. This is what we mean by ipsilateral, rather than contralateral. By placing your weight mostly over that forward leg and using the opposite side elbow on an incline bench as support, you experience a different sensation compared to the traditional dumbbell row.

How does this increase the mind-muscle connection? Essentially, having the same leg forward as the working arm reduces the ability to generate momentum through the pelvis. This forces your back to work harder to execute the row, resulting in a more intense contraction and better engagement.

Also, the positioning of the forward leg and arm shortens the distance between the upper arm and the lower back/pelvis, leading to a more concentrated lat contraction. This shortened range of motion allows you to better isolate and engage the lats for more hypertrophy-stimulating sets.

In short, you'll feel it. By adjusting your positioning and focusing on proper form, you maximize the benefits of dumbbell rows. Try it!



Another awesome way to do this is to get rid of the bench for support and do what I call a “Free Row”. You can do this exercise strictly as depicted in the article or do it more dynamically by starting with the torso rotated inward by about 30° and doing the pull explosively and finishing with about 10° of external torso rotation. I find it helps to place the hand/arm not holding the weight out to the side to help act as a bit of a counterbalance. A bonus is that you’ll get better core involvement by not relying on a bench for stabilization.


I like that idea as a way to kick-in your core. Depends on the purpose, but I’d tend to do something like depicted in this article as more of a bodybuilding-focused exercise where the extra stability is a bonus. For core integration and with something like gen pop, though, I like your idea :slight_smile:

Something I feel is up for debate is whether super strict movements or hell-bent type of movements have more benefit for bodybuilding. Move less weight more precisely or move more weight less precisely. Both have their merits. So like most things, it’s rarely an A or B choice and more of an A+B+C type of thing. I don’t train as a body builder myself, but I’ve always been fond of strict warm-up and intermediate sets, followed by an all out set, and then finishing with more strict sets for maybe 4-6 total sets.

I like this short article and your approach to it, so keep them coming.

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That’s an excellent point, and I couldn’t agree more.

Thanks for the feedback as it helps both myself and the T-nation editorial staff deliver what you want more of :slight_smile:

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Psyched to try this. I think OARs are a foundational lat exercise, ipsilateral or contralateral like I’ve been doing them. We can, blah, blah, blah about pull down grips and widths. My experience has been you get more out of heavy OARs than other lat exercises.