When one thinks about unilateral training, it usually revolves around the idea of training the lower body, one side at a time. Split squats and single-leg hip thrusts are a staple in many athletes’ training regimen for good reason: they work! But the lower extremities aren’t the only parts of the body that benefit from unilateral training.
Single-arm rowing is hardly a new thing. Pop into any neighbourhood gym and chances are that you’ll find a fair number of people bent over a bench, slinging dumbbells back and forth. Even with atrocious form, there can be some benefits to finding the heaviest dumbbell in the gym and repping out to failure.
What if you’re looking for something else however? What if you’re looking for a way to bolster the muscles in your back, get a sick pump and build some grip strength – all the while not putting your shoulder at risk? Ditching the dumbbell for a kettlebell may just be the answer to that question.
Location and equipment courtesy of TripleFit
While the execution of the kettlebell row remains virtually the same as its dumbbell equivalent, the design of the implement does have a discernible effect on the exercise. The structure of the kettlebell makes for a more centred distribution of load, as opposed to a dumbbell which has two weighted ends. This allows for a more linear pull and a more uniform force vector, which allows you to concentrate more on engaging the target musculature instead of “fighting” the pull angle of the load.
There are some tips when it comes to making the kettlebell row more effective. Slightly raising your hip on the side you’re rowing on will allow you to stretch the lats at its origin point near the lower ribs, which will allow for a better sensation as you’re rowing. Done correctly, it will feel like you’re rotating your hip slightly. Also, starting each rep with the kettlebell at a dead-stop without touching the ground will produce greater gains in strength, as you’ll be removing momentum from the equation.
A small advantage that kettlebells have over dumbbells is their weight progression. While most dumbbells make jumps in load of 2.5kg, kettlebells go by 2kg increments. While the difference is minimal, the potential for a steadier rate of progression is there. The next time you find yourself in the middle of a dumbbell shortage on back day, give kettlebells a go and see how it works out for you!