12 Dumbbell Back Exercises to Help You Build Strength and Improve Posture


If you’re looking to build balanced strength throughout your body, adding the best dumbbell back exercises in your routine—back day workout, anyone?—is a great way to help you get there.

Many people tend to neglect their back muscles—like the latissimus dorsi, or the “lats,” rhomboids, and lower trapezius or “traps”— when strength training simply because, well, they’re in the back of the body, ACE-certified personal trainer Sivan Fagan, owner of Strong With Sivan in Baltimore, tells SELF. So when they’re looking to get in some upper-body work, they tend to gravitate toward working muscles that are a little easier to see, such as their shoulders, arms, or chest.

But building back strength is super important (more on that in a minute!), and you can do so in a bunch of ways, from bodyweight moves to those which use free weights. While there are a bunch of bodyweight back exercises, resistance band back exercises, and barbell or kettlebell back exercises to choose from, in this article we’re going to focus on dumbbell back exercises—including both upper-back dumbbell exercises and lower-back exercises with dumbbells. Read on to find out more about the importance of back strength, as well as some options for exercises to slot into your upcoming back workouts!

Why is it important to work your back muscles?

There are tons of benefits to working your back: For one, strengthening your back muscles is important because it helps improve muscle imbalances and posture. Especially when we spend lots of time sitting, our back muscles tend to be weak, Fagan says. This lack of proper tension in your muscles can make rounding of your shoulders or a hunched position more likely, which is where back exercises come in handy.

Weak back muscles coupled with lots of sitting can also impair the mobility in your upper back, making it difficult to move your shoulder blades effectively. “A lot of times people will start to get shoulder injuries from that,” Fagan says. “They don’t have enough mobility and strength in the upper back, and when they do any kind of exercises that target the ‘pushing’ muscles, like the shoulder or chest muscles, that’s when we get into trouble.” (While your rear deltoids are technically part of your shoulders, they’re also small-but-important back-of-the-body muscles to focus on strengthening for this reason, too).

It’s important to note that your lower back muscles are also considered part of your core, and there are tons of benefits of strengthening both. Strengthening your back and your core works to keep your spine supported, and that affects everything from standing posture to gait, balance, and even joint health. That’s because good alignment takes pressure off your joints, and that provides major injury prevention, Kemma Cunningham, CPT, personal trainer at Life Time, a fitness and wellness company, tells SELF.

“Working the back muscles yields great benefits,” she tells SELF. “A strong back will aid in spine alignment and stabilization. This will give support and power to the rest of the body to perform not only exercises, but also daily activities.” For instance, when you pull a heavy door shut or pull a lawnmower to start, those are your back muscles firing.

Added to the list of benefits of back exercises is potentially better workout performance, Cunningham adds. Even if you’re doing arm day, your spinal stabilizers are always working to keep you aligned. So, the more they’re on point, the better your form will be overall.

How can you work your back muscles at home?

If you have some equipment at your disposal, there are a bunch of back exercises at home with dumbbells that can effectively work your back-of-the-body muscles, including your lats, lower traps, rhomboids, rotator cuff, and erector spinae.

Some of these back strengthening exercises use the pulling movement to fire up your lats and rhomboids—so if you’re looking to work your back at home, you’ll definitely want to add rows and row variations to the mix! Other back-strengthening exercises rely on stabilization or resisting motion, such as the ones that activate your erector spinae, or your deep lower back muscles. So if you’re looking for a lower back workout, or simply to give those muscles a little extra work, you may want to include deadlifts or good mornings in your routine.

Important note: While strengthening these muscles—especially the lower back muscles that make up your core—can actually play a part in warding off back pain, as research suggests, performing back exercises if you have preexisting back pain may make it worse. In that case, you may want to talk with your doctor or physical therapist about what type of moves are best for you and which aren’t.

Otherwise, if you’re ready for some back-strengthening exercise options you can do at home, read on for some awesome dumbbell back exercises to try!


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