Bringing Dumbbells Back: Back Dumbbell Exercises

When you think about your back health, your mind probably automatically goes to the chiropractor, good posture techniques, and sleeping with your spine in alignment.

But there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to good spine and back health. Lifting weights, specifically dumbbells, can help you strengthen the muscles in your back and help you lead a healthier life!

While some muscle groups can only be targeted through a limited set of moves and exercises, back dumbbell exercises are voluminous.

This gives you tons of variety when you’re planning your workout and you need to tweak it to suit your health or your fitness goals.

Why Work the Back?

Your back does a lot more work throughout your day than you think!

Everything from holding you upright in your office chair to bending and picking up your kids, equipment, or anything else off the ground is the lot in life for your back and spine. Building strength in this area helps you perform these tasks with even greater ease and ability.

If you’re already experiencing daily back pain, targeting and working your back when you weight lift is one of the best ways to get rid of the pain.

Building the muscles surrounding your spine help relieve the stress on load-bearing points in your back.

Stronger muscles help you move more smoothly and interact in the world without pain.

In addition to strengthening the area in general, you’ll be strengthening a whole host of muscle groups!

There’s a lot more to your back than just your shoulders and your spine. There are 4 major muscle groups that you’ll end up targeting including your lats, rhomboids, traps, and erector spinae. Each of these moves and pulls on different areas of the body which affects your overall health.

Best Back Dumbbell Exercises

Working your back can feel like an exercise in futility. After all, there’s no machine at the gym specifically for your back!

But there is a weight set and utilizing the dumbbells during your workout is a great way to boost your overall health and get yourself on track for a pain-free life.

Dumbbell Row

Time to hit the gym, home or local, and grab those dumbbells!

This is a basic move but it targets two of the main muscle groups in your back. Just like every weightlifting move though, it’s all about your form.

Keep your hips and shoulders square to the ground to build up your core strength as well!

Over time you’ll be able to load up on this with some heavyweights and push yourself even further.

But to start, begin with a lighter weight and increase slowly over time. You’ll do 3 sets of 8-12 reps for this move first.

Elevated Plank Row Hold

While the dumbbell back workouts are designed to engage your back muscles and help you feel the burn there, they also really engage the rest of your body too so be prepared to feel the burn!

You’ll start by putting yourself in a plank position for this move with your weight resting on just one forearm o the bench.

Engage your core and glutes so that your spine is held straight while picking up your dumbbell with the opposite arm.

Pull up by using your back muscles until the weight touches your rib case then pause and hold it there for 30 seconds. Do 3 sets of 8-10 reps for this move.

Incline Row

When you do the traditional dumbbell row, there’s a chance that at the moment, you let your torso and core rock back and forth which can create momentum for pulling the weight up toward your body.

This may make it easier but it won’t work the muscles you want to target in the same way anymore. The incline bench puts a stop to that and forces your body to focus solely on pulling up the muscles and using them to do the workout.

Towel Grip Dumbbell Row

You’ll need a simple piece of extra equipment to finish this move so grab a towel that’s long enough to go around your dumbbell handle and have extra to hang onto for your next move You’ll put one knee and hand on the bench and grip the towel with the dumbbell inside.

You’ll then pull the dumbbell up toward your torso to engage your lats and your rhomboids. Then, switch sides and repeat for your full reps and sets.

Renegade Row

Your entire upper body is going to feel the burn after this one. You’ll start by doing a push-up and then press up to row the dumbbell toward your hips.

During the move, you’ll engage your abs, lats, and rhomboids to utilize your entire upper body effectively. The finish for this move is a plank row and you can start with 3 sets of 8-10 reps for each side.

V-Taper Dumbbell Row

This row is designed to help you build up your outer lats and create more size as well as depth to your rear deltoids.

The V-taper utilizes a typical row form which keeps your elbow close to your torso for the entirety of the move. By flaring your elbow out, you’ll engage your rear deltoids and build up the muscles behind your shoulders more quickly.

For the close rows, you’ll pause for just a second which engages your lats even more and makes them stronger.

Farmer’s Carry

There’s a reason farmers are some of the strongest people you’ll meet!

This move has been part of building a better body whether intentionally or unintentionally since time immemorial. You’ll grasp your set of dumbbells and engage your shoulders and abs then walk a certain distance or for a certain amount of time.

By engaging these muscle groups to hold the dumbbells stead at your side, you’ll build a better, stronger back in no time.

You can do different variations of this move by switching for time or distance or both and increase the weights as you get stronger

Half-ISO Incline Row

If you’re ready to take your workout to the next level, this move is the way to go!

This half-ISO incline row will start to teach your muscles how to keep creating force when you’ve pulled your arms back as far as you can go.

You can continue to make this move more challenging by opting for a count-up which starts with just a few of the row moves and then counts up to more each time you go through the cycle.

Three-Way Elevated Plank Row

This one is a challenge so be ready to work on everything!

The three-way in the three-way elevated plank row refers to the fact that your body will be in a plank position, elevated up off the ground, as you go through the row move. Your core is going to be laser-focused on keeping your body in that elevated plank position while your arm that’s engaged is using very specific muscle groups to do back squeezes.

While you’re working this, you’ll keep your elbow flared to engage your rear delts or you can opt for the standard with your elbow close to your torso to work your lats and rhomboids. Reverse it for a reverse-grip pull that will end up focusing more on your lower lats than anything else.

TRX Plank Pause Row

While most, if not all of the other moves on our list don’t require any additional equipment, this one will need just one extra piece to make it all come together.

You’ll start in a TRX single-arm plank hold that will work your abs and obliques! Once you’re in this position you’ll then row your dumbbell up and within this, you’ll use your lats and rhomboids nearly in isolation.

Your lats and rhomboids are on their own as the rest of your body focuses on holding the TRX plank!

Protecting Your Back While Working Out

Your back can end up being sensitive and it’s easy to tweak muscles, bones, or find yourself out of alignment before long.

To protect yourself and your back, there are a few things you can do that are simple and will give you the best workout!

Strengthen Your Core

Believe it or not, your core plays a vital role in your spinal and back health as well!

Having a strong core helps protect you from injury and keep your body in the correct for every move you go through during a workout.

Strengthen your core by doing planks, sit-ups, crunches, twists, and any other ab exercises you can think up!

Safeguards When Lifting

When you’re lifting, there are several key components to make sure you don’t injure yourself or increase and aggravate an older injury.

The first thing you need to do is bend at the knees and not at your lower back.

Whether you’re just bending down to lift a weight or you want to pick up a pencil, use your knees to bend down and don’t just slump at the waist. 

Adequate Rest

One of the best things you can do when it comes to protecting your back is to make sure you rest appropriately including after lifting weights.

When you’re lifting, you’ll be putting stress and strain on your back, and taking time to rest between reps and after you lift is crucial.

This can be as simple as standing straight up after you’ve been bending a lot.


Before you work out or lift weights, one of the best things you can do for your back in general and your lower back specifically is to stretch your hamstrings.

This reduces pressure on your pelvis and puts you in a better position for the day when you’re trying to get rid of leg pain and sciatica. Check out which hamstring stretches work best for which conditions before you start!

Some are worse for your back than others so be sure to coordinate with your research or a doctor or physical therapist before you get too into the stretching routine.

Choose the Right Weight

Starting and moving forward with the weight you’re lifting regularly is crucial to keeping your back healthy and injury-free when lifting any kind of weight.

Start slow and low with your weight and reps to determine if your body is in the right position and that you’re using the correct form.

Only after you’ve gotten your body used to the form and weight should you increase slightly and continue with your reps.

Know When to Stop

Pushing yourself to be better and pushing yourself past pain are two different things. One key way to protect yourself and your back, in particular, is to know when to stop. Pushing through exhaustion is a quick way to end up injured or even more exhausted.

If you’re trying to push through a level of pain that’s more intense than usual, it’s time to stop. Knowing your body is the best way to protect yourself and your back in particular.

Serious injuries can happen because you weren’t prepared and didn’t listen to your body’s signals when working out. Even if it means stopping your lifting session early today, you’ll be able to pick it back up when you’re fit and ready rather than when you’re tired and possibly in pain.

Know the Risks

Before you even start your workout, stop and understand the risks that are involved. You’ll need to take careful stock of your body in general before you put yourself under the pressure of a high-intensity workout.

Evaluate whether you’re ready, what your goals are, and how you’re planning to reach your goals for this weight lifting session. Take into account the weights you’ll be using, any injuries you need to look out for, and how you’ll choose to progress after this session.


Strengthening your back is one of the best ways to prevent injury from doing even normal physical activity. But without a machine at the gym, it can leave you befuddled as to how you’ll be working your lats, rhomboids, and other back muscle groups.

The answer: pick up some dumbbells and get to work!

With a wide range of different exercises, engaging your back muscles with some dumbbell exercises is a piece of cake and you’ll never get bored!

Varying degrees of difficulty is part of the moves and you’ll be able to start low and progress through some different stages of moves to make things more difficult as you go forward.

Strengthening your back is one of the best ways to prevent injury! Work through some of the dumbbell moves to get a back that stands out in a crowd!

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