Dumbbell Back Exercises

The back is one of the most significant muscle groups in the human body. It supports the weight of the body, allows flexible movement, and protects nerve structures and vital organs.

By strengthening your back muscles, you are basically developing the main support structure of your entire body. Come to think of it, a strong and healthy back will brace and stabilize your spine, making it easier for you to attain your health and fitness goals!

Not sure where to begin doing back exercises and what equipment to use? No problem, we’ve got you covered!

Do some of these effective dumbbell back exercises to achieve that coveted v-taper soon or to just improve the overall strength of your shoulders and posterior chain. Here we go!

9 Best Dumbbell Back Exercises

1. Dumbbell Upright Row

Muscles Targeted: trapezius (which controls the shoulder blades), triceps, deltoids

This compound movement is effective, simple, and familiar if you have been exercising using a dumbbell. It will help strengthen your shoulders and upper back while also challenging the triceps.

How to do it:

To start, set your feet shoulder-width apart while holding the dumbbells in front of your body, palms-down. Keep your chest up and raise the gym equipment vertically as you lift your elbows up. Return to the starting position and do this dumbbell back exercise for 10 repetitions.

2. Bentover Dumbbell Reverse Flye

Muscles Targeted: shoulder muscles and upper back muscles, particularly rear deltoids and posterior deltoids

Bentover Dumbbell Reverse Flye is a dumbbell workout that targets many muscle groups, especially the rhomboid muscles found in the back that opens up the chest, supports shoulder movement, and helps you achieve a broad back.

How to do it:

Hold the dumbbell in each hand with your back straight and feet shoulder-width apart. Lean forward (knees slightly bent) and hold the dumbbell weights together. Then, gradually bring them out to your sides.

Next, keep your arms slightly bent then raise the dumbbells laterally. Breathe out when coming up and then breathe in when coming down. You will most likely feel an obvious contraction in the rear deltoids and a slight contraction in the back as you do this exercise.

3. Front Squats

Muscles Targeted: quadriceps (quads), hips, glutes, back muscles, and hamstrings

The front squat with the dumbbell is one of the most popular glute exercises. It helps build your back muscles, particularly strengthens your upper back when you hold the dumbbells as you perform the squats.

How to do it:

For your starting position, your feet should be shoulder-width apart on a flat surface. Hold two dumbbells in front of your chest while your elbows are pointing forward. Start moving by sitting your hips back and then bending your knees while keeping your head looking forward.

Your weight should be midfoot, centered while your heels stay in contact with the floor. Continue the squat down until your hips are thighs and knees are parallel or as low as your mobility allows. Reverse the motion so you begin in the starting position.

This exercise can be performed without dumbbells, just your bodyweight. Moreover, for those who feel unstable when they’re already at the bottom part of their squat, they may use a chair to squat down into as well as help them stand up from a sitting position.

4. Farmers’ Walk

Muscles Targeted: quadriceps (or quads), hamstrings, glutes, calves, lats, erectors (erector spinae or paraspinal muscles), abdominals, upper back and traps, triceps, biceps, forearms, and hand muscles

Farmers’ Walk is a dumbbell back exercise that was traditionally performed only by strength athletes but is now making its way into the workout routines of gym-goers and fitness enthusiasts to improve their health.

Also called the farmer’s carry, this exercise is a strength conditioning exercise that requires you to carry a dumbbell or any heavy solid load in each hand while walking for a distance. An open space to walk in 10 steps in a straight line is enough to perform this workout.

How to do it:

To perform the Farmer’s Walk, start with lighter weights and slowly advance until your body is ready for a more challenging load. Reach down and clutch two dumbbells with one piece of equipment on each side of your body. 

Remember to keep a neutral spine throughout this exercise and hold the dumbbells with a firm grip. Start walking at an even pace while holding the weights and eyes focused ahead of you. When you complete the desired number of steps forward, come to a stop and put the dumbbells down.

Another variation of this workout is a one-handed farmer’s walk. As the name suggests, only one dumbbell is picked and carried for distance.

5. Elevated Plank Dumbbell Row

Core Exercises - Total Body Workout

Muscles Targeted: shoulders, arms, upper back, and middle back muscles

The Elevated Plank Dumbbell Row is a multifunctional workout that increases the stability of your spine and challenges your core. It likewise targets your lats, rhomboids, and delts in one go, making it a great core strength training.

How to do it:

Get into a plank position with your feet positioned wider than shoulder-width. Hold the dumbbells in both of your hands and row them up to reach your lower right or left ribs. Brace your glutes, legs, and core to stay as rigid as possible to avoid falling out of balance.

You may also use a weight bench or a similar surface for an incline row plank position. Once you finish the steps for an elevated plank row, switch arms so you can work out the other side.

6. Back Fly

Muscles Targeted: shoulder muscles, upper back muscles, the backside of shoulders, rear deltoids, upper arms

With almost the same benefits as the Bentover Dumbbell Reverse Flye, this workout is great for improving balance and posture and strengthening the shoulders. It can also improve the range of motion of your shoulder joint, a part often left out in other pec exercises, like push-ups.

How to do it:

Lie down on your chest on a weight bench while holding two dumbbells with your hands. Your elbows should be at 90-degree angles. For the next step, raise the dumbbells until your upper arms are parallel to the ground. After a short pause, lower your arms back.

Breath out as you pull the dumbbells parallel to the ground and breathe in as you lower them back.

[Read also: Best Dumbbell Set with Rack]

7. Bent Over Dumbbell Row

Muscles Targeted: trapezius, rhomboids, biceps, latissimus (aka lats), and erector spinae.

When done in a proper form, the Bent Over Dumbbell Row is a great dumbbell workout. It stabilizes your core, improves your posture, and sculpts your lower, mid, and upper back muscles even when you’re performing the basic dumbbell row.

As much as possible, start this workout with a low weight and gradually advance the weight once you can already maintain the proper position. Remember, good form is more important than how much weight you are carrying.

How to do it:

For this bent-over row exercise, stand with feet hip-width apart and reach down to hold two dumbbells with both of your hands. Then, slightly bend your knees and lift the dumbbells until the upper arm or upper arms are parallel to your body. Row the dumbbells towards your ribcage or chest. After a short pause, lower the dumbbells without dropping your hands too low.

Make sure that only your arm moves in this exercise and keep your back straight all throughout.

8. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

Muscles Targeted: lower back, glutes, core, and hamstrings

Another popular dumbbell back exercise, the Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift is effective for strengthening the back while building the proper activation patterns in glutes and hamstrings.

We also like this workout because it is safe even for those with lower back pain, it works the lower body and core at the same time, and it builds strength so you can do other workouts, like walking and running.

How to do it:

To perform this simple and effective workout, choose a light set of dumbbells. From an upright position, stand with your feet hip-width apart. 

While holding the dumbbells in both hands, bend your knees but still maintain an upright torso (almost parallel to the floor). Lower the dumbbells down so they are positioned in front of your shins. 

The moment the dumbbells pass the knees, make sure not to allow your hips to sink further. The objective of this workout is to maintain a neutral spine.

If you’re planning to achieve serious mass, you may also consider taking mass gainers. These supplements may be a good source of extra protein and calories to help build muscle during intense training.

9. Dumbbell Shrug

Muscles Targeted: trapezius, rhomboids, forearms

Definitely one of the best exercises for toning your upper body and upper back muscles is the dumbbell shrug. Plus, it is simple too! There’s no need to roll your shoulders but simply focus on moving them up and down.

How to do it:

Grab a pair of dumbbells. Stand tall while holding the dumbbells by your sides. At this point, your arms should remain long by your sides with only a slight bend in the elbows.

Now, pre-tension your hips, shoulders, and engage your core. While maintaining a neutral neck and head position, slowly raise your shoulders towards your ear and then pause for a second. Slowly lower your shoulders as you go back to the starting position.

Pump Up Your Back with Dumbbell Exercises!

Adding or maintaining a back-focused exercise in your fitness routine will not just benefit your upper body, but other muscle groups in your body too. As a result, your back won’t just look pretty when you are only wearing a tank top or baring it all in a pool.

Healthy and strong back muscles are essential as well in about every movement you do. Follow the best dumbbell back exercises above to protect your body from back pain and injury, enhance your physique, and improve your posture!

If you like this article, you might want to read our other reviews at ExpertFitness.org.

Nathan Lloyd, MSc

I’m a personal trainer, based in Boulder, Colorado.
I service clients physically in the Boulder area, mainly in the ONE Boulder Fitness Gym, but am also available for online consulting and coaching.

If you’re interested in my personal coaching programs, please contact me via the contact page.