If you’re looking for an effective way to train your back muscles, look no further than the humble dumbbell.
Even if you don’t have any other equipment, just one pair of adjustable dumbbells are enough to get a great and productive session (or even one dumbbell in certain cases)
Not only are dumbbells affordable, but they are also one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can use.
In fact, in many cases, they are even better than barbells for eliciting strength gain and muscle growth in the back.
But don’t get it wrong- not because you aren’t required to use a lot of different equipment to get a well-sculpted back does it mean that you can get away with a lack of variety; the back comprises several groups that require varying angles of attack.
So you’ll never build a big back using only one movement.
But don’t sweat it- below you will find the 13 best dumbbell exercises to ensure you forge a well-balanced, strong, and muscular back.
But as we always do, a little bit of background about what muscles you need to be focusing on will help you get a better appreciation and visualization of the muscles that make up the back.
Inadvertently this leads to you missing out on the very important movement that is the dumbbell deadlift.
The deadlift is excellent for building strength throughout the legs as well as the lower back, especially the erector spinae muscles.
Position your feet hip-width apart and hold a pair of dumbbells by your sides, with your palms facing your thighs.
Keep your back straight (not upright) as you hinge forward at the hips to lower yourself toward the floor, maintaining the natural curve in your spine. Allow your knees to bend as you descend
The dumbbells held in a neutral position should just tap the floor at the bottom of the movement. At this point, contract through your legs for the first half of the movement and straighten your back as you approach the top of the position.
Perform 8-10 reps and 2-3 working sets for this movement.
One of the most difficult parts of the back to train in the absence of a pull-down station are the upper lats, which frequently give the back width and help you create that elusive V-taper so desired by athletes.
The dumbbell lat pullover is the only practical way to achieve this using dumbbells, but requires practice to master, as it also targets the muscles of the chest if performed incorrectly.
Lie flat on your back on a bench with a dumbbell held between two hands, palms facing forward.
Extend your arms straight above your chest, then slowly lower the weights behind your head until your upper arm is parallel to the floor.
Pause, then lift the weights back to the starting position over your chest.
Keep your abdominal muscles pulled in so that you move the weights with your lats, not your lower back.
The dumbbell upright row is a movement that primarily targets the shoulder muscles, including the anterior deltoids, rhomboids and trapezius muscles.
The upright row can be done with a wide or narrow emphasis, depending on which muscles you want to target more.
For the back, it is better to use a narrower grip to focus on the rhomboids and upper trapezius muscles.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length in front of your thighs, with your palms facing your thighs.
Keeping your back in a straight line, lift the weights up along the fron side of your body, leading with your elbows and not your hands. Your elbows will naturally flare out at you raise the dumbbells.
Continue to raise the weights until they are at shoulder height or just about upper chest position at the top position.
Pause and then slowly lower the weights back to the starting position.
The dumbbell incline lat pullover is a movement that targets the muscles of the chest and lats, primarily.
It is performed by lying on your back on an incline bench with a dumbbell in your hands, arms extended overhead.
You then lower the weight down towards your upper chest in a smooth arc.
Lie on your back on an incline bench with a dumbbell in your hands, arms extended overhead.
Slowly contract the weight down towards your upper chest in a smooth arc, maintaining the position of the slight bend in your elbows throughout.
Pause and then lower the weight back to the starting position behind your head.
Perform 10-12 reps and 2-3 working sets.
The incline lat pullover is different from the flat version since it offers a slightly different degree of stimulation.
To be fair, this exercise is best performed with a cable extension as there is no loss of tension, but to counteract this with a dumbbell workout you should stop at the upper chest position and not go lower.
Putting It Together
Nobody said that you have to limit your back workout to using dumbbells alone.
In fact, you would be better served to utilize a variety of tools and equipment, if they are available.
However, in the absence of these, you can still forge a formidable back with only dumbbells. Keep in mind the back is a large muscle group and will require more stimulation than smaller body parts.
A good workout stacked will comprise up to 12 working sets for the back, hitting each part sufficiently.
Take care of your back- it can help determine your quality of life as you age.
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