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With a proper dumbbell back workout, it’s easy to build a well-defined and strong back using just a pair of dumbbells.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the best dumbbell back exercises and provide tips on how to perform them safely and effectively.
Proper positioning and form are crucial when it comes to dumbbell back exercises. Incorrect form can lead to injury and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.
Recommended Reading – 5 Best Exercises For Thoracic Spine Mobility & Back Pain
So, if you’re new to strength training, it’s a good idea to get some advice from a personal trainer before you start.
The Best Dumbbell Back Workout Exercises
When you use a set of dumbbells to target the muscles of your back this allows for a more natural and, in many cases, a larger range of motion so that you can really work those muscles increasing back strength and building a more muscular back.
Dumbbells are also incredibly versatile, meaning you can perform a wide range of exercises including compound movements and unilateral exercises.
When performing compound exercises, you’ll be working some of your major muscle groups and not just your back, giving you an all over body workout.
Below are some of the best dumbbell exercises that will form a great workout for your back training.
Dumbbell Bent-Over Row
The dumbbell bent-over row is a row variation of the more traditional barbell row.
It’s one of the best exercises for targeting your erector spinae along with your upper back muscles including your latissimus dorsi (lats), rhomboids, trapezius.
Secondary muscles being activated are the posterior deltoids and biceps.
This exercise will also help to build your core muscles which activate to help stabilize you and keep your spine straight.
How To Do The Dumbbell Bent Over Row:
- Stand upright with your feet around shoulder-width apart and keep a slight bend to your knees.
- Take hold of a dumbbell in each hand so that your palms face inwards. This is a neutral grip.
- Hinge at your hips, pushing your glutes back and lower your upper body until it’s just above being parallel to the floor.
- Keep your chest up with your chin tucked in and shoulder blades back.
- Row the dumbbells up and towards your rib cage and be sure to keep your wrist under your elbows and maintain a flat back throughout.
- Perform 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
Dumbbell Good Mornings
The good morning is a great exercise for increasing muscle strength to your posterior chain.
This includes your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles.
When performed often, this exercise offers great carry over to compound exercises such as the squat and deadlift.
How To Perform A Dumbbell Good Morning:
- Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart and a slight bend to your knees. This is your start position.
- Take a dumbbell in each hand and hold them so they rest on your shoulders.
- From here, hinge forwards and push your hips back. Maintain a neutral spine throughout.
- Go as low as is comfortable, ideally until you’re around parallel to the floor.
- You should feel your hamstrings, glutes and lower back muscles engage.
- Pause briefly before returning to the starting position.
- Complete 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions.
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
Whilst the Romanian deadlift is typically associated with building hamstring strength, it’s also a great way of strengthening your low back muscles making it a worthwhile addition for your back workout routine.
When performing a dumbbell deadlift, it’s important to keep an arch in your lower back and not round it by hunching forwards.
This will ensure you perform the exercise with proper form and lessen the chance for injury.
How To Do The Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift:
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hold your dumbbells just out in front of you with your palms facing you.
- Keep your chest up, shoulder blades back and your lower back arched.
- Now push your glutes back and hinge forwards lowering the dumbbells down towards the ground. Face forwards at all times.
- Keep your arms relaxed throughout, you want your hamstrings and back muscles to do all the work.
- Go as low as you can then hold for a second or two.
- Push your hips forwards to move back to the start.
- Aim to perform 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Dumbbell Renegade Rows
The dumbbell renegade row is a challenging and effective full-body exercise that combines elements of a regular push-up and a rowing movement.
This exercise primarily targets the muscles of the upper body, including the back, shoulders, and core. It’s also great for improving stability, coordination, and overall upper body strength.
If you want to make it a little easier you can rest on your knees instead of your toes to begin with.
How To Do The Dumbbell Renegade Row:
- Start by getting into a high plank position but holding a pair of dumbbells which are resting on the ground.
- Your hands should be in a neutral position so that your palms face inwards and your feet just beyond shoulder width apart.
- Make sure your hands are directly beneath your shoulders and your body forms a straight line from your neck to your heels.
- Pull one dumbbell up towards your armpit without letting your hips rotate or your elbows flare out.
- Lower back down and then repeat with the other arm.
- Complete 3 sets of 5 to 6 reps per side.
Dumbbell Seal Row
The seal row, sometimes called the dumbbell prone row, is great for adding thickness to your upper back.
As your upper body is fully supported throughout the exercise this reduces any chance of ‘cheating’ by using other muscles making sure that your back muscles are effectively isolated.
Seal rows should be performed on an elevated surface such as an incline bench to ensure you have full range of motion.
You can also perform the exercise on a flat bench, but you may need to raise it by placing a couple of weight plates under each end.
How To Do The Dumbbell Seal Row:
- Set the back rest of your incline bench to around 45 degrees.
- Position yourself so that your chest is supported by the back rest and set your feet back slightly so you can rest on the balls of your feet.
- Take a dumbbell in each hand using a neutral grip (palms face inwards).
- Initiate the movement by pulling both dumbbells up and towards your hips.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades at the top of the movement then lower back to the start.
- Perform 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
The dumbbell shrug is a very simple exercise that is completed using a small range of motion.
It specifically activates your upper traps located at the top of your back and neck.
Building strength to your traps can help to elevate and stabilize your shoulders blades helping to improve poor posture and reduce low back pain.
How To Do The Dumbbell Shrug:
- Stand with your feet hip width apart whilst holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Keep your arms and shoulders relaxed with the dumbbells down by your sides.
- Begin to raise your shoulders up towards your ears, this should be the only movement.
- Go as high as possible, squeezing at the top before slowly lowering back to the start.
- Complete 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.
Dumbbell Reverse Fly
The dumbbell reverse fly, also known as the bent-over dumbbell reverse fly, is an exercise that targets the muscles of the upper back, particularly the rear deltoids, rhomboids, and trapezius.
It’s an effective way to strengthen the muscles responsible for maintaining good posture and balance in the shoulders.
How To Do The Dumbbell Reverse Fly:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Hinge forward at your hips and push your glutes back so that your upper body lowers towards the floor. Your torso should be roughly parallel to the ground.
- Hold the dumbbells just in front of you with a slight bend to your elbows.
- Bring your arms straight out to the sides keeping your arms fixed into position as you move.
- At the top of the exercise your elbows should be in line with your shoulders.
- Lower back to the start and repeat for 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
The single arm dumbbell row is a unilateral exercise meaning that you’ll work one side of your body at a time.
This makes it a good option for addressing any muscle imbalances.
This movement will primarily target your lats, rhomboids, traps and rear delts improving strength and muscle growth.
How To Do The Single-Arm Dumbbell Row:
- Start off by standing side on to a flat bench (or similar).
- Place your left hand and left knee on the bench to provide support.
- Take hold of a dumbbell in your right hand using a neutral grip.
- Keep your back flat and your right arm fully extended with a slight bend to your elbow.
- Pull the dumbbell up to your armpit trying to keep your back parallel to the floor.
- Hold at the top before returning to the start.
- Perform 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps on both sides.
What Are The 4 Key Benefits Of Strong Back Muscles?
Having strong back muscles offers many benefits that can positively impact your overall health, well-being, and functionality.
They extend beyond aesthetics and contribute to various aspects of daily life, physical performance, and overall quality of life.
Here are some key benefits of having strong back muscles:
Strong back muscles help to maintain proper spinal alignment, reducing the likelihood of rounding your shoulders and hunching forwards.
Good posture not only improves your appearance but also reduces the risk of musculoskeletal issues and common issues such as low back pain.
Reduced Risk of Injury
A strong back better stabilizes your spine and supports your body during daily activities that involve lifting, carrying, and bending.
This reduces the risk of back injuries and strains, especially when performing physical tasks or lifting heavy objects.
Better Spinal Health
Strong back muscles provide support for the vertebral column and intervertebral discs.
This contributes to overall spinal health and lowers the risk of conditions such as herniated discs and degenerative disc disease.
Improved Core Stability
Many back exercises, including those in the workout above, engage the core muscles as stabilizers.
A strong core improves stability and supports your spine during movements, contributing to better overall body control.
To strengthen your back muscles and increase muscle mass, consider incorporating the dumbbell back workout suggested above.
As with any exercise, be sure to perform all the movements slowly and with control.
This will ensure you do them correctly reducing your risk of injury.
As you become stronger, you’ll be able to progress by using heavier dumbbells or adding in some extra reps.