Global Bodyweight Training - Mike Fitch
Single-Arm Body Row is one of my favorite advanced progressions!
The Single-Arm Body Row is another great advanced bodyweight progression, this one being an excellent exercise for sculpting rock hard arms and a massive back. If you’ve been following our last few posts, you’ve probably noticed that we are focusing in particular on such advanced bodyweight progressions, and this one falls right in line with the others. Moving into single limb train is a great way to progress an exercise pattern, and the Single-Arm Body Row is perfect for this – not only is it more attainable than the Single-Arm Pull-Up, but it is also an incredibly challenging exercise.

Three Progressions to the Single-Arm Body Row

In this video we are demonstrating three different progressions, beginning with the basic Double-Arm Body Row, moving on to the Single-Arm Negative Row, and ending with the Single-Arm Row. Notice how this progression slowly increases the amount of bodyweight being placed on the single limb:

Global Bodyweight Training - Mike Fitch
The Two-Arm Row distributes weight evenly between both arms
Global Bodyweight Training - Mike Fitch
The Negative Row uses the single arm only on the way down
Global Bodyweight Training - Mike Fitch
Single-Arm Row uses a single limb for the entire movement

This is a killer full body exercise. Not only is the extensor chain fully activated in the two arm row, but once you release the single arm you’ve created a rotational load through the body that challenges your trunk in many ways. If we break it down anatomically, you’ll see just how many muscles have to coordinate to make this move possible. Let’s start with the Two-Arm Row:

Muscles in the Two-Arm Body Row:

Global Bodyweight Training - Mike Fitch
Double-Arm Row develops arm, back, and trunk muscles at the same time!
Just by setting up in the starting bridge, the hamstrings are active by assisting the glutes in hip extension (or the bridge). The quads are activated in order to keep the knees from over-flexing. The lower erectors are maintaining the spinal position, while the rest of the trunk muscles are stabilizing and fighting against any unwanted movement (like rotation or lateral swaying). The muscles of the neck, like the SCM and supra and infrahyoid muscles are holding the head up. The thoracic extensors are extending the upper spine, while the rhomboids and mid traps are retracting the scapula. The rotator cuff is holding the head of the humerus in place, while the finger flexors are gripping the bar. And these are just some of the muscles working to start the exercise.

The dynamic prime movers encompass an equally wide range: With the elbow flexors, we’ve got the biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis; at the shoulder joint we’ve got the powerful latissimus dorsi, teres major, rear deltoids, rhomboids and trapezius. From this perspective, I think the challenge is finding muscles that aren’t working rather than those that are. This is one of the beauties of bodyweight training.

Muscles in the Single-Arm Body Row:

Global Bodyweight Training - Mike Fitch
Progressing to the single arm challenges even more muscles
Progressing to the Single-Arm Row changes the entire dynamic of the exercise. In addition to everything we have going on with the Two-Arm Row, we now have to work even harder to counterbalance the rotation that gravity wants to pull on the system. You don’t need to be an anatomy expert to see how great this exercise is for challenging a lot of muscles!

Check out the video below to see how you can progress from the Double-Arm to the Single-Arm. Remember, form is everything so make sure you are mastering each step before moving on! Now go have fun with it.

Also check out these related posts and videos:

Published by Mike Fitch

Mike is the founder of Global Bodyweight Training. He has more than 12 years as a fitness professional encompassing a wide range of disciplines which he draws upon to create the GBT system.

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  1. I tried the two arm version of this exercise using rotating handles attached to the bar. what is your opinion of this? Also I was considering using a square stool to raise my feet up level with my body; any thoughts on this variation?

    1. Hey Joseph, rotating the grip is a different variation of the movement. It doesn’t change the mechanics of the movement at the shoulder joint much, but it will change the emphasis on the elbow flexors (biceps brachii, brachialis,etc.). It’s another tool in your tool box. One piece of advice however, is if you are training to do the single arm body row then you may want to pick a grip (over, under, neutral or rotating) and stick with it until you’ve mastered the movement. Later you can switch the grips for added variation.
      Elevating the feet is considered a progression so definitely use that position for the two arm body row. However, use the bent knee version for learning the single arm. The single arm/feet elevated is a very advanced movement which you can definitely train towards. Good luck!

  2. This is one of my favorite progressions! It’s also one of the only pulling moves where I feel it in my back the next day, thanks for posting this so I have a more systematic way of progressing them.

    1. Hey Matt, glad you enjoyed the video. i’m a huge fan of this exercise as well. Feel free to post a video of you performing the Single Arm Body Row on our FB page. Thanks bud

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