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Back Workouts With Dumbbells

by Jeremy Ethier - June 2, 2022

Looking for a solid back workout involving just dumbbells? You're in luck. Here's a list of the most effective dumbbells-only back exercises you could ever include in your workouts.

Dumbbells are extremely versatile pieces of equipment that can be used to replicate any barbell movement that exists. The efficacy of movements may differ between barbell and dumbbell variants of the same movement — but either can be used to develop a thick, wide and balanced back.

Because of this, there are plenty of useful back workouts with dumbbells that you can use to optimize your back development.

I’ve listed a handful of the most effective dumbbell exercises below divided by the back muscles they are best used for training.

Think of this like a cheat sheet that you can use to determine effective exercise replacements for any back workouts you happen to come across and want to use — even if you don’t have the equipment necessary to use the base program as-is.

This way, you’ll still adapt in the way the program intends, even if your equipment is limited — or, if you just have a preference to perform back workouts with dumbbells over other types.

If you want to perform a solid back workout with dumbbells, just perform the following dumbbell-only exercises in order for the number of sets and reps I prescribe alongside each.

Each exercise also comes along with a brief recommendation for where to put it in your back workouts, in case you decide you want to take one of these exercises and plug it into your own custom back workout.

Before that: if you're looking for a training program that'll help you set up every single one of your workouts for optimal muscle growth, I've got just the thing for you. Every BWS program is designed to be an all-in-one, science-based process that’ll get you building muscle FAST. For more information:

Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:

#1: Dumbbell One-Arm Bent Over Row, 4 sets of 6-8 reps

  • Place one hand and one knee on a flat bench so that you are able to support your body while maintaining a neutral spine, parallel to the bench.
  • Grab a dumbbell with your free hand and hold it directly below your shoulder with your arm fully extended.
  • Exhale and begin pulling the dumbbell towards your torso, making sure that your elbow is tucked in towards the side of your body and that you are pulling back in a straight line.
  • Continue until your elbow passes the back of your torso. Inhale and begin to lower the dumbbell in a slow and controlled fashion — returning to the starting position with your arm fully extended.
  • Repeat for as many reps as desired.
Dumbbell One Arm Bent Over Row

Back Workout Placement: This exercise should be performed earlier on in your back workouts given that it involves some stabilizer muscles and motion at multiple joints.

#2: Chest Supported Dumbbell Row (Lat Focused), 4 sets of 8-10 reps

  • Position yourself on an incline bench angled at 30 degrees.
  • Grab one dumbbell in each hand and maintain them directly below your shoulders with your arms fully extended.
  • Then, exhale and begin pulling the dumbbells outwards while keeping your elbows close to your sides.
  • Focus on driving your elbows backward as you pull.
  • Continue until your elbows pass the midline of your torso.
  • Inhale and lower the weight, returning to the starting position.
  • Repeat for as many reps as needed.
Chest Supported Dumbbell Row (Lat Focused)

If you don’t have access to a bench that can be adjusted to the appropriate height, you can perform this exercise without one — although doing so will be less effective.

If performed without a bench, then go with the following form instead:

  • Grab one dumbbell in each hand and bend forward while maintaining a flat back so that your torso is near parallel to the floor.
  • Then, exhale and begin pulling the dumbbells outwards while keeping your elbows close to your sides.
  • Focus on driving your elbows backward as you pull.
  • Continue until your elbows pass the midline of your torso.
  • Inhale and lower the weight, returning to the starting position.
  • Repeat for as many reps as needed.
Chest Supported Dumbbell Row (Lat Focused without bench)

Back Workout Placement: This exercise should be performed in the earlier portion of your back workouts, but should generally be done after exercises that require a lot of stabilization.

#3: Chest Supported Dumbbell Rows (Upper Back Focused), 4 sets of 8-10 reps

  • Position yourself on an incline bench angled at 30 degrees.
  • Grab one dumbbell in each hand and maintain them directly below your shoulders with your arms fully extended.
  • Then, exhale and begin pulling the dumbbells outwards while flaring your elbows out to a point that is angled about 60 degrees from your torso.
  • Make sure to also pull your shoulder blades in and together while pulling.
  • Continue until your elbows are in-line with your torso. Inhale and lower the weight, returning to the starting position.
  • Repeat for as many reps as needed.
Chest Supported Dumbbell Rows (Upper Back Focused)

If you don’t have access to a bench that can be adjusted to the appropriate height, you can again perform this exercise without one — although doing so will be less effective.

If performed without a bench, then go with the following form instead:

  • Grab one dumbbell in each hand and bend forward while maintaining a flat back so that your torso is near parallel to the floor.
  • Then, exhale and begin pulling the dumbbells outwards while flaring your elbows out to a point that is angled about 60 degrees from your torso.
  • Make sure to also pull your shoulder blades in and together while pulling.
  • Continue until your elbows are in-line with your torso.
  • Inhale and lower the weight, returning to the starting position.
  • Repeat for as many reps as needed.
Chest Supported Dumbbell Rows (Upper Back Focused without bench)

Back Workout Placement: This exercise should be performed in the earlier portion of your back workouts, but should generally be done after exercises that require a lot of stabilization.

Ultimately, there are always modifications you can make to your exercises to suit your equipment availability. However, picking the right alternative exercise — and understanding how, exactly, you should perform it for maximal muscle activation — can be tricky. And this is where BWS programs come in. For more information:

Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:

#4: Dumbbell Shrugs, 3 sets of 10-12 reps

  • Standing upright, grab one dumbbell in either hand and hold them by your sides with your arms fully extended.
  • Exhale and shrug your shoulders upwards while keeping your arms fully extended and pulling your shoulder blades back.
  • Once your shoulders are shrugged as much as possible, inhale and lower the weight to the starting position.
  • Maintain tension in your upper traps at the bottom of the range of motion, do not fully relax them.
  • Repeat for as many reps as your workout requires.
Dumbbell Shrugs

Back Workout Placement: This exercise should be performed towards the end of your back workouts. Given it acts as an isolation exercise, performing it earlier would inhibit your performance during other exercises in your workout that focus on more than one back muscle. It also focuses on a relatively small area of your upper back, so it is less important to prioritize than other exercises you’ll do in your program.

#5: Dumbbell Hyperextensions, 3 sets of 10-12 reps

  • Position yourself on a hyperextension bench so that the top of the pad is just below your hips.
  • Hold two dumbbells in your hands, one in each.
  • Allow your torso to bend forward, rotating around the pad.
  • Continue until your torso is fully curled forward.
  • Then, exhale and begin straightening your torso while simultaneously raising it upwards.
  • Continue until your torso is in line with your lower body, creating a straight line.
  • Inhale and lower yourself back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat for as many reps as needed.
DumbbellHyperextensions

Back Workout Placement: This should be positioned towards the end of your workout. Given the lower back can sometimes help stabilize other exercises, it’s best to save this until a point where fatiguing your Erector Spinae won’t interfere with the rest of your back workout.

Example Back Workout With Dumbbells

Dumbbell One-Arm Bent Over Row: 4 sets of 6-8 reps

Chest Supported Dumbbell Row (Lat Focused): 4 sets of 8-10 reps

Chest Supported Dumbbell Row (Upper Back Focused): 4 sets of 8-10 reps

Dumbbell Shrugs: 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Dumbbell Hyperextensions: 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Takeaway

Who said it was impossible to get a good, effective back workout in when all you have access to are dumbbells? Not me, that's for sure. That said, on days you have access to more equipment, you might also want to check out one of the best back workouts you could ever do in a gym here.

Once you have your training plan down pat, though, you should still remember to pair all of this with a solid nutrition plan to fuel and support your recovery and growth.

And for a step-by-step program that does all of this for you, by showing you how to train and how to eat week after week to maximize growth, then:

Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:

Back Workouts With Dumbbells

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