Barbell and Dumbbell Back Exercises

The back is one of the largest muscle groups in the body, working it is usually one of the most difficult challenges in beginners.

Barbell exercises are gym classics for building back strength and volume. Dumbbell exercises are ideal to do at home because they do not require the need for special equipment.

In this article you will see the best back exercises with dumbbells to do at home and alternatives with machines and bars for the gym.

Related: Outdoor Back Exercises

Barbell exercises for back

A basic exercise to work your back muscles is the barbell deadlift. This is one of the 3 basic multi-joint exercises , almost all the large muscle groups of the body participate in the work.

To work the dorsal muscles of the back, the best are the pull-ups. To work your upper back, you must make sure you learn to feel the muscles. If you’re not sure how to start, practice the exercises without extra weight. The best barbell back exercises are described below:

1. Barbell deadlift

The barbell deadlift is a basic barbell back exercise. In particular, it allows to work the muscles of the lower back, stabilizers of the spine and the back area of ​​the legs.

2. Dominated

The dominated or pull-ups barbell exercise are key to the development of the top and back. If you have a fixed bar to hang at home, including this exercise at least 2 times a week will ensure a back with strong lats and with volume.

3. Barbell row

This exercise works the muscles of the lower and middle back. At the highest point of movement the shoulder blades should come together.

4. Horizontal barbell row

The horizontal barbell row is a basic exercise to achieve a strong and full back. However, beginners often make mistakes in technique. Which can lead to serious injuries. If you are not sure how to do it, you can check the following article: horizontal row with technical bar .

5. Inverted deadlift

A back exercise that is recommended only for advanced athletes. It allows to work the lower back area and the traps. However a small error in technique can be enough to cause chronic back pain.

Read more: outdoor back exercises

Dumbbell back exercises

Dumbbells are the easiest option to work your back without leaving the house. Keep in mind that when doing dumbbell exercises the greater the range of motion the better. That is, when working with dumbbells the shoulder blades should come together.

The best dumbbell back exercises are outlined below:

1. Incline Dumbbell Row

A key exercise to work the latissimus dorsi. A beginner should put full emphasis on not trying to look straight ahead or at the feet. The neck should follow the natural curvature of the spine. The legs work secondarily, the abdominal muscles should help stabilize the body.

2. Bench dumbbell row

This is a type of dumbbell back exercise that can be worked both laterally and vertically. It is one of the best to start with, since when located you should not be thinking about the movement of the rest of your body. The downside is that you can’t do it if you don’t have a proper bank at home.

3. Alternating dumbbell row

The alternating dumbbell row is analogous to the horizontal barbell press. The key in doing this is not to shift your torso to the sides.

4. Dumbbell deadlift

An analog of the barbell deadlift. If you are used to working with a barbell and you don’t have one at home, when working with dumbbells make sure you reduce the weight 20% less than with the barbell. When working with dumbbells the movement is less stable.

5. Dumbbell back openings

This is one of the best exercises to widen your back and give your lats proportional shape. The weight when doing this exercise should be light, as it engages the smaller back muscles.

Back exercises at the gym

The best exercises to work your back muscles in the gym are the different variations of rowing. With bar, chest pulley, low pulley. The advantage of working your back in the gym is being able to isolate the muscles. First of all, it is important to learn the correct technique to learn to feel your back and then begin to lift the weight. Below you can see exercises for back in the gym.

1. Kettlebell exercises

The exercises with kettlebells serve to increase back strength and development of the muscles of the body holistically.

2. Pulley to chest

Pulley to the chest   – Depending on the width of the grip, the technique can be modified so that the secondary muscles take an extra load.

3. Pulley row

Pulley row  is one of the best exercises to work your lats and widen your back.

4. Climbing rope

The Climbing rope is one of the most powerful exercises for the integral development and strengthening of the back muscles.

How should a back routine be?

If the goal is to increase the size of the back, the exercises should be focused on achieving muscle hypertrophy . Ideally, to achieve this is to do a maximum number of repetitions of 12 and a number of 4 sets with 1 minute of rest.

If you train more than one muscle at a time, you should combine the back with the work of a small muscle group like the biceps. This is the best way to optimize muscle glycogen .

When the goal is to mark the back, you should reduce the weight and try to do a maximum number of repetitions in each set. In particular, you should peak on the second set. Rest time between sets should be less than 1 minute and allow yourself about 2 minutes to switch exercises.

The most important thing in a back routine is to emphasize technique. Exercise mistakes can lead to serious lower back pain and injury . Remember that the first thing for a beginner should be to learn the technique and only then should you work with higher loads.

How to learn to feel the muscles of the back in the exercises?

Before starting to do back exercises with both dumbbells and bars, it is necessary to learn to feel the muscles. One of the best methods to achieve this is to work with bars or elastic bands .

Despite their apparent simplicity, they are extremely effective exercises for learning to feel your back muscles. If you are a beginner and want to improve the results of back exercises, forget about increasing the weight. Concentrate on technique and improve your neuromuscular connection .

To learn how to do exercises with barbells and dumbbells for the back at home, you can record and compare your posture with images or videos. If you find it difficult to work standing up, start training your back sitting down.


The best back exercises with dumbbells and bars are the deadlift, horizontal press, and the various variations of rowing.

To work the back, a beginner is advised to focus on technique. Working your lats and lower back is the best way to shape it proportionally.

Remember that when doing back exercises with dumbbells the key is to try to join the shoulder blades at the high point of the movement, the curvature of the spine must remain neutral.

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