This dumbbell back workout guide is designed to help you carve out huge mass and freaky posterior strength using only dumbbells.
Walk into any gym and you’ll see row after row of cardio machines. They’re lit up like Christmas trees on crack. You’ll also see a range of expensive fixed machines, each designed to target specific muscles of your body.
Walk your way down to the iron room though and you’ll be greeted with barbells, plates, racks and of course, a full arsenal of dumbbells.
And today we’re going to show you how to use those dumbbells to design a brutally-effective dumbbell back workout.
It’s time to grow it and show it with this lats, traps and delts-based workout plan…
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- Dumbbells provide benefits to strength and muscle mass that other equipment can’t
- You can improve all aspects of conditioning and skill with a dumbbell back workout
- We’ve attached a brutal dumbbell only total back workout for you to jack up your strength and mass gains
Why Use Dumbbells Bro?
Dumbbells provide a fast, easy and portable workout stimulus. They help you build skill, strength, power and a hell of a lot of muscle mass.
You might be wondering what the deal is with dumbbells? Why does everyone rave about them? Well, the answer is that they provide benefits that barbell and similar equipment can’t.
They’re cheaper to buy than strength machines and are easier to set up compared to barbells. Without a doubt, they’re the most versatile tool you have at your disposal.
#1. Overcome muscle imbalances
If you have a more dominant side, it generally takes over when you use barbells. For example, if your left arm is stronger, it’ll take the emphasis off your right side when you arm curl or bench. This never gives you an opportunity to correct it.
Dumbbells allow you to load up each arm (or leg) individually, meaning they work your body unilaterally. This is great for more directed, focused work on specific muscles and different sides of your physique.
#2. Find a more natural movement pattern
Because dumbbells aren’t fixed, you can flex, extend and rotate your limbs through a range of motion that suits you and your own preferences.
For example, during the Arnold press you purposely rotate your wrists and shoulders in order to switch up activation between your lateral and front delts. Or you might change up a neutral grip to an overhand grip during the one arm row to hit your traps more.
Pretty much every barbell exercise you can think of can be replicated with dumbbells… and in most cases improved with subtle changes to movement patterns.
#3. Improve coordination
With less stability than machines and barbells, dumbbells are great for enhancing motor skills such as coordination, balance and body awareness. And as intra-muscular skills improve, so does strength and speed.
Brain gains bro!
#4. Add variety
There’s an endless number of exercises you can perform with dumbbells, with hundreds of variations to cover every major muscle group. Even subtle changes to your range of motion can turn a boring, not-so-challenging lift into a totally new muscle growth stimulus.
You’ll never get bored with dumbbells.[infobox]
Bro Point: Dumbbells provide a natural movement patterns that allows you to get the very best muscle growth stimulus.[/infobox]
Dumbbell Back Workout: The Exercises
For this workout we pulled our top coaches and exercise scientists into the SpotMeBro meeting halls to share their infinite experience and knowledge of building a huge back.
After debate, argument, chugging of protein shakes and much arm flexing we came up with the following exercises.
We’ve added not just a list of lifts, but coaching points, reps and sets for you. All you have to do is bring is your A-game.
Now go get it bro…
#1. Dumbbell Deadlift
Do you always have to use a barbell to deadlift?
The answer is hell no.
Dumbbells allow you to displace the angle of pull directly through the central line of your body, rather than loading up in front like you would with a bar.
This makes it far easier to sit back into the deadlift and maintain balance.
- Grab a dumbbell in each hand and let them hang by your sides. Your palms should be facing towards your body.
- With your feet somewhere between hip and shoulder-width apart, flex at your knees and hips, keeping the dumbbells close to your body as you do so.
- You’re aiming to hinge at the hip and let your chest sink down to the floor. At the bottom of the movement your back should be at a 45 degree angle with your shoulders just in front of your knees and your hips higher than your knees.
- After a brief pause, push through your heels and return to the start position, making sure you extend at the hip and knee under control.
– Muscle worked: Trapezius, hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, forearms –
– Reps and sets: 3-4 x 6-10 reps –
#2. Pronated Grip Bent Over Row
There’s nothing finer than pulling a punishingly-heavy row movement as part of a muscle-building total dumbbell back workout.
Changing the grip you use will have a big effect on muscle recruitment during rows. For this lift we want to torch the retractors of the upper back as much as possible, so checking in with an overhand (pronated) grip allows you to work the traps and rhomboids much more.
- Take a pair of dumbbells and hinge at the hip until your chest is facing toward the floor. You’ll need a slight bend in your knees as you stick your ass out like a hoochie momma to hit the depth you need.
- Once you’re set, pull the dumbbells up towards your chest while keeping a straight, solid position with your upper body. You’re aiming to squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement. Don’t jerk and don’t use too much momentum.
- After a brief pause, slowly return the dumbbells back to the start position without compromising start position.
– Muscle worked: Trapezius, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, biceps, forearms –
– Reps and sets: 3-4 x 8-15 reps –
#3. Dumbbell Shrugs
You wan’t a pair of bulletproof traps that tie your boulder-ball delts into a thick alpha neck? Shrugs is where it’s at bro.
As a simple but mega-effective exercise, shrugs help to complete that tapered look and don’t-f*ck-with-me physique.
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and let them hang by your sides. Right from the get-go you’ll have to use your traps and stop the heavy-ass load from pulling your scapula down. Keep your shoulders parallel with the floor.
- With your arms locked out and the bells close to your body, pull your shoulders towards your ears. You should keep your head facing forwards and looking at the horizon as you do.
- The range of motion might feel small but elevating your shoulder girdle is all we’re after here.
Note: no need to circle your shoulders, this isn’t the 1970s. Just up and down movements is what we’re after.
– Muscle worked: Trapezius –
– Reps and sets: 3-4 x 5-8 reps –
#4. Dumbbell Bent Arm Pullover
An old school favorite for building a sun-blotting lat spread and a barrel-like upper body. The pullover hits your pecs and lats hard.
- Take a dumbbell and grip it on its underside. Sit back on a bench and push the bell above your chest.
- Holding the weight firmly, slowly extend your arms behind your head until you feel a stretch in your lats. Maintain just a small bend in your elbows throughout.
- At the bottom of the movement, pause briefly before pull the dumbbell back to the start position. Focus on pulling from your elbows, not your wrists as this will help to enhance your mind-to-muscle connection.
– Muscle worked: Latissimus Dorsi, Teres Major-
– Reps and sets: 3-4 x 10-12 reps –
#5. Reverse Flyes
With reverse dumbbell flyes you can give your rear delts and rhomboids some real love. It helps to create symmetry, overall back mass and tie in all muscles with no weak points. Just be aware that it doesn’t take a lot of weight to hit these muscles properly.
- Take hold of a pair of dumbbells and get in a hip hinged position with your chest facing the ground. You can sit at the end of a bench if you prefer.
- With a small bend in your elbows, fly the weights out in a wide arc as though you were trying to push the dumbbell as far away from your body as you could.
- Aim to pull your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement without unnecessary momentum from your upper or lower body.
- After a brief pause, slowly return to the start position.
– Muscle worked: Dear Deltoids, Rhomboids, Trapezius –
– Reps and sets: 5 x 12-15 reps –
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