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Dumbbell Back Exercises



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.

Cable-Bar Pulldown

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.


Barbell Back Exercises

No reason to bring up more workouts here than barbell rows and barbell deadlifts. These two barbell back exercises are the most common that you’ll see in the workout routines prepared by Daily Spot experts. They’re likely the most popular barbell back exercises that trainers user with their clients. Naturally, the barbell offers a less range of motion than the dumbbells. Don’t think that’s always a bad thing. It’s not. Once you find the right range of motion, the barbell will help to reinforce it. Once the form is perfected with a standard barbell row, a simple grip adjustment can hit an entirely different part of the back. In this case, having less range of motion is actually beneficial because it controls the motion of both arms simultaneously.


Bodyweight Back Exercises

Pull-downs for lats and rows for the middle of the back. This is impossible to do at home with no gym equipment, right? RIGHT? Actually, there are some great bodyweight back exercises that you can do at home, on the road, or at the office that hit the same muscles that weights do in the gym. Let’s start with the most obvious: the wide-grip pull-up.