Barbells and dumbbells both have unique abilities to isolate the back. One major difference with dumbbell exercises is a greater range of motion, which provides a nice benefit of isolating the back without having to engage other muscles. Here’s an example: when doing bent-over barbell rows, there are a lot of outside factors that could come into play. Your entire upper body must stay straight to full isolate the lats. You must have discipline not to engage the legs to help jumpstart the lifts. When opting for dumbbells, you could instead use the single-arm dumbbell row. It works the same muscle group, but here you have a bench supporting the rest of your body, allowing you to better isolate the back.
Am I Doing This Right?
Whether you’ve been doing back workouts for years or you’re just getting started, one question we need to put to rest: am I doing this right? Questions that frequently get asked a lot are: am I leaning over too much? Am I engaging my back enough? Is this grip correct? There are two things you can do to help eliminate this self-consciousness: isolate your back by stabilizing all other muscles and improve the mind muscle connection so that you are confident you’re only using your back. The first is straight forward. From our earlier example of bench-assisted dumbbell rows, stabilization means a straight back, no re-distribution of weight during the exercise, and a tight core. From here, as you lift the weight up, think of your arm as just an extension of your back. This should help you take mental notes of when your back is engaged instead of letting your arms do the work. Back workouts (especially ones with dumbbells) are used frequently in various Daily Spot programs. Try them out now free and see how our expert trainers use these exercises.
Examples of Dumbbell Back Workouts
Take a look below at some of our select Dumbbell Back Workouts. We've also included specific cable workouts, as they may offer lower-impact alternatives.
Sit at lat pulldown machine and grab the bar slightly wider than shoulder width, palms facing out. Your back should be straight up. Pull your shoulder blades down and back, and bring the bar to your chest. Pause before returning to starting position.
Seated Cable Row
Sit on cable rowing machine with feet shoulder width apart. Hold the cable handled, lean back and pull the attachment back to your sides while keeping your elbows close to your body. Slowly return to the starting position.
Single-Arm Bench-Assisted Dumbbell Row
Place knee and arm from one side of the body on bench for support. Grab a dumbbell from the floor using opposite hand. Pull dumbbell up until it's almost chest height. Hold for a second at the top. Return to starting position.
Standing Cable-Rope High Row
Grab a cable rope with your arms extended and parallel to the floor, elbows flared out. Pull the cable attachment toward your chest. Keep your elbows up and out to the sides. Remember to keep core tight. Only your arms will move.
Incorporate These in Your Lifts
A key to a great workout routine is making sure it's well-rounded. This means not over-doing it on barbells, because you may limit your range of motion. As you're putting together your next back workout (or following a plan on Daily Spot), consider adding a few of these exercises to target your upper and lower back. These are all trainer-approved.