Simple Fitness, Food and Health Hacks

Hey, I'm Julien. Each week I share a newsletter designed to make you fitter. It's short, smart and actionable16k read it, I'd love you to join too. It's free.

20 Of The Best Dumbbell Back Exercises To Add To Your Routine Right Now

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

We may receive a commission from our affiliate links at no additional cost to you. See disclosures page.

When it comes to achieving a strong and well-defined back, dumbbell exercises are some of the most effective tools in your fitness arsenal. A well-structured back not only enhances your physique but also contributes to overall strength, posture, muscle growth, and functional fitness. In this article, we’ll dive into 20 of the best dumbbell back exercises that you can start incorporating into your routine today. But before we go deeper into the exercises themselves, let’s take a moment to understand the key muscles that make up the back and the benefits of incorporating dumbbell exercises into your regimen.

What Muscles Make Up the Back

The back is a complex group of muscles that play a crucial role in supporting your spine, maintaining posture, and facilitating a wide range of movements. Here are some of the primary muscles that make up the back:

A muscular man performing dumbbell back exercises
  • Save

Latissimus Dorsi (Lats): These are the large, fan-shaped muscles that give your back a V-shape. Lats are responsible for pulling movements like pull-ups and rows.

Trapezius (Traps): The traps run from the base of your skull down to the middle of your back. They support the neck, shoulders, and upper back.

Rhomboids and Scapular Stabilizers: These muscles help retract and stabilize the shoulder blades, aiding in posture and upper body movements.

Get Bigger Muscles
Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

Based on our testing, this is the best creatine for most people. It has the perfect dosage of creatine monohydrate per serving, which has been proven to increase muscle mass.

  • Promote strength and muscle gains
  • Tested for purity and safety
  • Creatine has no known side effects
See on Amazon See on Transparent Labs

Serratus: Located on the sides of the chest, the serratus muscles assist in shoulder protraction and stabilizing the scapula.

Erectors (Lower Back): The erector spinae muscles run along the spine and help maintain an upright posture and provide support during lifting movements.

A man doing dumbbell back exercises on a bench
  • Save

The Benefits of Dumbbell Back Exercises

Dumbbell back exercises offer numerous benefits that contribute to overall fitness, strength, and posture. Here are some key advantages of incorporating dumbbell back exercises into your workout routine:

Strength and Muscle Development

Dumbbell back exercises target major muscle groups such as the latissimus dorsi (lats), rhomboids, trapezius, and erector spinae. These exercises promote muscle growth and strength in the upper and mid-back region.

Balanced Muscle Development

Using dumbbells allows for a more natural range of motion, helping to prevent muscle imbalances. This is especially important for those who may have one side of their body stronger than the other.

Improved Posture

Strengthening the muscles of the upper and mid-back helps counteract the effects of poor posture, which is common due to prolonged sitting and screen time. Dumbbell back exercises can help pull the shoulders back and promote a more upright posture.

Functional Fitness

A strong back is crucial for everyday activities like lifting objects, carrying groceries, or even maintaining proper form during other exercises. Dumbbell back exercises enhance your ability to perform these tasks safely and effectively.

Injury Prevention

Strengthening the muscles of the back provides stability and support to the spine, reducing the risk of back injuries. Improved core strength resulting from many of these exercises also contributes to better spinal health.

Enhanced Athletic Performance

A strong back contributes to improved performance in various sports and physical activities. Whether you’re a runner, swimmer, weightlifter, or play team sports, a well-developed back supports your overall athleticism.

Metabolic Boost

Compound dumbbell back exercises engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, leading to increased calorie burn during and after workouts. This can contribute to weight management and overall metabolic health.

Variety and Progression

Dumbbell back exercises offer a wide range of movements and variations that can be adapted to all fitness levels. You can progressively increase the weight, reps, or sets to keep challenging yourself.

A woman using a bench for dumbbell back exercises
  • Save

The 20 Best Dumbbell Back Exercises

  1. Dumbbell Rows: Stand with dumbbells, knees slightly bent. Lean forward from hips, pull dumbbells towards hips, keeping elbows close. Squeeze shoulder blades together, then lower.
  2. Bent-Over Dumbbell Rows: For this bent-over row, hinge at hips and hold dumbbells with arms extended. Pull dumbbells towards hips, engaging back muscles. Lower weights with a neutral spine and the repeat steps again.
  3. Single-Arm Dumbbell Row: Place knee and hand on bench, opposite leg on ground to start off this one-arm dumbbell row. Hold the dumbbell in the opposite hand, extend your arm. Pull dumbbell towards hip while maintaining straight back.
  4. Dumbbell Deadlift: Hold dumbbells in front of thighs. Hinge hips, bend knees, lower dumbbells. Stand up, keeping back flat, chest up, and squeezing glutes.
  5. Renegade Rows: Keeping your core tight, start in a push-up position, each hand holding a dumbbell. Row one dumbbell to hip, stabilize with other arm. Alternate rows while keeping the body steady.
  6. Dumbbell Pullovers: Lie on bench, upper back supported. Hold the dumbbell with both hands above your chest. Lower weight behind head, feeling lat stretch. Pull weight back up.
  7. Dumbbell Shrugs: Stand, dumbbells at sides. Elevate shoulders as high as possible, arms straight. Hold, then lower shoulders.
  8. Dumbbell Pull-Over Rows: Lie on bench, upper back supported. Hold the dumbbell in one hand above your chest. Lower dumbbell behind head, extend arm, and then pull dumbbell towards hip in rowing motion.
  9. Dumbbell Face Pulls: Bend over at the hips with your dumbbells in your hands extended towards the ground. Then pull weights towards the face while focusing on squeezing rear deltoids, repeating until the set is done.
  10. Dumbbell High Rows: Start in the same position as the dumbbell pull-over rows, except now you’re going to raise both dumbbells up outside of your chest and back down. Make sure to focus on the movement of the shoulder blades and keeping those muscles engaged.
  11. Dumbbell Renegade Rows: Start in plank position, each hand on the dumbbell. Row one dumbbell to hip, then the other. Keep hips steady, engage core.
  12. Single-Arm Dumbbell Deadlift: Hold dumbbell in one hand, palm facing you. Hinge hips, extend free arm for balance. Lower dumbbell towards foot, keeping back straight.
  13. Dumbbell Inverted Rows: Lay with your chest on an incline bench at a 45 degree angle. Keep a neutral spine and your shoulders square as you row the dumbbells towards your body.
  14. Dumbbell Superman: Lie face down, hold dumbbells in hands. Lift chest and legs while squeezing shoulder blades and glutes at the same time.
  15. Dumbbell T-Raises: Bend forward at hips, hold dumbbells in front of you. Lift dumbbells to sides, forming a ‘T’. Lower slowly while keeping your core muscles engaged.
  16. Dumbbell Y-Raises: Similar to T-raises, but lift dumbbells at a diagonal to form a ‘Y’. Engage upper back muscles.
  17. Dumbbell Upright Rows: Hold dumbbells in front, palms facing body. Lift dumbbells towards chin, elbows flaring out. Lower under control.
  18. Dumbbell Reverse Flyes: Bend forward at hips, dumbbells in hand. Open arms wide, squeezing shoulder blades. Lower with control.
  19. Dumbbell Single-Arm High Pull: Hold dumbbell in one hand, palm facing you. Pull dumbbell towards upper chest, elbow flaring out.
  20. Dumbbell Renegade Rows with Push-Ups: Combine renegade rows with push-ups. Row one dumbbell, perform a push-up, then row the other dumbbell. Focus on stability and core engagement for building strength.
A strong man doing dumbbell back exercises
  • Save

Can You Build A Good Back With Only Dumbbells?

Absolutely, you can undoubtedly build a strong and impressive back using only dumbbells. While barbells and machines have their merits, dumbbells offer a versatile and effective means to target your back muscles comprehensively. With a thoughtful selection of exercises and proper execution, you can engage your lats, rhomboids, traps, and other back muscles.

Dumbbells provide the advantage of allowing unilateral movement, ensuring balanced muscle development and improved stabilization for every day human movement. From classic rows and deadlifts to innovative variations like single-arm rows and renegade rows, dumbbells offer a range of movements that stimulate muscle growth from various angles. By progressively increasing the weight, perfecting your form, and maintaining consistency, you can sculpt a well-defined and robust back that not only looks impressive but also supports your overall balanced strength, spinal stability, and posture.


Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

Share via
Copy link