Effective Dumbbell Back Exercises


It’s not just pull-ups that make strong backs - when used right, dumbbells are the most versatile piece of exercise equipment you’ll find at the gym, so we’ve outlined our top back exercises (using dumbbells) for building strength and size.


Some people just don’t get on with barbells – and that’s okay. If you’re hitting plateaus, don’t feel confident, or just aren’t see the results you were expecting from barbell workouts- dumbbells are the way forward. Plus, it’s easier to store a bench and dumbbells at home than it is a full Olympic size barbell. Some things just make sense.


Dumbbell Rows

Like a barbell row (sometimes called a bent-over row), this movement is one of the best for strengthening your back muscles. This works best with a bench, but anything sturdy enough for you to lean on would work.

How to do it:

  1. Stand on the right side of a weights bench, and kneel your left knee on the bench. Lean forward with your left hand and grab the bench for stability.

  2. Bend down so your back is parallel to the floor, and grab the dumbbell from the floor with your right hand using an underhand grip.

  3. Raise the dumbbell up towards your chest.

  4. Reverse the motion, gently lowering the dumbbell until your arm is extended towards the floor. You’ve just down a single one-arm dumbbell row!

Reverse Fly's

The reverse fly is one of those exercises that looks simple, but it’s important to get the basics right to avoid injury or putting in lots of effort or low-to-no gain.

How to do it:

  1. Grab two dumbbells with an overhand grip.

  2. Push your hips backwards in a hinge motion, bringing your chest parallel to the floor (or as close to parallel as you can comfortably go).

  3. Raise your arms outward to the side, lifting until your arms are perpendicular to the rest of your body.

  4. Lower your arms in a reverse motion, keeping your head facing forward the whole time. You’ve now done one reverse fly!

Dumbbell Shrugs

Shrugs hit your upper and mid traps and are dead easy to perform. You just need a set of free weights and good form and away you go.

How to do it:

  1. Grab two dumbbells and stand up straight, holding the weights to your sides with palms faced inward.

  2. Raise your shoulders as high as you can, as if you were trying to touch your ears. Keep your head still – your shoulders should be trying to reach up, but you shouldn’t be tilting your head during the move.

  3. Hold the position a moment, lower the weights back down.

  4. Repeat.

Do's and Don'ts

  • DO try to keep your chest proud and shoulders back

  • DON’T swing the weight

Dumbbell Pullovers

You can do this as a single-arm pullover, or with a dumbbell in each hand. Either way, you’re pulling some weight over your head using your upper body.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back on the floor, with your feet flat and knees bent.

  2. Hold the dumbbells out over you, as if you’d pressed them, but turn your palms inward.

  3. Lower the dumbbells back behind your head in an arc over your face.

  4. Hold the position a moment, then raise the dumbbells back to over your chest. Make sure your arms remain fully extended.

Renegade Rows

Renegade rows are a combination of a plank and a dumbbell row, designed to target your upper body, back, and biceps.

How to do it:

  1. Start by grabbing a pair of dumbbells and getting into your starting position, essentially positioning yourself in a press up with a dumbbell in each hand.

  2. Make sure your arms run directly down from your shoulders and that your feet are about shoulder-width apart.

  3. When you’re ready, lift one of your weights up to your body and towards your rib cage, keeping the dumbbell close to you and your elbow pointing upwards.

  4. As you do this, focus on keeping your body still to avoid twisting your torso.

  5. Lower your arm back down to the ground, and repeat on the opposite side.

Beyond dumbbells, if you’re keen to develop your shoulders, consider adding these exercises to your shoulder workouts

  • Upright Row

  • Shoulder Press

  • Barbell Front Raise

  • Plate Front Raise


Lifting weights takes a lot of effort, so you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your workout routine. The friendly personal trainers at your local Gym are on hand to discuss technique, create an individualised fitness plan, and help you smash your fitness goals. Get in touch to learn more.

Back Exercises
Read more
Dumbbell Row
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Reserve Fly
Read more
Inverted Row
Read more

Other Exercises

How to do a Dip
Read more
How to do Box Jumps
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How to do a Bear Crawl
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How to do Bent Over Row
Read more
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