Some of the biggest and strongest muscles in our bodies are in our back. And since that’s the case, who doesn’t love back day? On the other end of the spectrum are people who neglect their back muscles during strength training since, well, they’re in the back of the body. These muscles include the latissimus dorsi, sometimes known as the “lats,” rhomboids, and lower trapezius.
It’s a common misunderstanding that you need a variety of tools, including power racks, to perform an efficient back workout.
Gym goers pay a lot of attention to barbells, rowing machines, and cable machines because they are excellent tools for developing a strong and muscular back. What about dumbbells, though? In the pursuit of the V taper look, dumbbell back exercises frequently go unnoticed and unforgotten. It could very well prove to be a great loss because if you’re not exercising your back with dumbbells, you are missing out on the following benefits
The Benefits of Dumbbell Back Exercises
a wide range of training factors, including grip placement and body orientation, which is fantastic for developing your back and preventing potential joint overuse problems.
- Greater variety of exercises
- Fixing imbalance in strength
- Increased range of motion
- Grip strength
- Terrific for rows
- Better posture is established
- Allows for weight progression
- Easier to use than other tools
You may exercise the vital muscle groups that guard your shoulder blades and improve your posture while developing the back strength you’ll eventually need to master chin-ups and pullups using a pair of dumbbells.
This is partly because using dumbbells allows you to perform the row, which is possibly one of the most important back workouts there is. As you read this, consider your posture: Your shoulders are probably forward, and your back muscles are probably relaxed. Every rep of a row, which is a “horizontal” pulling exercise, will cause your shoulders to pull back toward your back, allowing you to concentrate on shoulder blade compression. In a few weeks, it’ll improve your posture and make you more resistant to shoulder injuries.
All of that is accomplished by including dumbbell back exercises in your routines, which also aids in developing the strength and back muscle you need to add thickness between your shoulder blades and throughout your upper back. This is especially true if you start engaging in back workouts using heavier dumbbells, like farmer’s carries, strong dumbbell rows, and inclination rows.
Additionally, some exercisers may find it easier to use dumbbells than other gym equipment, such as barbells or exercise machines; many people are much more likely to have access to a set of dumbbells than expensive plates and machines that call for gym memberships.
Important information: While studies suggest that strengthening these muscles—especially the lower back muscles that make up your core—can help prevent back pain, completing back exercises if you already have back pain may make it worse. If so, you might want to discuss which movements are ideal for you and which aren’t with your physician or physical therapist.
Anatomy Of The back
Since back muscles are hidden, they are frequently forgotten (particularly for beginners). However, they are crucial for shoulder performance, posture, and health.
You can better appreciate the value of strengthening your back muscles if you are aware of their function.
The primary back muscles and movements are listed below.
Latissimus Dorsi: The largest muscle in your back is called the latissimus dorsi, or simply “the lats”, it almost completely covers all back muscles, with the exception of the traps. From the scapula and the spinous processes of the thoracic spine, they extend all the way to the lumbar spine. The spine, ribs, scapula, and pelvis are among the five sites where the lats are supposed to join after inserting into the humerus.
Its primary functions are adduction and extension of the shoulder joint, horizontal abduction and adduction, and internal rotation of the shoulder. Your lats, when strong and developed, are what give your back its width and V-shaped taper.
Erector spinae – The collection of muscles that support and stretch your spine is known as the erector spinae. The Spinalis, Longissimus, and Iliocostalis are the three muscles that make up the erector spinae, which run parallel to the spinal column from the lower back to the neck. Dumbbells can be utilized to target the lower back particularly, but they are frequently employed in an indirect manner, such as when you lean forward to perform bent-over rows.
Their most important function is to keep the spine neutral under strain (anti-flexion and anti-lateral flexion – spinal stability). They also assist with the spine’s lateral flexion and extension as well as head movements.
Rhomboids: The rhomboids start at the neck vertebra, run diagonally down the back, and attach to the inside of the shoulder blades. Their main movements are scapula adduction (coming together), scapula elevation (overhead presses), and scapula inward rotation (when you bring your arm back to your torso).
Trapezius: The upper, middle and lower traps are all parts of the same muscle called the trapezius. It is a big, flat, triangular muscle that comes from the neck and all 12 thoracic vertebrae. Their main movements are adduction, elevation, depression, and rotation outward of the shoulder blade.
The Top 10 Best Dumbbell Back Exercises and Workouts
1. Dumbbell bent-over row
The bent-over row with dumbbells is a lot like the bent-over row with a barbell. This can be done with any grip, and we recommend doing all of them.
We chose an overhand grip here, though, because of the other exercises below. Your upper back, shoulders, biceps, and grip will all be worked by an overhand grip db bent over row.
Because you are in the hinge position, this row variation improves lower back endurance through isometric contraction. Because you hold the hip hinge under load for a long time, it’s a great add-on exercise for getting better at the deadlift.
How to do the Bent Over Dumbbell Row with dumbbells:
- Hinge at the hips while holding a dumbbell in each hand until the weights are below your knees.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together while keeping your chest up and shoulders back as you row the dumbbells to the front of your hips.
- Throughout the exercise, you should maintain an elbow angle of around 45 degrees away from the torso.
- After pausing briefly at the highest position, slowly descend the dumbbells to the ground, reset, and then repeat.
2. Incline row or Batwing row
The incline row or batwing row, one of the most rigorous row variations, comes in right behind the dumbbell row in terms of difficulty. It’s simple to let your torso rock back and forth while performing normal dumbbell rows, creating momentum rather than lifting the weights with only your muscles. As you secure your chest to the pad, the incline bench aids to eliminate that. The modest angle of pull that is changed by the incline bench will also help you focus more on your lower lats. Start with three sets of 8–12 repetitions.
How to do the dumbbell Batwing row/ incline row:
- Lay face down on the weight bench with your legs straight and your chest on the bench. A bench position with an angle is another option.
- Pull the dumbbells to the outside of the bench while keeping your shoulders back and using a neutral grip on the dumbbells.
- Your body is permanently fixed to the bench.
- After a brief pause, slowly lower yourself, rest and then repeat.
3. Unilateral Dead stop Row
Compared to other single-arm dumbbell row variations, the deadstop row has a few advantages. The first benefit of contacting the floor is the expanded range of motion. Additionally, the stretch reflex is lost during the floor pause, making it more difficult to row up. The deadstop row is better than other single-arm row variations for balancing out strength differences between the sides, adding extra core work, and allowing you to lift more weight.
How to do dumbbell Unilateral Deadstop Row
- With a dumbbell in front of your feet, face a horizontal weight bench.
- Place one hand on the bench and assume a nice hinge position so that the stress is felt in your hamstrings rather than your low back.
- Holding the dumbbell in your hand, row toward your hip while keeping your chest high and shoulders back.
- Take a little pause, then slowly lower it till it touches the floor. Reset, pause, then repeat.
4. Dumbbell Seal Row
A rowing variation known as the dumbbell seal row has you lying face down on a raised weight bench. You hold two dumbbells in each hand, keeping them off the ground, much like the barbell variation. As a result, your upper back rather than your biceps are doing the majority of the hard lifting in this position. Some lifters overdo it when doing rows, using more biceps and less upper back, neglecting the rhomboids and middle traps. Both problems are fixed by the dumbbell seal row.
How to do the dumbbell Seal Row
- Setting up the seal row on a bench is essential to allowing you to fully stretch your arms without the dumbbells contacting the floor.
- To do this, support a bench on a stack of weight plates, two low boxes, or both.
- Then, clench your glutes and brace your core while lying face down on the bench with dumbbells on either side of you.
- As you row the dumbbells up until you feel your upper back contract, visualize pushing your hands towards your hips.
- Repeat the process by lowering yourself until your arms are straight.
5. Single-Arm Row with a Dumbbell
One of the most commonly performed back workouts you will see at gyms. It’s both beginner-friendly and can be progressed keeping advanced needs in mind
How to do single-arm dumbbell row
- Stand with your feet about hip-width apart and your right arm at your side, holding a moderately heavy dumbbell in your right hand. Move your left foot about two feet forward and put your left hand on your left quad or a stable platform. This is the starting position.
- With your core engaged, bend forward at the hips, push your buttocks back, and bend your left knee. Be careful not to round your shoulders. (How far you can bend over will depend on how flexible your hips and hamstrings are.) Keep your neck in a comfortable position by looking a few inches in front of your feet.
- Pull the weight up toward your chest while keeping your elbows close to your body and squeezing your shoulder blades for two seconds at the top of the movement. As you bring the weight to your chest, your elbow should go past your back.
- Slowly lower the weight by reaching your arms toward the floor. That’s one repetition.
6. Dumbbell RDL Row
The RDL row is a total-body exercise that works both the lower and upper bodies. You will be more aware if your rowing form is incorrect because of the fewer points of contact. Additionally, you will be strengthening your glutes, hamstrings, and single-leg balance while in the single-leg hinge posture. Additionally, since you’ll be spending more time on your single leg RDL with this row variation, it will get better if you’re having difficulties with it.
How to do the dumbbell RDL Row
- Until you perfect your form, start with about 60% of your regular rowing weight.
- Take your left foot off the ground while standing in front of a weight bench, hinge back, and place your left hand on the bench.
- Row the dumbbell with your right hand while keeping your shoulders down until your upper back starts to tighten.
- Reset, then repeat while slowly straightening your right arm.
- Then proceed in the same manner on the opposite side.
7. Stability Bent Over Dumbell Rear Delt Raise Or Reverse Fly
The reverse fly is another name for the bent-over rear delt lift. This exercise is excellent for isolating the rhomboids and middle traps in addition to being used primarily to increase volume to the rear deltoid. But if you grip a squat rack or the top of an inclined bench in one hand, you’ll strengthen side imbalances and utilize more weight due to the improved stability. Your shoulders and upper back will benefit from this.
How to do the Stability Bent Over Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise:
- Holding a dumbbell in the opposing hand, stand sideways on a squat rack or another sturdy object.
- Holding the squat rack, bend at the hips while keeping your chest and shoulders high.
- Perform a rear delt raise with a slight bend in the working elbow until your upper back and shoulders tense up.
- Repeat from your starting position.
- On the other side, follow the same procedure.
8. Dumbbell Row To Hip
With one minor variation, the dumbbell row to hip is similar to all other rows. The challenge to target lower lats can be met by rowing to the outside of the hip. Instead of rowing up when you begin the workout, visualize pulling back into your back hip. With this modification, the range of motion will resemble an arc, effectively targeting the lower lats. By rowing in this manner, a common form fault in single arm rows—shrugging the upper traps—is avoided.
How to do the dumbbell row to hip:
- Holding a dumbbell in one hand while keeping the rear leg straight, support your non-working hand and knee on a bench.
- Bring the dumbbell forward of your working shoulder and row it to the outside of your hip while maintaining a strong grasp on the dumbbell (either an overhand, underhand, or neutral grip is fine). The main distinction is that you are rowing low, near your hips rather than your midsection.
- Throughout the entire workout, keep your shoulders down and your chest high.
- Take a brief pause before carefully lowering yourself to the starting position.
- On the opposite side, repeat the sequence.
9. Dumbbell Renegade Row
This technique targets the back, shoulders, triceps, and biceps all at once, and it’s deceptively straightforward.
How to do dumbbell renegade row:
- With your hands on dumbbells that are placed shoulder-width apart, begin in the top pushup position.
- While balancing on the opposite hand and foot, row one dumbbell toward the side of your body.
- At the peak, pause for one second before carefully lowering the weight to the starting position.
- Repeat the sequence on the opposite side.
10. Dumbbell Pullovers
Dumbbell pullovers strengthen your lats and chest. As a result, they are a useful supplement to your upper body strength program. When you initially try the workout, it’s recommended to start with less weight and gradually add more resistance as you get stronger.
How to do dumbbell pullovers
- Place a dumbbell in front of you as you lie on your side on a mat. Grab the weight with both hands, hold it to your chest, and lie flat on your back. Keep your feet about where your hips are.
- Grab each end of the dumbbell firmly with each hand. (If your dumbbell is bigger, it might feel safer to hold it vertically with both hands on one end, as shown.) Raise it right above your chest while keeping your arms straight.
- Bring the dumbbell slowly over your head and touch it gently to the floor.
- Bring the weight back to the starting position while contracting your core. That’s one repetition.
Because there are so many muscles and exercises that can be used in a good back workout, it can be done in a lot of different ways. With a little bit of knowledge about how to position the body, you can gain a lot of specific strength, muscle growth, or endurance, especially when you add dumbbells to the mix.
Dumbbell back workouts are the best way to avoid plateaus, fix muscle imbalances, and keep from getting bored because they can be tailored to your body and goals. When you go to the gym, grab a pair of dumbbells and go to town. Your back will thank you.
Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant.
He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves.
Rahul has a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.