This is your ultimate Dumbbell Workout for Back guide.

If you ask me about the most overlooked muscles after legs, I would say it’s the back.

No beach body is complete without a defined back. Whether it’s that highly desired V shape or the Christmas tree, you can get these only if you properly train your back.

This muscle group not only makes you look good shirtless, but also assists you in performing other exercises. Very often, beginners ask me that they are unable to perform compound exercises like pull ups. The most common reason is that they have weak back muscles. Building a great back using Dumbbell Workout for Back will definitely help you in performing other upper body muscle group’s exercises.

Dumbbell Workout for Back
Dumbbell Workout for Back

Your gym may have many different machines to train different parts of your back. If you’re new to lifting, that can be a bit overwhelming. What a lot of people may overlook is that there exists a lot of exercises for back which can be done using dumbbells only.

Also see: Dumbbell Workout for Chest

Dumbbell Workout for Back: Anatomy of Back

It is important to understand the muscles you wish to train before you actually start training them . So, let’s first look at the anatomy of back muscles.

The anatomy of back muscles is a bit trickier than other muscle groups. Back is made up of 6 smaller groups of muscles which perform different roles. The various muscles are as follows:
3.Teres muscles
6.Erector spinae

Your gym bros may divide back muscles into 2 categories: upper back and the lower back. The upper back consists of trapezius, rhomboids, teres muscles, infraspinatus, and lats. When they say lower back, they’re referring mainly to the erector spinae.

The basic function of back muscle is to provide support. It provides essential support to the head and trunk of the body. The lower back provides functionality of forward and backward bending.

Below is the list of best dumbbell workouts for back. Remember to include them in your schedule at least once a week.

Dumbbell Workout for Back : Benefits

Dumbbells help to achieve wider range of motion : The biggest problem with the barbell based exercises is limited range of motion. Once your both hands are on the barbell, they are no longer free to move. However, if you use dumbbells, your range of motion becomes wider which leads to more activation.

Stronger back helps in performing other workouts : Pull Ups are the best compound exercise when it comes to training back. However, not all of us can do it. It is better to strengthen back first by performing dumbbell  workout for back.

You can perform the dumbbell workout at home : This is the reason why dumbbells are my personal favourite. Even if you are unable to train at your gym, you can easily workout at your home too. You can effectively continue to get those gains if you have a good set of dumbbells at your home.

Dumbbell Workout for BackDumbbell Workout for Back, Photo by James Barr

Variety of exercises can be done using dumbbell alone : Your gym may have dozens of machines to train your chest. But you can efficiently work on your muscles using just a pair of dumbbells. There are far more back exercises which you can do using a pair of dumbbells in comparison to machines in your gym.

Better isolation and symmetry : Sometimes you may feel that one side of your back has developed more than the other side. In this case, you need to train your weaker part more than its counterpart. This is where you will especially need the dumbbells to perform your desired back workout.

Dumbbell Workout for Back : Exercises

Exercise #1 Kneeling One Arm Row

This is my personal favourite exercise among other types of rows. Ofcourse, there is a barbell row exercise which is very much similar to this exercise. What I like most about kneeling one arm row using dumbbells, is that it helps us to focus on one side(left/right) of the back muscles. Overall, the isolation is much better.

How to Perfrom:

    • Keep your one knee on the bench and bend forward.
    • Use the hand on the same side as your knee for support.Hold the dumbbell in the other hand.
    • Move the weight closer to your body by moving your elbows backward with help of back and shoulder muscles.
Dumbbell Workout for Back: Kneeling one arm row
Dumbbell Workout for Back : Kneeling one arm row
Kneeling one arm row
Dumbbell Workout for Back : Kneeling one arm row

Pro tip: An essential requirement to perform this exercise is keeping your back straight and performing it nice and slow making mind to muscle connection. Do not make the newbie mistake of performing it too fast.

Pros: There is a nice stretch in your core also, which too gets trained. This exercise is a must if you want to focus more on your traps and lats.

Exercise #2 Bent Over Dumbbell Row

This is one of the easiest back exercises out there. If you are a beginner you must include this in your training plan to get those defined upper and mid back muscles. Keep in mind that doing the exercise with correct form is more important than the amount of weight you use.

How to Perfrom:

    • Stand straight holding a dumbbell in each hand.
    • Bend forward to make a 45* angle keeping your back straight. You can use a bench to support your head as shown in the image.
    • Move the weights towards your body by moving elbows backwards.
Dumbbell Workout for Back : Bent over Row
Dumbbell Workout for Back : Bent over Row

Pro tip: This exercise works great for your back especially the middle and upper portion. Perform 4 sets of 10 reps each with the appropriate weights.

Remember to increase the weights once you start becoming comfortable with the current weight.

Pros: This exercise has a very simple posture. It is easy to perform with the correct posture.

Cons: There are some key points which you should keep in your mind to avoid any potential injury. When you bend forward, keep your back straight. Curved back will increase the risk of getting hurt.

Secondly, don’t bend too much as this will take away the strain from your back muscles which is necessary to activate them. An appropriate angle would be 40*-45*.

Exercise #3 Dumbbell Incline Row

Rows are essential to build a stronger back. Luckily there are various kinds of rows, each having its own benefit. One of my favourites is dumbbell incline row which gives great activation and is fun to do.

How to Perfrom:

    • Set your incline bench to an approx angle of 40-45*. Lean on the bench with your stomach at bottom.
    • Using overhand grip, grab a pair of dumbbells of appropriate weight.
    • Retract your shoulder blades to pull the dumbbells backwards. Your elbows will be bent while pulling dumbbells.
    • Try to keep them as close to your body as possible. Repeat the motion to complete your set.

Exercise #4 Deadlift

Deadlift requires no introduction. Just like bench presses, it is a compound exercise. Deadlift is your exercise if you want a defined and wider back. Go for higher weights while performing deadlift.

How to Perfrom:

    • Hold dumbbells in each hand with palm facing thighs.
    • Bend forward from your hip joint followed by bending from knees.
    • Do as stated while bringing dumbbells down. Return to the initial position slowly.
Dumbbell Workout for Back : Deadlift
Dumbbell Workout for Back : Deadlift
Dumbbell Workout for Back : Deadlift

Pro tip: Remember to Inhale when bending forward and exhale on returning to initial position.

Pros: It is a compound exercise and trains multiple parts at once. Your shoulder, back and core are most positively affected. Plus, it is a great fat burner.

For training shoulder, you can try One Arm Shoulder Press.

Cons: Deadlift requires correct posture and doing it incorrectly with heavy weight can cause injuries. If you are new to lifting and do not have a good performance, you should avoid it for some initial time.

Perform it under the supervision of your trainer to master the correct form first. As we also say, avoid ego lifting.

Exercise #5 Romanian Deadlift

This is another compound exercise in this list. When it comes to back, Romanian deadlift works great for building a stronger upper back. It can be included in both back or legs workout.

How to Perfrom:

    • Stand straight with your feet at a shoulder width apart. Hold your dumbbells at a shoulder length.
    • Bend forward from your waist keeping the back straight. Bend as much as your flexibility allows.
    • Keep the dumbbells close to your body. Slowly return to the initial position. Repeat the motion to complete the set.
Dumbbell Workout for Back : Romanian Deadlift
Dumbbell Workout for Back : Romanian Deadlift
Romanian Deadlift
Dumbbell Workout for Back : Romanian Deadlift

Pro-tip: Exhale whenever you are doing effort or exerting force. Focus on your posture first, not the amount of weight.

Pros: It is also a compound exercise. Its primary area of focus is your lower body. Your lower back(erector spinae) is one of the primary targets.

Other muscles which get trained are glute hamstrings. You can include this exercise in either your legs or back training schedule.

Cons: Just like the traditional deadlift, technique is of utmost importance. Performing the exercise incorrectly can lead to development of lower back pain.

First of all, focus on mastering your form. Then, move to increasing the weights.

Exercise #6 Dumbbell Renegade Row

This is the third variation of dumbbell rows I am mentioning in this article. Just like other rows, this one has its own benefits.

How to Perfrom:

    • Hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands and get into the plank position. Remember to keep the dumbbells at a shoulder width apart and keep your core tight.
    • Now keeping your left hand stable, retract your right shoulder blade, to lift the right dumbbell.
    • Do this exactly as if you are performing a traditional row. Repeat the same with the left dumbbell.

Pro-tip: Avoid twisting your hips whenever you row. Do not keep your hands at a smaller distance apart, as then it will be difficult to keep the form stable.

Pros: You get the benefit of both dumbbell row and plank. Your core and back get simultaneously trained.

Cons: If you wish to focus entirely on your back, this exercise is not for you. I say so because you spend a lot of energy to remain in a stable position, therefore you can’t entirely focus on the wrong part.

Exercise #7 Back fly

Back flyes are usually performed in the flye machine. Even if you don’t have access to the machine you can comfortably perform it using dumbbells.

How to Perfrom:

    • Hold dumbbells in each hand with palms facing each other.
    • Now bend forward keeping back straight and almost parallel to the floor.
    • Raise the dumbbells laterally. Keep your elbows slightly bent.
Dumbbell Workout for Back : Fly
Dumbbell Workout for Back : Fly
Dumbbell Workout for Back : Fly

Pro-tip: Keep in mind the breathing pattern. Exhale the air when you come up and inhale when you come down.

Pros: Your back muscles get a great activation when this exercise is performed correctly. I highly recommend this exercise for both beginner and experienced guys.

Cons: There is a strain on your multiple upper body joints while performing this exercise. This makes you prone to injuries. Avoid using heavy weights if you feel pain in your joints. Do not retract your shoulder blades too much.

Exercise #8 Farmer’s walk

This is the easiest and yet a really effective exercise in this list. Beginners can do it comfortably. Although, I must say that it’s a tad bit boring.

How to Perfrom:

    • Stand with a dumbbell in each of your hands.
    • Keep your back straight. Don’t forget to keep your shoulders tight.
    • Stride forward while taking short and quick steps.

Pro tip: Do not try to make it a marathon. Move nice and slow.
Pros: There is a very little chance of getting injured in this exercise. The form is also extremely easy. Also, it will be easier to carry a large amount of weights. Multiple parts get trained in performing this workout.

Cons: This exercise requires you to have a wide space. It is not suitable if you are in your room or a small/ busy gym. This exercise is not for you if you prefer to do isolation exercises.

Exercise #9 Upright row

Upright row is a very well known exercise among gymers. It is mainly performed to get well defined shoulders. However, the fact which many people don’t know is that it is also a wonderful exercise for your back. You must include an upright row in either your back day or shoulder day exercise schedule.

How to Perfrom:

    • Stand straight with dumbbells in each hand. Breathe in and tighten your core.
    • Your palms should be towards your body.Keep your hands straight shoulder width apart and let dumbbells be in front of you.
    • Now bend your elbows to lift the weight upwards. Do not forget to breathe out when you exert force.
    • Repeat this motion to complete the set.
Dumbbell Workout for Back : Upright Row
Dumbbell Workout for Back : Upright Row
Upright Row
Dumbbell Workout for Back : Upright Row

Pro tip: When you bring the dumbbells up, exhale the air in your lungs. Similarly, inhale when you return to the initial position. Also, this exercise is for advanced lifters. Avoid it or use lighter dumbbells to first correct your form.

Pros: This exercise trains two important parts. Both back and shoulders muscles are involved in performing it. It is really good if you want to specifically target your upper back and deltoids.

This exercise must be in your training schedule if you are on a time crunch.

Cons: There is a reason for this exercise being recommended for intermediate to advanced lifters. There is strain on your shoulders when you perform this workout.

It requires healthy shoulders and good posture to perform it in an injury free way. Also, there is a chance of wrist injury as your wrist is in a vulnerable position.

Dumbbell Workout for Back : The Ultimate Plan

Bent Over Row

Sets:3-4, Repetitions: 10-12

Kneeling One Arm Row

Sets:3-4, Repetitions: 10-12


Sets:3-4, Repetitions: 8-12

As I have stated, deadlift is one of the most famous compound exercises for back out there. You must include it in your training schedule.

Back Fly

Sets:3-4, Repetitions: 10-12

Farmer’s Walk

Sets:3-4, Repetitions: Slightly below failure

You can perform Dumbbell Workout for Back once or two times a week accordiing to your other muscle training schedules.

It is important that you train all of your muscles for a great physique. For gaining massive biceps, visit Dumbbell Workout for Biceps.