Fitness tip - One-and-a-half dumbbell row

Fitness tip - One-and-a-half dumbbell row

by Evigan Xiao 28 Jan 2020

Everyone has their own “stubborn body part” story to tell. For some, its their calves. Others, their shoulders or even forearms. There are even those who plain fall under “stubborn body”, aka. hard-gainers. When it comes to lagging muscles, one of the best remedies comes in the form of additional time under tension. While most will tend to interpret this principle as simply meaning “more reps”, there is another approach that can be considered as well.


One-and-a-half repetitions have something of a mixed reputation within the strength and conditioning community. On one hand, they’re incredibly effective for building muscle, strength, and refining technique. However, they can be demanding and even brutal to perform correctly.


Most seasoned lifters will be familiar with one-and-a-half back squats and its ability to build a lower body that looks just as well as it performs. Then again, why should only the legs get to have all the fun?

Location and equipment courtesy of TripleFit


One-and-a-half dumbbell rows are very similar to their squat cousins in term of execution. The “one” comes from a full concentric repetition, followed by the “half” repetition that is performed halfway into the eccentric phase. While rowing with dumbbells is a good deal simpler than doing so with a barbell, proper technique still matters. This means making sure that your shoulder blades are retracted and depressed. Another crucial tip is that you initiate the pull by driving with your elbows instead of your hands to avoid turning it into a complete bicep exercise.


The advantage of performing dumbbell rows with this setup is that you are able to accumulate a higher training volume without interference from synergist muscle groups. With the barbell row, higher repetitions at an above-moderate load are often untenable due to the lower back fatiguing earlier than the lats, making it difficult to maintain a safe rowing position. Dumbbell rows allow you the opportunity to completely exhaust your lats without wrecking your lower back.


Increased metabolic stress and micro-tears in the muscle are the hallmarks of training with one-and-a-half repetitions, so be prepared to deal with a tender back the first few times you tangle with this dumbbell row variation. However, adapting to it will see you emerging with stronger and more resilient back and even forearms. Sounds like a pretty good deal in my opinion!