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Back Exercises With Dumbbells

You won’t regret doing these 4 back exercises with dumbbells!

The back is an impressive collection of various muscles that come together to perform numerous functions like bending over, standing up straight, twisting and bending side to side. A committed and sensible approach to strengthening the back can improve the overall quality of life by making these every day functions easier and pain free.


Traditionally, the back is broken up into several major regions. When constructing a workout program for the back, individuals should include at least one exercise that will target each region. The first region is the trapezius muscles which consists of three areas the upper, middle and lower. The upper portion of the trapezius, also known as the “traps”, is located above the shoulders on each side of the neck. The middle and lower portions of the traps are typically grouped in with the middle back region, which also includes muscles like the rhomboids. The 3rd region of the back is the latissimus dorsi, or “lats” for short, which is located on the sides of the back underneath the arm pits. The 4th and final region of the back is the lower back, which features the erector spinae.


Dumbbells provide numerous advantages over other exercise equipment and are a great choice for using in a back workout.

  • They provide a more fluid and natural motion which is more reflective of every day life.
  • Can use to perform complete range of motion exercises.
  • They are easy to use unlike complicated machines and pulley systems.
  • Do not require complicated set ups like machines and cable systems.
  • Come in a wide range of weights from 2.5 pounds up through 150 pounds.
  • Can be used by exercisers of all fitness levels.
  • Generally less expensive than other equipment.
  • Requires non-primary muscles to participate in the exercise movement to stabilize and assist.
  • Can be used to mimic most movements in sports.
  • Can use one or both hands to perform exercises.


Dumbbell shrugs target the upper portion of the trapezius and can be performed by individuals of all fitness levels.

  • Stand with feet shoulder with apart.
  • Grab dumbbells with an overhand grip.
  • Place arms down along the sides of the thighs.
  • Turn palms inward to face the thighs.
  • Stand upright at all times.
  • Do not rock back and forth when performing exercise.
  • Raise shoulders toward the ears.
  • Hold the weight at the top of the movement
  • Slowly return to starting position.
  • Repeat movement for desired amount of sets and repetitions.
  • Wrist straps may be used if lifting heavier weight.


The bent over dumbbell row targets numerous muscles of the back like: the lower and middle portions of the traps, the rhomboids, the teres major and more. This exercise is typically performed by bending over on a bench.

  • To begin, place the right hand and right knee on a flat bench.
  • Place the left food flat on the floor, slightly behind the right knee.
  • Bend over and keep a flat back at all times. Do not round the back.
  • Take the left arm and pick up the dumbbell with an overhand grip.
  • Turn the dumbbell so the palm is facing inward.
  • Pull the dumbbell up toward the side of the body.
  • Bring the upper arm just past parallel with the floor.
  • Squeeze at the top of the movement.
  • Slowly return to starting position.
  • Perform exercise on both arms.
  • Repeat movement for desired amount of sets and repetitions.
  • Wrist straps may be used if lifting heavier weight.


Although the dumbbell pullover primarily targets the pectoralis major, it requires several major muscles of the back like the latissimus dorsi to properly perform the exercise. This exercise is more advanced and not recommended for beginners.

  • To begin, lay with the upper pack perpendicular on a flat bench.
  • Place fleet flat on the ground.
  • Grab dumbbell with both hands just under the inner portion of the dumbbell.
  • Position the dumbbell vertically over the chest with a slight bend in the elbows.
  • Keep elbows slightly bent throughout the exercise.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbell over and beyond the head, toward the ground.
  • Stop when the upper arms are even with the ears.
  • Slowly return dumbbell to the starting position.
  • Repeat movement for desired amount of sets and repetitions.


The deadlift is a powerful exercise that requires numerous muscles and joints throughout the body to properly perform. Typically, deadlifts are performed with Olympic barbells because they can hold more weight. However, with a slight modification, dumbbell deadlifts can be challenging and beneficial to overall muscular condition of the back. The straight leg deadlift directly targets the erector spinae but also requires other muscles of the back to assist in the movement.


  • To begin, stand with feet just inside shoulder width.
  • Grab the dumbbells with an overhand grip and place palms against the front portion of the thighs.
  • Keep knees straight at all times.
  • Lower the dumbbells toward the ground by bending at the waist.
  • Keep the back as straight as possible throughout bending and standing upright.
  • Do not bend the knees when lowering. Allow the hips to flex and fall back when lowering the dumbbells.
  • Slowly return to an upright position.
  • Do not rock back and forth when bending and returning to an upright position.
  • Repeat movement for desired amount of sets and repetitions.
  • Wrist straps may be used if lifting heavier weight.