The 11 best dumbbell and bench back exercises (in video)

Dumbbell back exercises – Our backs have powerful muscles and many people like to train them. A common idea is that you need a wide range of equipment, including bars and a rack, for effective training of this body part.

You also don't have to do sets of pull-ups to get a stronger back. Indeed, pull-ups are often too difficult for beginners, overweight people or most seniors.

So in this article, I'm going to share with you 11 of the best back exercises you can do with just a pair of dumbbells. If you also have a reclining bench, that's even better. This means that you can follow a good training program at home.

I will also give you an example of a session for the back at the end…

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11 exercises for the back with dumbbells

dumbbell back exercises - muscles worked
Back bones and muscles

Here are 11 of the most effective exercises for your back. I have included notes on the targeted back muscles by each movement and how to apply the correct technique.

Note, however, that these movements solicit other muscles on the front of the bust such as the posterior deltoids, the trapezius or the teres major (Teres Major) for the shoulders, and the biceps to a lesser extent.

1. Row bent over close grip

Targeted muscles: latissimus dorsi (Latissimus Dorsi), rhomboids, spinal erectors, lumbar (lower back)

Rowing is pulling exercises a bit like doing a few minutes of intensive rowing. Do it regularly to have a wide back 😉

Instructions :

  • Take a dumbbell in each hand
  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and bend your knees slightly
  • Bend forward at least 45°, back straight
  • Start with your arms fully extended towards the floor, palms facing each other (neutral grip)
  • Pull the dumbbells towards your rib cage while inhaling, elbows tight towards the chest
  • At the end of the movement, squeeze your shoulder blades together for a second, then slowly release the dumbbells to return to the starting position.
Adjustable dumbbells 40kg

2. Wide grip bent over row

Targeted muscles: latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, spinal erectors, lumbar (lower back), posterior deltoids

This move is almost similar to the previous position, except this time you'll be spreading your elbows apart during the dumbbell pulldown. The muscles worked are the same as the barbell row, but the position of the hands is much more natural. You're going to work a lot of your back with this one.

Instructions :

  • Take a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and maintain a slight bend in the knees.
  • Lean forward at least 45° keeping your back straight
  • Start with your arms fully extended toward the floor, palms slightly back so that your wrists stay in a neutral position as you pull back.
  • Pull the dumbbells up, elbows away from the body (but not at a right angle).
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together for a second, then slowly release the weights until your arms are fully extended again.

3. Deadlifts or straight leg deadlifts

Back muscles targeted: latissimus dorsi, spinal erectors, trapezius

Note that this exercise also works the glutes and hamstrings (back of the thighs). The deadlift mastery with correct posture is extremely important for the lumbar area.

Instructions :

  • Take a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Stand upright, feet shoulder width apart.
  • Place your arms along the body.
  • Keeping your shoulder blades together and your spine in a neutral position, lean forward at the hips. Let the dumbbells drop down the front of your legs until you feel tension in your hamstrings.
  • Engage your glutes and upper back to return to the starting position.
  • Do not allow your back to arch or your shoulders to tip forward during the entire movement.
Testoprime

4. Reverse Flyes

Muscles Targeted: Rhomboids, Posterior Deltoids, Erector Spinae, Trapezius

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Instructions :

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart or less and a dumbbell in each hand
  • Lean forward pushing your hips back and maintaining a slight bend in the knees.
  • Start with arms straight down and palms facing each other in a hammer grip (neutral)
  • Very slightly bend your elbows, then lift the weights on each side by opening your arms wide and contracting the middle of your back
  • Hold the contraction for a second in the up position, then return to the starting position
  • Make sure your torso stays still throughout the reps

5. Chin pull

Back muscles targeted: Trapezius, rhomboids

I don't know why, but this one has always been one of my favorite moves, whether it's dumbbells, wide bar or resistance bands.

Instructions :

  • Place your feet shoulder-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand
  • Your palms should face back in pronation in front of your pelvis, and the dumbbells should be perpendicular to your thighs.
  • Using your traps, pull the dumbbells up your body, bending your elbows outward. The dumbbells should move upwards in a straight line as your elbows extend wide.
  • Pull the dumbbells up to your collarbones and elbows aligned with your ears. Your upper traps are fully contracted as well as your middle back.
  • Hold for two seconds, then slowly return to step one. 

6. Supine row on an incline bench

Back muscles targeted: latissimus dorsi, rhomboids

Instructions :

  • Adjust your bench with an inclination of 45°. Rest your chest against the backrest and put your feet on the floor with your legs straight or bent and supported on the seat of the bench (as in the video).
  • Start with a dumbbell in each hand, arms hanging straight down to the floor.
  • Rotate your forearms so that your palms face forward in a supine grip.
  • Pull each dumbbell toward the lower end of your rib cage.
  • Tuck your elbows in and squeeze your shoulder blades together before returning to the starting position.

7. Rowing one arm resting on a bench

Targeted muscles: latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboid muscle, posterior aspect of the deltoid

This unilateral work where we alternate right hand and left hand provides good stimulation for massive dorsals.

Instructions :

  • Place one knee on a straight bench or padded chair, spreading the other leg away from the bench if possible, foot flat on the floor
  • Support your upper body with the non-working arm
  • Keep your chest facing the bench and keep your torso rigid and your head straight
  • In the starting position, the arm with the dumbbell should be extended enough that you feel a slight stretch in the back of the deltoids
  • Bring the dumbbell down until it touches the bottom of your rib cage, bringing your elbow up
  • Hold for a second in the top position then return to the starting position until you feel the stretch in your rear deltoids before moving on to the next repetition

8. Shrugs or shrug

Back muscles targeted: latissimus dorsi, rhomboids

This movement is easier and more natural with dumbbells than barbell shrugs.

Instructions :

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Grab a dumbbell in each hand with arms extended out to each side
  • Contract the traps to raise the shoulders in a straight line as high as possible towards your ears. Your arms should stay straight.
  • Hold the high position for one to two seconds and return to the initial position in a controlled manner
  • Avoid staying too long in the bottom position between each shrug.

9. Renegade row or the row of the bandit

Targeted back muscles: latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids

Instructions :

  • Start in a push-up position, but with a dumbbell in each hand, or if you're not comfortable pressing on 2 dumbbells, use just one and switch arms after your reps to one side
  • Once you are stable with your body straight from head to toe, start your set.
  • Pull the dumbbell towards your rib cage with your elbow brushing your side and slowly lower it back to the floor, then repeat the movement
  • Avoid repeatedly twisting the hips or shoulders
  • Keep the forearm perpendicular to the ground so as not to bend your wrists during the effort

10. Sweater

Targeted muscles: latissimus dorsi, rhomboids

Don't worry, you won't need to knit for this one 😉 However, you shouldn't go wrong because this type of movement is also used for the pecs. It's the way you position your elbows at the start that will determine that you will target the latissimus dorsi in priority.

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Instructions :

  • Lie on a flat bench lengthwise or widthwise with only your upper back resting, feet flat on the floor.
  • Hold a dumbbell by one side between your hands and start with your arms extended above your chest. Your elbows should be pointing outward and slightly apart.
  • Lower the dumbbell behind your head while letting your elbows bend as if you want to pass the weight under the bench, behind your head.
  • The end point should be where you feel a good stretch in the latissimus muscles (both sides of the chest)
  • Engage your latissimus dorsi and lower the dumbbell back to the starting position, above your chest.

I don't have an explanatory video in French (I hope to be able to make one one day soon), but by watching the excerpt chosen here you will understand the explanations:

11. Good morning 

Muscles targeted: erector spinae (iliocostalis, longissimus and spinalis)

To be clearer, the muscle groups concerned are also called spinal or more commonly lumbar, perhaps because it is at the level of the square of the loins that they often hurt. We call them Erector Spinae when we are a fan of Latin terms 😄

These are deep muscles in the central part of the back that are extremely important for better prevention of back pain. This is the sensitive area and it is often at the level of the 12th dorsal and the 1st lumbar that the problems appear...

Instructions :

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your back straight.
  • Take a dumbbell in your arms and hold it against your chest
  • Remember to keep your knees slightly bent and engage your glutes as you lean forward while keeping your back straight.
  • Once your chest is parallel to the floor, pause before returning to the starting position.

Heavy exercises are not for this one. On the contrary, you must perform it with a fairly light load so as not to put excessive strain on the lower part of the back. It also works the buttocks and hamstrings.

Back training with dumbbells

The following sample workout contains the exercises described in this article and is suitable for all strength and fitness levels. However, it is important to choose a weight that you can safely manage.

How to do :

  • Each superset consists of 2 exercises that should be performed with 30-45 seconds of rest between them;
  • Do the 3 times before moving on to the next superset;
  • Take 1-3 minutes rest before attacking the next group;
  • Follow this program no more than twice a week to give your muscles time to recover.

SUPERSET 1

Supine row on incline bench x 15
Reverse Flyes x 10

SUPERSET 2

Row bent over tight grip x 15
Sweater x 10

SUPERSET 3

Shrugs x 15
Rowing one arm on a bench x 10

As said before, this is just an example. You can integrate the other movements into your training cycles to create a new program to your liking.

Dumbbells recommended for these back exercises

Now that you know what to do, you just need the right equipment to start your journey to better fitness. 

I won't beat around the bush because the adjustable dumbbells are perfect for your at-home sessions. Often, it is the purchase price that holds most of you back. But you should be aware that this equipment is less expensive than if you had to equip yourself with the equivalent in fixed weights.

In Europe, you'll find great value at Avalon Gear with free 4-5 day shipping on top selling models. Here are some sample prices on BowFlex models:

At Amazon, here are the best models available at the moment. My preference goes to Ativafit for the quality price ratio:

Visual
#DoYourFitness Dumbbells Set D'dumbbells Bodybuilding Adjustable 2...
ATIVAFIT Adjustable Dumbbells for Men and Women Weight 25 kg
ATIVAFIT Adjustable dumbbell for gym or home (one...
Bowflex SelectTech 552i Variable Load Compact Dumbbell (price per...
PowerBlock Sport 90 EXP Stage 1 Adjustable Dumbbells
Description
#DoYourFitness Dumbbells Dumbbell Set Adjustable Bodybuilding 2...
ATIVAFIT Adjustable dumbbells for Male and Female Weight of 25 kg
ATIVAFIT Adjustable dumbbell for Gym or Home (a...
Bowflex SelectTech 552i Variable Load Compact Dumbbell (price per...
PowerBlock Sport 90 EXP Stage 1 Adjustable Dumbbells
Our opinion
Good quality 7.5-15kg per dumbbell kits
A very good affordable adjustable dumbbell from 2.5 to 25 kg
An unbeatable price for a pair of 2 times 2.5 to 25 kg
Attention, the price of the Bowflex 552i of 24kg is per unit
Expensive for a 22.5kg pair, but it's solid
Our rating
3/5
4,5/5
5/5
4,5/5
4/5
Current price
104,49 €
185,99 €
339,99 €
209,99 €
470,00 €
Visual
#DoYourFitness Dumbbells Set D'dumbbells Bodybuilding Adjustable 2...
Description
#DoYourFitness Dumbbells Dumbbell Set Adjustable Bodybuilding 2...
Our opinion
Good quality 7.5-15kg per dumbbell kits
Our rating
3/5
Current price
104,49 €
Click for more information
Visual
ATIVAFIT Adjustable Dumbbells for Men and Women Weight 25 kg
Description
ATIVAFIT Adjustable Dumbbells for Men and Women Weight 25 kg
Our opinion
A very good affordable adjustable dumbbell from 2.5 to 25 kg
Our rating
4,5/5
Current price
185,99 €
Click for more information
Visual
ATIVAFIT Adjustable dumbbell for gym or home (one...
Description
ATIVAFIT Adjustable dumbbell for gym or home (one...
Our opinion
An unbeatable price for a pair of 2 times 2.5 to 25 kg
Our rating
5/5
Current price
339,99 €
Click for more information
Visual
Bowflex SelectTech 552i Variable Load Compact Dumbbell (price per...
Description
Bowflex SelectTech 552i Variable Load Compact Dumbbell (price per...
Our opinion
Attention, the price of the Bowflex 552i of 24kg is per unit
Our rating
4,5/5
Current price
209,99 €
Click for more information
Visual
PowerBlock Sport 90 EXP Stage 1 Adjustable Dumbbells
Description
PowerBlock Sport 90 EXP Stage 1 Adjustable Dumbbells
Our opinion
Expensive for a 22.5kg pair, but it's solid
Our rating
4/5
Current price
470,00 €
Click for more information
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Keep in mind that you must choose the pair that matches your present and future physical abilities. So if you want extraordinary muscle volume, don't take the lighter ones 😉

Dumbbell Back Exercises – Conclusion 

As you can see, the exercises of building muscle for your back with free loads are not lacking for bodybuilders. The sample program provides a complete workout for proper back muscle development with the best core movements.

You won't leave any muscle in the back region untouched and you'll love the end result!

Of course, there are other moves to do, but I think these 11 are the best for targeting as many muscle fibers as possible. Perhaps what is missing most with dumbbells is a high pulley or a pull-up bar for bodyweight exercises.

But not everyone wants a huge back or shoulders. Especially since it's almost impossible without growth hormone and other dirt… 😉

And you, what is your favorite exercise for your back session? Leave a message in the comments area below to share your experience or ask your questions. THANK YOU !

FAQs

How to strengthen your back with a weight bench?

A simple reclining bench is almost essential if you are a fan of free weights for your workouts. A simple incline bench is almost essential if you are a fan of free weights for your workouts. And the development of the back is no exception to this rule for better results.

Indeed, it will be difficult to do heavy sets in a forward leaning position. You risk hurting yourself and limiting your muscle-building abilities in the future. With a bench, you can continue to progress by pulling (or rowing) with heavier dumbbells. It will of course serve you for many different muscles such as the shoulders, biceps, triceps and pecs.

How to build back muscles with dumbbells?

Well, use polyarticular exercises from this full article, trying to select some at least 3 which involve different parts of the dorsal region.

Repeat them 3 times each, selecting the weight that you can safely move, but that exhausts you enough to be almost unable to do one more rep late in the set. Write down your results during your sessions to know which weight to choose next time.

How to build back muscles at home?

When training at home, it is important to watch the videos carefully to make sure you are performing the movement correctly. Start with light loads to feel the muscles working.

If possible, use a mirror to check that your movement is correct. The dumbbells will make you take less risk than the long bars which you may tend to overload. Either way, never attempt a feat when you're home alone.

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Last updated on 2022-03-03 / Affiliate links / Some images are sourced from the Amazon Product Advertising API

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