Back Workouts With Dumbbells That Build Strength

Introduction | Benefits of back workouts with dumbbells | Dumbbell back workouts

A guy completing back workouts with dumbbells.

Back workouts with dumbbells

These back workouts with dumbbells have been developed to increase strength and muscle definition. The combination of dumbbell exercises will enable you to target all the muscles in the back.


Because you’ll only be using dumbbells, the workouts that follow can be completed independently of a gym. All you need is pair of dumbbells and a bit of space.


However, though the workouts were designed to be performed with dumbbells, you can also use kettlebells and resistance bands for some of the exercises.

Why do back workouts with dumbbells?

As we argue in our article The Benefits of Dumbbell Training, the humble dumbbell is arguably the most versatile piece of exercise equipment available. With a pair of dumbbells, you are able to access an extensive range of exercises.


In addition, the dumbbell is like a precision training tool that enables you to target specific muscles (unlike the barbell, which is the equivalent of a battering ram). This probably accounts for why they are used extensively by bodybuilders and trainers trying to sculpt a defined physique.

Related: Best Dumbbells for the Home Gym

Can back workouts with dumbbells build strength?

They most certainly can! If you select a heavy enough dumbbell(s) and ensure to keep the reps and sets low, then you will be training for strength.


As it happens, the first of the two workouts below has been designed specifically to promote strength development.


Organised around big compound movements – deadlift and bent over rows – this workout will help you build a strong lower and upper back.

Benefits of back workouts with dumbbells

First, the dumbbell workouts below target all the muscles of the back. If you interchange them with your chest, shoulders, and ab workouts, you’ll have a balanced training routine.


The back workouts with dumbbells are not exclusively limited to that piece of exercise equipment. As mentioned above, some of the exercises can be completed either with a resistance band or a kettlebell.

These back workouts with dumbbells are suitable for all abilities

All the workouts are fully customisable and have been designed to accommodate beginners through to advanced trainers. For example, depending on your level of fitness and strength, you could easily modify the intensity by increasing reps and weights.


Also, the back workouts with dumbbells conclude with a short CrossFit-inspired challenge. This challenge is optional and doesn’t impact on the mechanics of the workouts – meaning you don’t have to do it.

However, if you wanted to turn up the intensity and get the heart working, then have a go at the challenges.

Two back workouts with dumbbells

Back workouts with dumbbells #1: Strength

The first of the two back workouts with dumbbells will build strength in the lower and upper back. Comprised of two big compound dumbbell exercises, the objective is to go as heavy as possible without sacrificing form.


Because the focus is strength development, ensure to observe the appropriate protocol: low reps and sets with 2- to 3-minutes rest. Also, ensure to warm-up well before starting the workout.


Dumbbell sumo squats

Method: 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 8 reps

Back muscles targeted: trapezius, rhomboids, infraspinatus.

  • Stand directly over two dumbbells.

  • Adopt a wide stance – about one and a half shoulder widths.

  • Keeping the back straight grasp the dumbbells and stand up. The dumbbells are at your front, your hands in line with your shoulders.

  • Though this is a deadlift, you will also be flexing at the knees as well as the hips.

  • With your eyes fixed forward, core tight, chest out, execute a deadlift by slowly lowering the dumbbells to the floor.

  • Remember, you do not have to touch the floor – about a foot from touch down will do.

  • Pause momentarily then stand up.

Single arm dumbbell row

Method: 3 to 6 sets of 4 to 8 reps

Back muscles targeted: latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, infraspinatus, trapezius.

  • With a dumbbell positioned between you and a solid object set about waist height, first form a stable position from which to execute the lift.

  • Space your feet so that the one opposite to the arm lifting is further forward.

  • The foot on your lifting side is set back and slightly out. You are trying to form a triangle.

  • The supporting hand is gripping the solid object and your upper body is almost parallel to the floor.

  • Now grasp the dumbbell and proceed to row it until it touches the side of your torso.

  • Lower the dumbbell to the start position but stop short of touching the floor.

  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

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Back workouts with dumbbells challenge

The following challenge doesn’t just target the muscles of the back. It builds whole-body strength while also developing functional fitness. After setting a 10-minute countdown timer, you will be performing Farmer’s walk.


The objective of this challenge is to cover the greatest distance possible in 10-minutes. Before setting a countdown timer, mark out a walkway ensuring to measure the distance.


To make life easy space two cones 10 metres apart. In the time allotted try to make as many crossings as you can. When the time runs out multiply the number of crossings by a single length of your walkway (20 crossings of 15-metres = 300 metres total).

Farmer’s walk back workout with dumbbells

Method: cover as many metres as possible in 10-minutes

Back muscles targeted: trapezius, rhomboids, infraspinatus, latissimus dorsi, lower back, deltoids, forearms, transverse abdominus, gluteus maximus, quadriceps, gastrocnemius.

  • Stand with two dumbbells on either side of your feet.

  • Applying correct squatting technique, pick up the dumbbells.

  • Before setting off, organise your posture: arms straight, chest out, feet shoulder-width.

  • When you’re ready proceed to walk.

  • Ensure to look forward while walking – a seemingly obvious technique point, but a common Farmer’s walking technique error is to look down.


Related: Rejuvenate your home gym with a pair of Adjustable Dumbbells


Back workouts with dumbbells #2: Strength and shape

This back workout employs dumbbells for the dual purpose of building strength and sculpting definition. Following the set and rep method, each exercise is identified as ‘strength’ of ‘sculpt’. Where it says strength!, go heavy. Where it says sculpt, go light to moderate but focus on control.

Single arm dumbbell row

Method: 6 to 8 sets of 4 to 6 reps (strength!)

Back muscles targeted: latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, infraspinatus, trapezius.

  • With a dumbbell positioned between you and a solid object set about waist height, first form a stable position from which to execute the lift.

  • Space your feet so that the one opposite to the arm lifting is further forward.

  • The foot on your lifting side is set back and slightly out. You are trying to form a triangle.

  • The supporting hand is gripping the solid object and your upper body is almost parallel to the floor.

  • Now grasp the dumbbell and proceed to row it until it touches the side of your torso.

  • Lower the dumbbell to the start position but stop short of touching the floor.

  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Standing reverse flys

Method: 6 to 8 sets of 12 to 20 reps (sculpt)

Back muscles targeted: rear deltoids, rhomboids, infraspinatus, trapezius.

  • Adopt the same position as you would when performing a bent-over row.

  • Hold the dumbbells at your front, palms facing each other.

  • Maintaining a slight bend at the elbow joint, fly the dumbbells back.

  • Pause momentarily ensuring to squeeze! at peak contraction.

  • Bring the dumbbells back together. They should make contact before the next rep is initiated.

Dumbbell stiff leg deadlift

Method: 6 to 8 sets of 8 to 12 reps (strength!)

Back muscles targeted: erector spinae, latissimus dorsi.

  • To get the Olympic barbell into position, execute the first phase of the standard deadlift.

  • Adopt a shoulder-width stance.

  • Lock a slight bend in the knees.

  • Under control, hinge forward at the hips until the bar is level with the upper knee.

  • To start with constricting the range of movement (ROM). When you feel more confident with the exercise, increase the ROM until the bar is level with the midpoint of your shins.

  • Pause momentarily, return to the upright position.

  • As you stand erect focus on executing a smooth movement.

Bent over lateral raises

Method: 6 to 8 sets of 12 to 20 reps (sculpt)

Back muscles targeted: posterior deltoid, trapezius, rhomboids, infraspinatus.

  • Sit at the end of a workout bench holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides.

  • Hinge forward at the hips slightly. Your torso is at about 45-degrees to your thighs.

  • Under control, raise the dumbbells level with your shoulders. The palms of the hands face the floor throughout the movement.

  • Pause momentarily before lowering.

Dumbbell shrugs

Method: 6 to 8 sets of 12 to 20 reps (strength!)

Back muscles targeted: trapezius, rhomboids, infraspinatus.

  • Stand with two dumbbells by your sides.

  • Adopt a shoulder-width stance.

  • Keep your eyes fixed forward, core tight, chest out.

  • Attempt to touch your ears with your shoulders.

  • Hold at the top position before returning to the start.

Back workouts with dumbbells challenge

This CrossFit-inspired challenge really turns up the heat. At this point in the workout, you’ll be well warmed up and have a hefty pump in the back muscles. Now it’s time to get the pulse rate up and a good lick of sweat on the brow. After all, you want to leave the gym looking like you’ve actually exercised.

AMRAP back workout with dumbbells

This challenge is basically an AMRAP – as many reps as possible. After setting a 10-minute countdown timer, you’re going to perform alternate arm dumbbell snatches. You’ll only need one dumbbell for this challenge as you’ll be changing hands after each snatch.

Dumbbell snatch

Method: perform as many stanches as possible in10-minutes

Back muscles targeted: lower back, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids. Other muscles targeted: glutes, core, shoulders.

  • Stand directly over a single dumbbell. Space your feet a little over shoulder-width.

  • Bending at the knees, squat down and grasp the dumbbell.

  • Keeping your core tight and eyes fixed forward, in one controlled movement hoist the dumbbell above your head.

  • When snatching focus on engaging the big muscles of the legs and back simultaneously. It helps to view the snatch as a whole-body exercise.

  • With the dumbbell poised above your head, return it to the floor.

  • Change hands and repeat.

 

Enjoyed these back workouts with dumbbells?

Get your hands on 50 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits Vol. 1.

This image shows the Hungry4Fitness book of circuits volume one. Inside the image it identifies the key features of the book which include: 50 circuits and workouts suitable for all levels of fitness and ability, Benefits of circuit training and why you should include circuits in your exercise routine, How to create and design your own circuit, Essential training principles, Fitness challenges and exercise competitions, Circuit and workouts suitable for most training facilities, and a 10-minute whole-body stretching plan.

 

In this text box it says: As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance! Blog Author: Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.

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