The back of your body is a common part that often gets overlooked. When we work out we tend to focus mostly on the front because that is what we see when we look in the mirror. We tend to spend the most time working out our chest, shoulders and abs, however, making sure you work your back is extremely important especially if you want to fix any bad posture habits you have.
In this post, I’ll list out some of the best dumbbell exercises and workouts that you can try to strengthen your weak back. Please note I am not an expert or fitness and posture specialist, I am just sharing my own experience and what works for me.
The Common Weak Back Problem
Have you noticed that a lot of people complain of having back pain? You don’t really hear of people having chest pains and if you do, you automatically assume they are talking about something cardiovascular rather than muscular. The fact is that having a weak back is common, and if not addressed can lead to posture problems and potential back pain.
I like to write about the posture problems I have had or am in the process of correcting. I am also discovering that I am unlikely to ever reach a point where i run out of material to write about! In my case, the back is one of the last areas I realised that I needed to correct to fix some chronic discomfort I have had. What drew me to the attention that I had a totally weak upper and lower back, is when I realised that I had overactive upper traps. What this meant is that my upper traps were doing all the work when lifting, when it was the back and lats that should have been helping out.
The thing that leads you to discover you have a weak back comes in various forms. For some they may realise that when they sit their lower back rounds, or some may have chronic back pain or bad posture. Whatever the reason is, you want to pay attention to the back and more importantly make sure that your back is ‘activated’.
Back Activation and the Mind-Muscle Connection
For many years I haven’t been using my back properly. As I started to incorporate weights into my regime I was doing exercises that should have worked the back muscles, but i wasn’t using my back.
In essence everything became an arm and upper trap workout.
If I did a dumbbell row, it was an arm workout. A back fly became an arm workout too. I wasn’t paying enough attention to the mind-muscle connection to the back. For me, working out the back has proven to be the most challenging part to work out, yet surprisingly the most rewarding and satisfying. I have to constantly remain present and focus on ensuring that parts of my back are getting the workout and the work is not being taken over by some other body part.
Proper form is also essential. It is with this in mind that I have made this post to document the best exercises for the back, and also the correct form that must be adopted to get the best results.
The Best Dumbbell Exercises for the Back
Below are some quick videos of back exercises you can do to strengthen your back using only dumbbells.
1) Dead Lift
The classice dead lift is great for working the lower back as well as the legs. To do a deadlift, keep the following in mind:
- Keep your feet wider than hip distance apart
- Stand up stall and roll your shoulders back
- With a slight bend in the knee, hinge at the hips
- Make sure you create length in the spine as you dip down, and keep your chest pointed up
2) Stiff Legged Dumbbell Dead Lift
This exercise is much like the first one except the legs are kept straighter. You should feel this one in the back and also the hamstrings.
3) One Arm Dumbbell Lift
The one arm dumbbell lift is a great exercise if you want to focus more on the muscles to the side of the lower back. It’s much the same as a normal deadlift except you are using one dumbbell only and lowering it down to the centre.
4) Wide Dumbbell Row
To do a wide dumbbell row, bend at the hips keeping your back flat. Once in this position bring your elbows out to the side lifting them up and back.
5) Bent Over Row
The channel by Bowflex is beginning to churn out a lot of helpful and informative videos on how to ensure proper form for all kinds of exercises. The one below shows how a bent over row should be performed.
To do a dumbbell row:
- Keep your feet hip distance apart and bend slightly at the knee.
- Bending at the hips, make sure to keep your back straight.
- Squeeze the shoulders blades together and keep your elbows back, then lift the weights back.
6) Kneeling One Arm Row
The kneeling one arm row, otherwise known as the dumbbell row, is one of the most common exercises you will see performed at the gym. It’s one of the best exercises for hitting the lat muscles.
To perform this you’ll need a bench.
- Place one knee on the bench with the other on the floor. Stabilise yourself with your arm.
- With the other arm, hold the dumbbell and focus on lifting your elbow back, rather than curling at the bicep.
- Ensure that you are lifting the weight without the aid of your legs.
7) Standing One Arm Row
To do the standing one arm row, you’ll need a cable of some kind rather than a dumbbell.
8) Standing Back Fly
The back fly works the upper back particularly the Rhomboids and rear delts.
- Bend at the hips with knees slightly bent.
- Lift the dumbbells out and to the side.
- Ensure you pick a light weight for this exercise.
Back Dumbbell Workouts To Try
Below is a short back workout featuring:
- Standing dumbbell rows
- Bent arm rows
I have found that most dumbbell workouts will incorporate the exercises mentioned above in some way or another. Even though you can do these exercises on your own, I do enjoy working out to videos to help me with pacing and planning my workouts.
Below are a few workouts you can try.
Although this routine may have a female audience in mind, I have found this exercise is great for any gender and incorporates all of the important exercises in a quick and compact routine that can be done in little time. This would work well as a daily routine for strengthening your back.
Back Workout includes:
- Alternating Supermans
- Wide rows
- Alternating foot deadlifts
Below is a back workout which requires no dumbbells or pull up bar, only your body weight.
Incorporating a couple of these back exercises into your daily routine can be particularly rewarding, especially if you are like me and haven’t felt your back working properly in years. Even after only a week of daily exercises my back feels more firm.
Before proceeding with any back routine approach it with caution as the back can be extremely delicate. If you can it would be worthwhile approaching a specialist before trying any back routine.