Back Workout Using Dumbbells 

one arm row


Dumbbells are a great way to weight train. I personally use dumbbells in all of my routines because I feel they add an element of training that you cannot attain from using barbells alone. How so? Well, for one, dumbbells add individuality to your muscles. That is, each muscle group is independently trained regardless of their strength levels.

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I'm sure everyone reading this page now has one arm that's stronger than the other. Train with dumbbells for a couple of months and you'll soon see that each arm will even out in terms of strength.

That's the real beauty of training with dumbbells. You see, dumbbells don't lie and if you have a weak spot, you will notice it pretty quickly when you start training with dumbbells.

With a barbell, all you have to do is adjust your grip a little and you can emphasis your stronger body part, which is something you don't want to do.

Another great thing about dumbbells is that you can get a much better range of motion that barbells can't offer. Since dumbbells offer a little more range of motion in certain exercises, they are a great way to overcoming training plateaus. For an example, see the page here to find out how to overcome a bench press plateau.

Now, I know that there are a lot of people who don't have access to commercial gyms, and full home gyms. Dumbbells are sometimes the only option for some trainers and that's totally understandable because I vividly remember training for one summer with only dumbbells.

Plus it's a little safer to train with dumbbells instead of a barbell. Training with dumbbells is something you can totally do by yourself without worrying about having a loaded barbell stuck on your chest.

Alright, let's get back to our dumbbell workout for back. This dumbbell back workout is one in which will hit the back with 4 dumbbell exercises. The exercises that will be performed are:

1) Dumbbell Dead Lift
2) One Arm Dumbbell Rows
3) Dumbbell Pull Over
4) Dumbbell Shrugs

Now, dumbbells come in two forms, fixed weight and adjustable weight. If you only have a certain amount of fixed dumbbells, your going to have to use what you think is the most appropriate weight in order to do the prescribed repetitions in good form. On the other hand, if you have adjustable weights, you have the option of adding more weight to the dumbbell with each progressive set.

Now, for the purpose of this dumbbell workout I'm going to assume you have the option of adding more weight with each set using a set of adjustable dumbbells. However, if you only have access to one or a couple sets of fixed dumbbells you will need to judge which weight you need to use based on the amount of repetitions you can do in good form.

For example, if you have 3 sets of dumbbells that are 20 pounds, 30 pounds, and 40 pounds, than you will have to start with a weight that allows you to do the exercise in good form. I will explain with each exercise outlined below.

Now, before starting this dumbbell workout for the back, try doing about 5 minutes of light cardio. What you want to do is get your body warmed up and primed for the dumbbell workout.

Now, I'm a big proponent of properly warming up your shoulders before attempting any upper body exercise. I'd like you to take a look at the following page and perform at least two of the exercises presented here:

Rotator Cuff Exercises

I strongly recommend you do those exercise before going further with the dumbbell workout for the back.

the exercises

Exercise #1 - Dumbbell Dead Lift

For the first exercise, your going to be doing the dumbbell dead lift. This exercise is a must if you want to get stronger and bigger. Let’s take a look at the repetitions and set structure:

Warm up: 1 x 20 repetitions;
Set one: 1 x 12 repetitions;
Set two: 1 x 10 repetitions;
Set three: 1 x 10 repetitions.

Now, if you’re able to, try and increase the weight by 10% to 20% with each progressive set. Also, rest 40 seconds in between each set.

Exercise #2 - One Arm Dumbbell Rows

For the second exercise, we are going to work our mid back. This is a great exercise to strengthen and thicken up the mid back area. We are going to use this exercise as our main mass builder for the back. For this reason, we are going to try and use heavier weight for the last set. Take a look at the illustration and description below.

Let’s take a look at the repetitions and set structure:

Set one: 1 x 12 repetitions;
Set two: 1 x 10 repetitions;
Set three: 1 x 8 repetitions.

If you can, try and increase the weight with each progressive set. By the third set, you should be using a weight that really challenges your body. Try resting about 40 seconds in between each set.

Exercise #3 - Dumbbell Pull Over

Some will argue that this exercise is more for the chest. Some will argue that the dumbbell pull over is more for the back. What do I think? Well, I personally use this exercise and other variations of it for my back. I think it’s a great finishing exercise for the back because it directly involves that latisimus dorsi (muscle underneath the arm pits and outer back). If you can do this exercise properly, It can be a great back builder. Take a look at the illustration and description below:

Let’s take a look at the repetitions and set structure:

Set one: 1 x 12 repetitions;
Set two: 1 x 12 repetitions;
Set three: 1 x 12 repetitions.

The most important point that I can stress for this exercise is to really concentrate on your form and really “get into” the movement. Don’t go too fast and always keep the dumbbell very controlled. Try using a nice, slow movement and really stress the lats. In terms of weight, try keeping the weight constant throughout the entire set - Unless the weight becomes too light.

Try taking a 40 second rest in between each set.

Exercise #4 - Dumbbell Shrugs

I personally train trapezius (upper back) with back. I know a lot of trainers do it with their shoulders but personally, I feel it’s part of a back workout, since technically, it’s part of the back. Anyways, this exercise is great for the upper back and will help strengthen and build your trap muscles.

Take a look at the illustration below:

Let’s take a look at the repetitions and set structure:

Set one: 1 x 12 repetitions;
Set two: 1 x 12 repetitions;
Set three: 1 x 12 repetitions
Set four: 1 x 12 repetitions.

With each set, try increasing the weight with each progressive set. By the end of your last set, you should be using enough weight to really challenge your body.

Click here for a printable version of this workout

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There you have it, a back dumbbell workout that will help strengthen and build your back. I recommend you follow this routine for at least 4 weeks to assess it’s effectiveness. If you find it’s working, by all means, keep doing it. If you feel it’s not challenging enough, try adding a little more weight.

I have to re-iterate the fact that no dumbbell workouts, or any other workout for that matter, will work if you don’t have a solid nutritional plan in place. This workout will do nothing for you if you’re nutritional plan is poor. To truly get the most from this dumbbell workout for the back, go to the following page and read the whole article:

Gaining Body Mass

Now, I recommend you take a look at Mike Westerdal’s dumbbell routines and exercises over at dumbbell . A great dumbbell resource for anyone who is interested in training strictly with dumbbells.

All the best,


As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.

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