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15 Dumbbell Back Exercises: Back to Basics

I’ve long campaigned for people to use dumbbells more in their training. In terms of versatility, balance, strength building and effectiveness they have few rivals. These benefits extend to back exercises as well.

In this list of dumbbell back exercises, I’m going to highlight their versatility and effectiveness over 15 different movements. To make them easier to digest for you as a reader, they’ll be separated into lower, mid and upper back exercises.

These movements will cover everything from strength training, prehab work, conditioning, hypertrophy and injury prevention.

In the Back to Basics list, you’ll cover all of the dumbbell back exercises you’ll need.

Steve performing dumbbell exercises
Hi- I’m Steve Hoyles a 20+ year personal trainer & weightlifting coach

Back to Basics: Benefits of the dumbbell back exercises

Building a strong and healthy back with simple and effective movements

When you look online for dumbbell back exercises, you’re given a lazy list of hypertrophy exercises. As with most internet fitness content, the same criticism can be applied… it’s not thought through. It’s not written with the reader in mind.

At Strong Home Gym, we write to educate. Not for clicks.

Here’s three of the benefits from training your back using the approach I’ve outlined in this article…

Dumbbell back exercises benefits

Benefit 1: The whole back is trained

In this list, I’m thinking of the back as a whole. I’m thinking about how it moves, how it functions and the muscles included. I’m not just thinking form, I’m thinking function too.

In this list of exercises, I’m considering how best to train the lower back without risking injury. I’m considering the hypertrophy element of back training. Then I’m looking at how best to train the upper back so it compliments the rear delt work you’ll do elsewhere. 

By not just focussing on one area of the back, or one style of training (ever noticed there’s an obsession with building muscle in internet training programs?!) These exercises can be used as a ‘back day’. They could also be dropped into full body training programs and used on a needs-must basis. 

The point remains though – this is a complete list of exercises, not a sole-focus one. 

Benefit 2: Injury resistance

When it’s not trained effectively, the back is a notoriously easy place to injure. Check out this huge study for proof…

With such a huge, long term study you can be sure the data set is of a very high quality and the results are truly representative of global back health. The research team of Wu et al concluded that…

‘Globally, lower back pain is the leading global cause of years lived with disability. Greater attention is urgently needed to mitigate this increasing burden and the impact it is having on health and social systems.’

What this means is lower back pain is the global number one reason why people experience long term discomfort. The sad thing is with appropriate strength and movement training, we can make this issue all but disappear. Here’s research proving so…

Lee and Kang performed a study in 2016 called The effects of strength exercise and walking on lumbar function, pain level, and body composition in chronic back pain patients.

They had lower back pain sufferers engage in various forms of movement treatments, and assessed the impact on their lower back pain. By the end of a 12 week program, the results were clear. Movement helps lower back pain…

‘In conclusion, participating in strength and walking exercises were beneficial to improve lumbar function. Also, the combined exercise program was more effective for reducing pain levels than the strength exercise.’

By strengthening your back, you’ll make it less susceptible to injury.

Benefit 3: You’ll enjoy lots of movement variety

Whilst the back is capable of moving in four ranges of movement (flexion, extension, lateral bending and rotation), the muscles within the back are capable of different directions of contraction. They can also be trained in different ways.

You also have to consider the shoulder blades when it comes to back exercise. These are bones that are acted upon by muscles of the back, so need to be included in the training. 

In the exercises listed here, what we’re looking to do is work through three of the four movement planes (I prefer lateral bending to be included with abdominal specific work). We’ll also be including the retraction and elevation of the shoulder blades which has an impact on back training. 

These movement varieties won’t just translate into more effective exercises, they’ll also keep the training fresh. There’s new exercises, new challenges and a lack of boredom involved here.

5 Steps to use these dumbbell back exercises to build a stronger, healthier back

Dumbbell back exercises general infographic

Here’s a few tips to make these exercises work better for you. By employing this approach you’ll be able to get the most from the movements. This translates into more effective training and a stronger, healthier and more muscular back… 

Step 1: Mix up weights

As we’ve discussed in previous articles on the site, skeletal muscles consist of different fiber types…

Type 1 muscle fibers contract more slowly. They aren’t capable of large growth or explosive force, but they take a long time to fatigue.

Type 2 muscle fibers are capable of powerful contractions and can grow much larger. They also fatigue more quickly.

In order to stimulate these fibers effectively, we need to use different weights and rep ranges. That’s why some of the exercises in the list will be best suited to heavy weights, some to medium weights, and some to light weights. 

Use them all, and see the most benefits. If all you use are heavy weights, you’ll only benefit the type 2 fibers. The opposite is true with the light weights. 

Step 2: Always lift with a full range of motion

A full range of movement is arguably as effective for improving the health and mobility of joints as stretching is. 

In a 2011 study titled ‘Resistance training vs. static stretching: effects on flexibility and strength’, the researchers Morton et al concluded that…

‘The results of this preliminary study suggest that carefully constructed full-range resistance training regimens can improve flexibility as well as the typical static stretching regimens employed in conditioning programs.’

This suggests that when performed properly, with a full range of movement and great technique, resistance training is as effective as static stretching for improving flexibility.

When we consider the extent to which people suffer from back and shoulder issues stemming from muscle tightness, this is huge. Simply exercising through a full range of motion won’t just build bigger, stronger muscles. It’ll also build more flexible joints, muscles and connective tissues too. 

Step 3: Push yourself to functional failure

There is a lot of debate in fitness whether or not you need to train to failure. Both sides of the argument can make a compelling case and as ever, my opinion is ‘it depends on the context’.

In this case, I think you should work to functional failure. This is the point at which you can’t perform the exercise with excellent form. This means you stop when your form breaks down, despite your best effort. This ISN’T the point where you collapse into a sweaty heap on the floor. 

In these exercises you’re lifting medium weights – we’re performing dumbbell back exercises, so the loads are never going to be too high. That’s the important point here. 

Research by Schoenfeld et al titled ‘Muscle Failure Promotes Greater Muscle Hypertrophy in Low-Load but Not in High-Load Resistance Training’ assessed the impact of volumes and loads on muscle growth in training. They concluded that…

‘We conclude that when training with low loads, training with a high level of effort seems to have greater importance than total training volume in the accretion of muscle mass.’

Given we’re not lifting especially heavy weights with these exercises, high reps and training to functional failure should be a feature of your approach. Stick with the research and enjoy the benefits!

Steve targetting his rear delts using dumbbells and a bench

Step 4: Think frequency, not splits

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that for the vast majority (as in 95%+) of people, a body-part split routine just isn’t optimal for training. Having a ‘back day’, where you train the muscles in your back just once in a 7 day period has never made any sense to me.

Thankfully, we’ve now got evidence that shows frequency is an important metric when it comes to muscle growth. 

A 2016 meta analysis by Schoenfeld et al titled ‘Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis’ assessed once per week muscle training versus twice per week. The conclusion was clear…

‘When comparing studies that investigated training muscle groups between 1 to 3 days per week on a volume-equated basis, the current body of evidence indicates that frequencies of training twice a week promote superior hypertrophic outcomes to once a week.’

This is a case where more is better (as long as you’re recovering sufficiently). In most cases, you should be looking to include some of these dumbbell back exercises into your training around 2-3 times per week.

Step 5: Warm up properly

As we’ve already discussed in this article, backs can be vulnerable if you don’t train them properly.

If you already have a bad back, don’t make it worse by jumping into training without taking the time to warm it up. You don’t need to do anything especially fancy (unless you have a pre-existing injury, in which case talk to a physical therapist), but you have to be thorough.

Don’t rush into lifting weights with a vulnerable back.

Spend 5 minutes performing cardio with an upper body element. I prefer ski ergs, row ergs, air bikes, or cross trainers as my go-to. Don’t worry about intensity – focus on the movement. We’re purely trying to stimulate some circulation here.

Once you’ve done that, I like an approach that involves 3 things…

  • Flexion and extension of the back
  • Scapular retraction
  • Spinal stability

This can be achieved with one single movement – the Hindu push up. Here’s what it looks like…

Warm up exercise – Hindu push ups

Dumbbell back exercises warm up

The Hindu push up is a movement that flexes and extends the spine without heavy loads, making it a perfect warm up for back training. It doesn’t just help the lower back either. Thanks to the controlled descent and ascent of the chest, the scapulars are working too.

Although it’s called a push up, it’s not much of a push up that we’d recognize. For chest training, it’s not very effective. For warming up ahead of back training, it’s world-class!

It doesn’t need any equipment either, so it’s easy to do anywhere.

How to do Hindu Push Ups:

  • Start with your hands and feet on the floor, with your hips and butt pointing upwards. You should assume a ‘triangle’ shape (as per video)
  • Smoothly lower your chest to the floor, using your arms to control the descent
  • Push your chest ‘through’ your arms, and in a forward direction
  • Raise the chest off the floor as well, as you extend the arms
  • From this chest-forward position, push your arms straight and lift your hips and butt back to the start position
  • Repeat as necessary

Whilst this looks like a chest exercise, it actually involves flexion and extension of the spine. It also requires controlled scapular (shoulder blade) retraction and works the joints of the arms. Finally, it requires spinal control to prevent a collapse of the back.

Perform 3 sets of 10 Hindu Push Ups as a warm up before attempting these exercises.

Dumbbell back exercises – the list

Now we’re on to the list of the exercises I suggest as great dumbbell back exercises. It’s important to state here that I haven’t written these as a stand alone workout. These are exercises you can drop into your general exercise as you see fit.

Of course you could just use them as a back day, but there’s two reasons why I don’t think you should…

  1. I’m not a fan of split routines in that sense, as mentioned above
  2. It’d be a HUGE workout

If you like, you could split them up and use them as a couple of workouts I suppose. My suggestion is to drop them into full body workouts as appropriate though.

To make life easier, I’ve broken them down into three distinct sections. Exercises for the lower back, mid back and upper back. 

The more pedantic amongst you will notice that some of these exercises will train several areas of the back, not just the one that they’re described as. I know that, but they had to belong somewhere!

So here’s a list of 15 dumbbell back exercises, complete with videos and coaching notes…

Lower back dumbbell exercises

These are the first four exercises, all designed to train the lower back. There are benefits for the upper back as well, but predominantly the target area is the lower back here.

Dumbbell back exercises lower back dumbell exercise infographic

1. Dumbbell Farmer’s walks

The dumbbell farmer’s walk is a simple yet very effective lower back exercise. It’s an exercise that also engages the entire core, forearms and legs too. The dumbbells should pull the torso forwards, so the lower back and spinal erectors have to work to keep the torso upright, which is effectively what back extensions are doing – working to make the torso upright.

Use heavy dumbbells and a long walking distance to make this an excellent core and conditioning exercise. The turf at my gym is 25m long, so there and back is a 50m length. That’s REALLY tough with heavy dumbbells!

Equipment needed for farmers walks:

SMRFT Nüobell 80LB Adjustable Dumbbells

SMRFT Nüobell 80LB Classic
Read our best adjustable dumbbell guide here

These are the dumbbells we recommend for ‘most people’.

We have spent over 50 hours of research and compared over 100 dumbbells. Adjustable dumbbells make sense for most home gyms as they save space.

The Nüobell dumbbells go all the way to 80lbs per hand. This means they are much more versatile than most 50lbs adjustable dumbbells. You can use these for heavy shrugs, squats and bench press etc.

The main reason they are the top pick is because of their shape. They actually feel like real dumbbells and are not awkward to lift like some others.

How to do farmers walks:

  • Hold a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand
  • Stand up, keeping the weight on either side with a straight arm
  • Keeping your back straight and your core tight, walk in a straight line for a given distance (minimum 20 yards)
  • Turn around and walk back
  • Repeat as many times as necessary
  • If this is too easy, either use heavier weights or walk a longer distance

2. Dumbbell weighted hyperextensions

This is an exercise that you can do with or without specialist equipment. Even if you don’t have a GHD or a hyperextension bench, simply perch on a normal bench with your hips at the top, then anchor your feet. This will allow you to complete the hyperextension movement easily enough.

The important thing with hyperextensions is to control the movement. If you rush it and lose control, you risk injury. Use a medium weight dumbbell and carefully lift through a full range of motion. If you experience discomfort, stop. 

Equipment needed for dumbbell hyperextensions:

How to do dumbbell hyperextensions:

  • Lie forwards on the bench or GHD, so you’re facing the floor
  • Take a dumbbell and hold it close to your chest
  • Lift your torso upwards, as high as you can go. Push your hips forward slightly as you do, to extend the range of movement
  • At the top, pause for a second and lower yourself down until your torso is at at 90 degree angle to your legs
  • Pause, then repeat the upward movement as many times as necessary

3. Dumbbell Deadlifts

Deadlifts are the ultimate hinge movement. They’re a foundation human movement with huge crossover into other patterns and physical abilities. Used properly, they can build strength, reduce injury risk and ofer huge variety to a program. 

Deadlifts are often seen as the king of exercises, and it’s a claim with plenty of support. You probably won’t be hitting crazy numbers here, but it’s a good variation on an exercise. I couldn’t have a list of dumbbell back exercises without including the deadlift!

Equipment needed for dumbbell deadlifts:

How to do dumbbell deadlifts:

  • Assume an overhand grip on the dumbbells, about shoulder width apart
  • Bend your legs, keep your back straight and your chest up
  • Drive through your legs, keeping your arms straight as you lift – this will lift the dumbbells to hip height
  • At the top of the movement squeeze the glutes together and push the hips forward slightly
  • Reverse the movement on the way down – start by pushing the hips back and lowering the weights down by bending your legs, keeping your chest up and back straight throughout
  • Repeat as many times as required

4. Dumbbell good mornings

The good morning is an excellent, yet underused exercise. In terms of back and glute strength building it is very effective, plus it doesn’t have much in the way of technique to learn. It’s a very safe exercise to perform because of the simple movement pattern. It’s also a great way to strengthen the hamstrings. 

This is a great lower back exercise for those who are looking for something that doesn’t require a lot of weight to be lifted. Works well as a rehab exercise for many people as well. 

Equipment needed for good mornings:

How to do good mornings:

  • Set the dumbbell on your back, across the shoulders – never the neck
  • Initiate the movement by pushing your hips back
  • Maintaining a straight back throughout, push the hips back and lower your torso towards the ground
  • When your torso is parallel to the ground and your hamstrings are well-stretched, pause to engage the muscles fully
  • Straighten your torso by pushing your hips forward with the hamstrings, lower back and glutes controlling the speed of the movement throughout
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

These exercises all focus on the lower back, but there are benefits further up the back as well. As a collective, these exercises are very effective for promoting not just strength and fitness, but back health and injury resistance as well.

If you want even more ideas on how to develop your lower back, check out our pull exercises article.

Otherwise, move on to our next section here – the mid back dumbbell exercises.

Mid back dumbbell exercises

In these exercises we’re targeting the lats and mid back. Like the lower back exercises, there’s benefits to other areas of the back too. We’re hitting these areas in a number of different movement patterns to help create different muscle stimulus.

Dumbbell Back Exercises - mid back dumbell exercises infographic part 1

5. Dumbbell bent over rows

This is the classic horizontal row exercise and has been a staple of training programmes for years. It’s a way to not only train the back and biceps, but it also activates the glutes and lower back as it requires them to work in order to keep the torso stable whilst lifting a heavy weight. With such a lot of benefit from a single upper body exercise, it had to be included. 

The benefits of dumbbells are of course the fact that both sides have to work independently. They also allow you to focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together at the top of the lift.

Equipment needed for bent over dumbbell rows:

How to do bent over dumbbell rows:

  • Hold the dumbbells with the a neutral grip
  • Set your body position – straight, stiff back. Chest pointing towards the floor, perhaps with a slight incline, slight knee bend
  • Pull the dumbbells up towards your chest, squeezing the shoulder blades together at the top
  • At the top of the movement pause then slowly lower the dumbbells, but don’t let them touch the floor
  • Repeat as many times as required

6. Dumbbell weighted pull ups

The Everest of bodyweight exercises for many. Pull ups combine the huge muscle building benefits of training a lot of muscle in one go, with the physical challenge of being pretty damn tough. They also train grip and at the bottom, they stretch the lats. This stretch helps with shoulder health.

This is included for people who can hit 10 chins ups without any weight. Start by holding a really light dumbbell, then increase as you become stronger.

Equipment needed for dumbbell weighted pull ups:

How to do dumbbell weighted pull ups:

  • Place a dumbbell between your feet or ankles, (whichever is more comfortable). Grip it firmly
  • Jump up and grab the pull up bar with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder width
  • Lean back slightly and pull your chest to the bar, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you do
  • When your chest reaches the bar, slowly lower yourself down to a full extension of the arms
  • Repeat the movement as required

7. Dumbbell weighted chin ups

The chin up is the pull up with an underhand grip. Although the movement pattern is exactly the same, the underhand grip activates the bicep more, which has a couple of benefits – it builds the arms, so you don’t need additional bicep work. The other one is that it is slightly easier than pull ups because of the bicep help, so you can add more volume. 

Adding the pull ups and chin ups to the workout makes it both challenging and effective, plus it’ll help you improve your strength and shoulder flexibility dramatically.

Equipment needed for dumbbell weighted chin ups:

How to do a dumbbell weighted chin up:

  • Place a dumbbell between your feet or ankles, (whichever is more comfortable). Grip it firmly
  • Jump up and grab the pull up bar with an underhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder width
  • Lean back slightly and pull your chest to the bar, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you do
  • When your chest reaches the bar, slowly lower yourself down to a full extension of the arms
  • Repeat the movement as required

8. Dumbbell deadlift to bent over row

I love exercise complexes. Not only are they super efficient (training lots of muscle in one go), they’re also a way to challenge your technique and understanding of an exercise. With the deadlift to row, you’re hitting the whole back in one movement. It’s both a hinge movement, and a pull movement in one go.

Use heavy dumbbells for the row, because you’ll easily be able to deadlift anything you can row. This exercise is one of those that adds up very quickly and is surprisingly tough.

Equipment needed for dumbbell deadlift to bent over row:

How to do a dumbbell deadlift to bent over row:

  • Take hold of a pair of dumbbells in an overhand grip, then stand upright
  • Pushing your hips back and keeping your back straight, lean forward until you reach a point where your torso is pointing to the floor
  • With your arms pointing directly towards the floor, pull the dumbbells back up to your torso
  • Squeeze the shoulder blades together at the top of the movement, then lower the dumbbells back down until your arms are straight
  • When your arms are straight, stand back upright by driving your hips forward and keeping your back straight throughout
  • Repeat as necessary

9. Dumbbell Push Up to Row

The dumbbell pushup to row is a complete all upper body exercise… It’s a chest and triceps exercise with the push up. It’s a back exercise with a row. It’s a core exercise with the push up plank position, and the push/pull element trains all of the shoulders. 

As exercises go, it’s hard to beat. As well as the upper body challenges, it’s also a skills test. You have to engage the core to prevent rotation, all whilst balancing on one side at a time. This is an exercise that will challenge you beyond what you’re used to.

Equipment needed for dumbbell pushup to row:

How to do dumbbell pushups to row:

  • Get into the push up position, with hands balancing on dumbbells and feet balancing on your toes
  • Keep your legs apart to help with balance
  • Lower your chest down into a full deficit push up
  • As you push back up and reach the top of the movement, row one of the dumbbells up to your chest
  • Perform another push up, then repeat on the other side
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

10. Chest supported dumbbell rows

This is a horizontal row pattern that allows you to lift a lot of weight. There’s also no need for the lower back to support a heavy weight, because the bench takes care of that for you. 

The ability to move freely and adjust grip are also benefits of the exercise. In addition, the fact that it’s unilateral means that both arms will work as hard as each other, minimizing any imbalance in effort and strength/muscle gain.

Equipment needed for chest supported dumbbell rows:

How to do chest supported dumbbell rows:

  • Set the bench to an incline and lie chest down – you should be able to reach dumbbells placed on the floor
  • Hold the dumbbells with the grip of your choice – overhand, underhand or neutral
  • Pull the dumbbells up towards your chest, squeezing the shoulder blades together at the top
  • At the top of the movement pause then slowly lower the dumbbells, but don’t let them touch the floor
  • Repeat as many times as required

REP AB-3000 Bench

REP AB-3000 Weight Bench
Read our best weight bench guide here

This is the weight bench we recommend for ‘most people’.

We compared over 70 benches against 12 criteria. This is our highest-ranked flat, incline & decline (FID) bench.

Some adjustable benches can be a bit wobbly when on the incline. But the AB-3000 is very sturdy.

With a height 18mm it’s comparable to benches that cost twice as much.

Dumbbell back exercises mid back dumbell exercise infographic part 2

11. Single dumbbell arm row

Single arm rows are very effective because they force each side to work independently. They require shoulder and trunk stability to maintain good torso position throughout the lift too. With the single arm row you can lift some serious weight – this forces the lats to engage hard in order to maintain spinal stability and prevent over-rotation throughout the lift.

Equipment needed for single arm dumbbell rows:

How to do a single arm dumbbell row:

  • Place a hand and knee on a bench, with the other leg on the floor for stability.
  • Hold the dumbbell in the free hand, with your arm straight down. 
  • Pull the dumbbell up to the rib cage, bending the elbow behind you as you do.
  • Once the dumbbell is at rib height, pause and lower to the start position.

These exercises are designed to target the mid back. Of course there’s benefits to other areas, but that’s nothing but a good thing. You’ll also be hitting the biceps and rear delts, so it’s all good news.

Upper back dumbbell exercises

This section consists of the dumbbell exercises I suggest for targeting the upper back. These exercises require different movement patterns, but they’re all effective in their own right. They’re both upper back and rear delt exercises, so there’s a prehab benefit too.

12. Dumbbell Alternating High Pulls

This is designed to work on explosive power, the kind of which you’d use in a sporting context. It’s also fantastic for recruiting the muscles of the upper back and shoulder. It combines several body parts in a single movement, with the upper back and shoulder doing most of the work. 

As a vertical pull movement from the ground up, it’s completely different to the other exercises in this list. A great movement for lots of training outcomes, and building a strong and powerful upper back.

Equipment needed for single arm dumbbell snatch high pull:

How to do single arm dumbbell snatch high pull:

  • Place the dumbbell between your feet, slightly in front of you
  • Take hold of the dumbbell with an overhand (palms facing towards you) grip
  • Keep your back straight and pull directly upwards
  • Pulling the elbow up high and wide, but squeeze the shoulder blade of the lifting arm in towards the middle
  • Emphasize the elbow traveling upwards and keeping the dumbbell close to the body
  • Lower the dumbbell under control
  • Repeat as many times as required

13. Reverse Fly

Reverse flyes are traditionally seen as a rear delt exercise. They are an excellent rear delt exercise, but they also recruit the muscles of the upper back too.

Your focus should be on full scapular control, activating the muscles of the upper back and rear delts, and achieving a full muscle squeeze at the top of the movement. Weight isn’t everything here – movement quality is important too.

Equipment needed for reverse flyes:

How to do reverse flyes:

  • Bend forward at the hips, keeping your back straight
  • Start with your arms pointing down directly underneath your chest, with a slight bend at the elbow
  • Lift the hands out to the sides, squeezing your shoulder blades as you do
  • At the top of the movement, squeeze your shoulder blades together tightly to finish
  • Lower the arms back to the start position and repeat

14. Shrugs

Equipment needed for shrugs: 

How to do shrugs:

  • Stand upright with a dumbbell in each hand – the arms should be straight either side of your body
  • Keeping the dumbbells by your sides, shrug your shoulder up – visualize trying to touch your ears with your shoulders!
  • When the shoulders are as high as possible, squeeze them together and lower back down
  • Repeat as required

15. Dumbbell T Raises

Dumbbell T-Raises are similar to reverse flyes, but the difference is that the T-Raise has your chest supported on a bench. By doing this, you can really focus on the movement quality and execution of the lift. You won’t have to concern yourself with torso position, which can be a problem if you’re fatigued from previous exercises.

The exercise here is designed to really isolate the rear delts, so engage that mind-muscle connection fully and really maximize the contraction. Hit your rear upper back and traps hard with these.

Equipment needed for dumbbell T raises:

How to do dumbbell T raises:

  • Lie chest down on an inclined bench, with a light dumbbell in each hand
  • Slowly lift the arms up and to the sides, keeping your arms straight and you lift into a ‘T’ shape
  • Squeeze the shoulder blades together as you go
  • At the top of the movement, pause and slowly return to the start position
  • Repeat as many times as required

These exercises are the upper back movements. They’re different from the others in the sense that they’re specifically targeted on a small area, as opposed to the others which are training the back in a broader sense.

Back to Basics – dumbbell back exercises FAQs

Answers to a few common questions when it comes to back training, and dumbbell back exercises in general…

Can I do all of these exercises as a single workout?

I wouldn’t. A workout containing 15 exercises is frankly, too large. You won’t be able to do a lot of them justice because of fatigue, so your workout will be subpar.

It’ll also take way too long, and it’ll take you ages to recover from. My advice… Don’t bother.

As a fan of full body workouts, I’d always advise you to mix up your training and enjoy the variety of stimuli. Put a few into your full body workouts each day.

If I decide to split the exercises up, how do I decide which ones to put in my workouts?

The first point is to make sure you’re not putting all of the exercises from one section in. So for example, don’t fill a workout with the lower back exercises alone. Perhaps pick one or two from each of the sections and use that as a workout.

Ideally, don’t repeat the same movement patterns too often either. For example, don’t fill a workout with a bunch of horizontal rows, ignoring any hinges or vertical pulls.

Some of these are new to me – how do I approach them?

The same as you would any new exercise. Start by watching the videos I’ve attached, and reading the coaching points. Once you’ve done that, work with very light weights and build up as you go.

The goal is to progress appropriately, not to beast yourself on day one.

I’ve had back problems in the past – are these exercises suitable for me?

Check with your therapist first. None of these exercises are inherently dangerous as long as you lift an appropriate weight with good technique. It’s impossible to give blanket advice through the internet, so always exercise caution.

The likelihood is that these exercises will actually benefit an injured back in time, but only if you’re pain-free when you start using them.

How many times per week should I use these exercises?

This depends on your goals and training styles, but I’d suggest putting back exercises into your training 3-4 times per week. Not only does a strong back look and perform well, it also protects you from injury in the long term.

If I were you, I’d be training my back a MINIMUM of twice per week. Just make sure you’re recovered between sessions. Any discomfort, address that first. Don’t be silly when it comes to your back.

Back to Basics: The bottom line

If you’ve spent your whole training life hitting your back with a barbell or kettlebells, you might view the exercises in this workout with a little suspicion. Trust me with this though, get these right and you’ll really shake up your training and enjoy fresh results.

Re-read the article, make some notes and get yourself in the gym. Add these exercises to your workouts and thank me later…

For more workout and exercise guides from the Strong Home Gym archives, click here.

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Hi! My name is Steve Hoyles. I’m a personal trainer, gym owner and fitness copywriter. Since graduating with my Sports Science degree in 2004 I’ve worked in the fitness industry, helping thousands of people reach their health and fitness goals. My writing has been read by millions of people in over 200 countries.

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