Dumbbell Exercises For Back – The Ultimate Guide To Every Exercise

Table of Contents

dumbbell exercises for backWelcome to this ultimate guide to dumbbell exercises for back.

Here you’ll find every exercise we could think off, without going into really specific unheard of variations that have you standing on a single leg on a BOSU ball whilst rowing with one arm and juggling with the other.

The exercises you’ll find here are the most effective rowing movements you can do. It’s up to you to find which one suits you and/or your routine best.


Dumbbell exercises for back – the complete list

Seal rows

Seal rows are an effective way of isolating your upper back and lats whilst completely excluding the lower back. These are especially great if you have back problems, but require some setting up. You’ll usually be fine by propping a bench on two steps of some sort, or on some weight plates. This is what allows you to get that full range of motion. Some gyms have benches specially made for this exercise.

Lay on your stomach and start by engaging your scapula, squeeze your shoulder blades back and pull the weight to somewhere around your chest.  Keep your pelvis and legs on the bench.

One arm row

Simple and effective. The single arm row is a rather popular exercise choice due to its’ efficiency and simple set up requirement – a dumbbell and a bench. When you can’t find a bench, you can also just lean on the dumbbell rack which is great for those crowded days where everyone is doing chest presses at the same time.

Prop your knee up on a bench, and lean forward on your arm. Keep your back straight, engage the scapula and lats, and pull up between your chest and waist. Control the eccentric and repeat. Don’t forget to squeeze at the top.

High pulls

These are especially good for building up injured shoulders, as well as the traps. They are safer to perform and much less risky than exercises like the upright row. Grab a pair of lighter dumbbells and focus on slow and controlled form that you can maintain for 20 reps+.

Tuck your shoulder blades down and back, as you would in a bench press, and mimic a barbell high pull whilst adding an extra external rotation component at the top of the movement.


An exercise favored since the golden era of bodybuilders. This will provide you with a fantastic lat stretch and if performed right, takes the muscle through their ideal range of motion.

Get yourself a bench and prop your upper back up onto it. grab and dumbbell and secure it firmly within your palms. Engage your glutes and keep your hips up  whilst letting your arms pass all the way behind your head, stretching the lats as much as you comfortably can. Take the weight back to an overhead position and repeat.

Wide row

An interesting variation of the regular bent over dumbbell row. This will bring more focus on the upper back and include more of the trapezoid, rhomboid and rear deltoid muscles. It also works the latissimus dorsi, but incorporates other muscles to a larger degree than a regular grip would.

For this one you can chose to secure your chest on an incline bench for support, or you can perform it in a free, bent over position as demonstrated in the video above. Make sure you are pulling with your back and not your shoulders as this is not a face pull.

Dumbbell deadlift

The deadlift is one the best exercises to build a beefy back and posterior chain. It’s an essential and functional whole body movement. You won’t be able to go as heavy with dumbbells as you would with a barbell due to weight and grip strength limitations, but it’s still a good variation to include if you can’t use a barbell.

Bent over row (over and underhand)

The standard bent over row. also mostly done with a barbell, you’ll get some great muscle and strength development from this variation. If you wish to eliminate lower back engagement, the seal row or incline row may be more suitable for you.


Good morning

This is more of a lower back (lumbar) exercise, and is mostly never seen at the gym as most people will favor lower back extensions or other similar variations.

When performing this exercise, be sure to focus on hinging at the hips, and keeping a straight back. You should feel it in your lower back, and not all in your hamstrings.

Incline row

A great variation if you want to focus on your upper back as much as possible whilst eliminating lower back involvement. All you need is an incline bench which means it’s not as much of a hassle to set up as it is for seal rows.

Renegade row

Another full body exercise that can be effective when you are low on time. This will work your back, core and glutes as well as other assisting muscles. Of course, it won’t be as effective as focusing on progressive overload with a deadlift of bent over row.

Grab a pair of dumbbells at a weight you can manage for around 15 reps, and position yourself in a standard straight arm plank. Row with one arm whilst keeping the other arm and your body line straight.

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