The Perfect 20-Minute Dumbbell Back Workout to Build Strength

This dumbbell back workout increases strength, improves posture and prevents injury — at home or at the gym.

Your back consists of several large muscles that are a big part of functionality in your day-to-day life, but there's no need to feel like you must use fancy, expensive equipment to get in a sufficient sweat session. Just grab a pair of dumbbells and get to work.

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Adding back-specific workouts into your regular workout routine will improve your posture, protect your spine, prevent back pain and prevent injury.

Dumbbells are a fantastic way to develop a strong back because they can help increase increase coordination and allow for a greater range of motion. Plus, dumbbells provide an equally weighted load to both sides of your body, meaning each side is moving independently of each other, which can address any muscle imbalances.

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So, give this six-move dumbbell back workout a try to fire up those muscles. Do each exercise for three sets of 12 reps, resting 30 to 60 seconds between each set. The whole workout should take about 20 minutes.

You can do all these dumbbell back exercises at home if you have the space and equipment or you can head to the gym to get them done.

Things You'll Need

  • A set of heavy-weight dumbbells

  • A set of medium-weight dumbbells

  • An exercise mat is optional, but recommended

Related Reading

1. Bent-Over Row

JW Player placeholder image
Sets 3
Reps 12
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Back
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, palms facing each other.
  2. Push your hips back and soften your knees to lean your torso forward until it's nearly parallel with the ground and your weight is centered in your heels. Let the weights hang straight down in front of your knees.
  3. Brace your core and think about keeping your back completely flat.
  4. Leading with your back, squeeze your shoulder blades together and then pull through your arms to raise the dumbbells up toward your ribcage. Pause at the top of the movement.
  5. Keep your core and spine stable as you reverse the motion, extending your arms to lower the dumbbells so that they hang by your knees.

Use a heavy set of weights for this exercise.

2. Bent-Over Inverted Row

JW Player placeholder image
Sets 3
Reps 12
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Back
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, palms facing upward and away from your body.
  2. Push your hips back and soften your knees to lean your torso forward until it's nearly parallel with the ground and your weight is centered in your heels. Let the weights hang straight down in front of your knees.
  3. Brace your core and think about keeping your back completely flat.
  4. Leading with your back, squeeze your shoulder blades together and then pull through your arms to raise the dumbbells until they are slightly past your midline. Pause at the top of the movement.
  5. Keep your core and spine stable as you reverse the motion, extending your arms to lower the dumbbells so that they hang by your knees.

Use a heavy set of weights for this exercise.

3. High Pull

JW Player placeholder image
Sets 3
Reps 12
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Back
  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-distance apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms down in front of you.
  2. Hold the dumbbells with an overhand grip, palms facing downward and toward your body.
  3. Lift the weights up to your chin, keeping your elbows out and high.
  4. Slowly release back down to the starting position and repeat.

Use a heavy or medium set of weights for this exercise.

4. Rear Delt Fly

JW Player placeholder image
Sets 3
Reps 12
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Back
  1. Begin standing with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Push your hips back behind you and bend your knees slightly as you lean your torso forward with a flat back. Maintain this hip-hinge position throughout the exercise.
  3. Let the weights hang down toward the floor with your elbows slightly bent and palms facing each other.
  4. Keeping your shoulders down away from your ears and a slight bend in your elbows, lift the weights out to your sides until they're in line with your shoulders.
  5. Lower the dumbbells with control and repeat.

Use a medium set of weights for this exercise.

5. Renegade Row

JW Player placeholder image
Sets 3
Reps 12
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Back
  1. Start in a high plank position with both hands on dumbbells, shoulders over wrists and core engaged so your body forms a straight line head to toe.
  2. Pull the right dumbbell up to your rib cage, creating a 90-degree angle with your elbow.
  3. Return the dumbbell back to the starting position, and repeat on your left side.

Use a medium set of weights for this exercise. You can modify the move by dropping down to your knees.

6. Lat Pullover

JW Player placeholder image
Sets 3
Reps 12
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Back
  1. Lie down on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Hold the weight vertically with both hands at the top of the dumbbell directly over your face. Your arms should be straight.
  3. Squeeze your lats as you push the weight back above your head. Tap the bottom of the dumbbell lightly on the floor.
  4. Pull the weight forward, passing your face, down toward your chest.
  5. Repeat.

Use a heavy set of weights for this exercise.

​Check out more of our 20-minute workouts here — we’ve got something for everyone.​

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