The best 10 Dumbbell Back Exercises for Building Mass

Are you looking for ways to build your back muscles effectively that doesn’t require too much equipment and is relatively simple? Well look no further! We’ve compiled the 10 best ways to do that along with a workout that only requires one thing – a dumbbell!

One of the best training tools that you can purchase is the dumbbell simply because of its versatility alone. They’re great for any type of training, whether you’re trying to increase your strength, your endurance, or even your muscle size. Dumbbell weights are frequently used in circuit training or high-interval training too. Another advantage they have is that they don’t use up a lot of space, both storage wise and when you’re working out with them.

Advantages of using dumbbells

Here are some of the pros of using dumbbells when training:

  • Increase of range of motion, as well as joint stability
  • Improvements in your coordination and balance
  • Super easy to store
  • Versatile- can be used in pairs or individually
  • Can improve and fix the left to right strength imbalance
  • And it’s more joint-friendly than barbells are.

Below we have the 10 best dumbbell back exercises detailed waiting for you to implement them in your workout! But first, a little info about the anatomy of the back.

Back Anatomy

back anatomy

The back is a really complex area comprised of several different muscle types, and the primary muscles that make up your back are:

Latissimus dorsi – also known as the lats, is the largest muscle located on your back. It’s location is on the side of the torso, and the main functions of this muscle are the adduction and extension of the shoulder joint. It is that particular muscle that’s responsible for the width and V- shape of your back when it’s well developed.

Rhomboids and mid-traps -these two muscle groups are located between and across your scapulae or better known as shoulder blades. They’re the ones that give your upper back its thickness while also having an important role in your posture and shoulder stability.

Upper trapezius – also more commonly known as the upper traps. They are muscles that are crucial in many upper back exercises. They’re responsible for the elevation of your shoulder girdle. The best way to train your upper traps is through shrugging types of movements.

Posterior deltoids – your rear deltoids will most definitely get developed if you exercise your back. That is a good thing because for a lot of lifters, those muscles are very underdeveloped and would benefit from a little extra exercise.

Erector Spinae – this is the combined name for the group of muscles that are meant to stabilize and extend your spine. You can most definitely use dumbbells to hit this specific area on your lower back, although they are often used indirectly, such as when you lean forward to do bent over rows.

The best dumbbell back exercises

Moving on to the exercise part. Here are 10 of some of the best dumbbell only exercises for the upper, middle, and lower back!


1. Two arm dumbbell bent-over row


Starting off with bent over dumbbells row, two handed rows are usually done with a barbell. Although that exercise does work, the con here is that you can only pull the bar back until it touches your body.

While using dumbbells to do this exercise on the other hand you can row with a larger range of motion, which will increase muscle activation. All the while using dumbbells ensures that you work both arms equally.


2. Dumbbell row

A classic back builder exercise, single arm dumbbell rows use only one weight for the move. While using one arm to support your upper body, you are free to focus on working  on your back in relative comfort and safety!


3. Dumbbell Pendlay row

Named after the powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay, Pendlay rows are also known as dead-stop rows. While doing this dumbbell back exercise, you rest the weight on the floor between reps which gives your grip and lower back a short rest.

That added rest should allow you to lift heavier weights or do more reps than just some regular bent over rows. Note: you can also do Pendlay rows using two dumbbells instead of one or working one arm at the time equally.


4. Dumbbell shrug


To work on your upper traps, dumbbell shrugs are the best way to go! Although most people train their traps with their shoulders, they are actually more of a back muscle than anything. Shrugs can be done with a barbell of course, but dumbbells can be just as effective if not more than that.

While doing shrugs, there is no need to roll your shoulders, just focus on moving them up and down. The negative effect of rolling your shoulders is that it increases the joint’s damage over time, and it doesn’t make the exercise any more effective.


5. Dumbbell renegade row

This may quite be an unusual exercise for people, but it works your biceps, core and back all at the same time! Plus the fact that you only need one dumbbell and a strong chair, bench or step to lean on so it’s an amazing exercise you can do in the comfort of your home!

Start with a dumbbell in one hand and place the other on your bench. Afterwards walk your feet put and back until your legs and body are straight, then let the dumbbell weight hang straight down. Bracing your abs, pull your shoulders down and back.

Now without twisting your hips or your shoulders, pull the dumbbell up and into your ribs. Lead with your elbows while keeping your upper arm close to your side. Extend your arm and repeat, and when you finish do the same amount of reps on the other side.

If you throw in a push up between rows you can turn it into a back and chest exercise as well!


6. Dumbbell farmer’s walk

Although the farmer’s walk is mostly regarded by people as a core or conditioning exercise, or even for increasing grip strength, it’s good for so much more! It also provides your traps with an amazing workout. Being a simple move, you only need to grab some heavy dumbbell weights and go for a walk, and sometimes simple is the best way to go.


7. Dumbbell Romanian deadlift

While most people do Romanian deadlifts to work out their hamstrings or glutes, this move is equally great for lower back exercise as well. It’s possible to do with a barbell, but then again, it’s recommended to opt that out for dumbbells for increased comfort.

You begin by holding dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs, all the while your palms should be facing your legs. Then bend your knees slightly and, without rounding your lower back at all, push your hops backwards and lean forwards. Lower the weights as far down the front of your legs as possible and stand back up and repeat the move. It’s important to note that you must not lean back at the top.


8. Dumbbell reverse flye

These types of exercises are great for getting better posture. It works out your posterior deltoids, middle traps, rhomboids, and it can help pull your shoulders back and undo some of the damage that hunching over your computer or laptop all day does. It is good for your general shoulder health as well.


9. Dumbbell chest supported row

By now you’ve noticed that most dumbbell rowing exercises place a lot of pressure on the lower back area. That in some cases can be a good thing as it will help strengthen this very important area. Although if your lower back is tired or sore, you may like and opt for a more lower back friendly exercise.

As it was said before, chest supported dumbbell rows take your lower back out of your workout, that leaves you free to work and target your upper back area and biceps.

Start out by setting an exercise bench to around 30 to 45 degrees. Now with a dumbbell in each hand, lie face down on the bench with your head uppermost, letting your arms hand down from your shoulders with your palms turned inward. Continue by bending your arms and pull the weights up to the side of your ribs and pull your shoulders back. Extend your arms and repeat.

An example workout that incorporates dumbbell back exercises

If you are unsure on where to begin doing these back exercises at home or you need a dumbbell workout for your back the next time you go back to the gym you can follow the one listed below!

  • Dumbbell deadlift 3 x 8
  • Dumbbell chest supported row 3 x 10-12
  • Dumbbell pendlay rows 3 x 10-12
  • Dumbbell shrughs 3 x 12

Do this training regime 1 to 2 times a week, and if you do it twice make sure to allow yourself a few days in between for recovery and muscle growth, since it’s a pretty intense workout. Always warm up before you begin any type of workout not just this one. A great and thorough workout will reduce the risk of injury and increase the effectiveness of any workout!

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