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How To Strengthen Your Back With Dumbbells, According To A Trainer

Dumbbells aren’t the fanciest piece of fitness equipment, but they’re exactly what you need if building muscle is your goal. Lively spoke with a trainer about how to build and strengthen the back using dumbbells. Plus, find out which dumbbell workout is best (and safest) for the back.

Vital note: This article has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Your licensed healthcare professional can best provide you with the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and assist you as well in deciding whether a dietary supplement will be a helpful addition to your regimen.

What back exercises can I do with dumbbells?

There are actually a lot of exercises you can do with dumbbells to work your upper or lower back. “The [exercises] that should always be included in a fitness routine are dumbbell deadlifts, reverse fly, bench-supported supinated row, single arm row, and upright row,” Jamie Hickey, nutritionist, trainer and Founder of Truism Fitness tells Lively. The great thing about these exercises is that they’re very effective and require very little space.

Can you build muscle with just dumbbells?

Hickey says that you can definitely build muscle solely using dumbbells, but depending on your goals, you may have to graduate beyond dumbbells to continue to see muscle gains.

If you’re looking to build a lot of mass, you will outgrow the dumbbells eventually,”Hickey says. “Your back is one of the strongest parts of your body and this is why you need to do barbell deadlifts and weighted pull-ups to really stress your back muscles to make them continue to grow. At some point the dumbbells won’t be heavy enough.” When you no longer have to strain during dumbbell exercises, it’s likely a sign that you need to move to the next level.

dumbbell back workout

What is the best workout for your back?

There are tons of exercises that work the backside of the body, but is there a best one? According to Hickey, thereis one exercise that rises above the rest. “The deadlift is the only exercise that strengthens the entire posterior chain (backside of the body). It will build tons of muscle mass and it also targets the leg muscles making it a full body workout. Even squats can’t accomplish this.” So, if you’re short on time, opt for a few sets of deadlifts.

How do I make my back stronger?

Signs of a weak core or back can include poor balance or posture, or pain in your lower back. There are many ways to make your back stronger if you're looking to appear more muscular or to improve your posture and balance while potentially relieving your pain.

In order to make your back stronger, you have to strengthen the lats, Teres major and minor, the rhomboids, and the traps,” Hickey says. “These are the major muscles that when trained correctly will result in you having a stronger back. The best back exercises are the ones that focus on pulling and bracing yourself; these are the most effective moves to stimulate muscle growth.” 

Examples of these exercises include push-ups, pull-ups and even handstands. If you are using dumbbells, just make sure they’re the appropriate weight for your strength; using weights that are too heavy can result in injury.

Your dumbbell back workout

If you want to use dumbbells to work your back, but you’re not sure where to start, try out this dumbbell back workout, created by Hickey.

Each move will consist of 3 sets:

  • The first set is 15 reps with light weight.
  • The second set is 12 reps with increased weight.
  • The third set is 8 reps with increased weight. 

The Workout Moves

  • Pullovers (using a bench)
  • Reverse grip upright row
  • Single arm row
  • Straight leg
  • Dumbbell deadlifts
  • Reverse fly
  • Plank rotation (light weight)

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