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The Best Back Workout With Dumbbells Only In 2023

By: Zack Mathews, NASM - CPT, CES, PES, & PN-L1

The best back workout with dumbbells only with will require a mix of exercises that hit all the right muscles, including the latissimus dorsi (lats), rhomboids, trapezius (traps), erector spinal (lower back).

I might even throw in an exercise for the rear deltoid and biceps if you’re lucky.

When planning this article and looking at other websites, I was shocked that most articles were simply naming the best back exercises to do with dumbbells.

Sure that’s useful information, but what about a well structured back workout with the proper sets, reps, rest time, and exercise tutorial?

That’s what I’m going to provide you with today!

The best back workout with dumbbells only will be broken up into multiple sections including:


Look like fun? Let’s hit the ground running!

Back Workout With Dumbbells Only Breakdown

Back Workout With Dumbbells Only

Back Workout Superset #1

Chest Supported Rows / Prone YWTI

To start your workout, you’re going to pair a big compound movement, chest supported rows, with an isometric drill, prone YWTI.

Since your chest supported row will be one the biggest lifts you do for the day, that will be the first movement you do.

Since this is in superset fashion, you will jump right into your YWTI’s when you complete the prescribed reps of rows.  You get your full rest once you finish both exercises.

Key points:
  • When you row the dumbbells, think as if you are trying to reach your elbow towards your hips.
  • At the top of each row, squeeze your armpits and shoulder blades together for a full second, and then slowly control the weight back to the start.
  • Although the prone YWTI doesn’t require any dumbbells, you can still make it a challenging exercise.  Actively pull your shoulders back throughout each movement and you will feel the burn.
Sets and reps:
  • Chest supported rows - 3 sets of 8 - 10 reps
  • Prone YWTI - 3 sets of 60 seconds
  • Rest 90 seconds - 2 minutes after finishing the second exercise

Dumbbell Only Back Superset #2

Bird-Dog Rows / Chest Supported Rear Delt Fly

In this superset, we’ll be doing a second row variation, but this time there will be a stability element involved.

If you’ve never done a bird dog row before, you’re in for a treat.

I will say, I’ve had clients in the past almost fall off the bench because they weren’t ready for the pull from the dumbbell.  So there’s your warning!

If you struggle too much with balance on these, grab a different exercise from my list of 15 one arm dumbbell row alternatives.

To start targeting the smaller muscle groups, you will pair your rows with chest supported rear deltoid flys.

Key points:
  • Pick a weight that is about 10-20% lighter than you normally would do for traditional rows.  The balance element of the bird-dog rows might take a set or two for you to get down.
  • Similar to your chest supported rows, reach that dumbbell back towards your hip on each row.
  • Keep your elbows slightly bent on your rear delt flys and make sure to squeeze your shoulder blades together on each rep.
Sets and reps:
  • Bird-dog rows - 3 sets of 10 - 12 reps on each side
  • Chest supported rear delt fly - 3 sets of 10 - 15 reps
  • Rest 90 seconds - 2 minutes after finishing second exercise

Superset #3

Dumbbell Shrugs / Bent Over Dumbbell Rows

The last superset of your workout will involve your traps, upper back, AND lower back.

Fatigue will be kicking in at this point so it’s important to keep good form.  There is nothing wrong with going slightly lighter in order to keep proper positioning.

As you see, we have another row variation and this time it’s not on a bench.  You’ll be in a hinged position so you will be working your hamstrings and lower back.

Key points:
  • With your bent over dumbbell rows, make sure your back stays flat throughout the whole movement.  If you start feeling any pain in your lower back, immediately stop the exercise.
  • Dumbbell shrugs should be done in a straight up and down fashion.  Don’t roll your shoulder blades on each rep.
  • Squeeze for 1 second at the top of each rep.  If you can’t hold a 1 second squeeze, the weight is too heavy for you.
Sets and reps:
  • Dumbbell shrugs - 3 sets of 8 - 12 reps
  • Bent over dumbbell rows - 3 sets of 8 - 12 reps
  • Rest 90 seconds - 2 minutes after exercise 2

Bicep Curls In A Dumbbell Only Back Workout? Let's Do It

Let’s finish off this awesome workout with some biceps!

Since you were just in a hinged position for your dumbbell rows, I want you to go chest supported with this last exercise so it’s strictly your biceps working.

If you prefer to swap this out with another bicep exercise, check out my list of the 15 best bicep curl variations.

Key points:
  • Continue to squeeze the dumbbells together throughout the whole movement.
  • A controlled tempo is ideal for all the reps.  3 seconds on the way down for each rep will get you there.
Sets and reps:
  • Dumbbell smash spider curls - 2 sets of 12 - 15 reps
  • Rest 90 seconds

Frequently Asked Questions About Back Workouts With Dumbbells Only

What is the best back exercise with dumbbells?

When utilizing dumbbells for your back workout, performing different variations of rows will be the best exercise you can do.  That will give you the best overall chance of hitting your lats, traps, rhomboids, and rear delts.

Is it possible to work out with just dumbbells?

You can absolutely get a great workout with only dumbbells that will get you stronger and build muscle.  With any workout, it’s important that you have the right intensity with the workout and push it enough that it provides a stimulus to your muscles.

Do push-ups work back?

No, push-ups are a push movement (hence the push-up) and target your chest, triceps, and shoulders.  Back exercises are considered pull movements and will prioritize your back, biceps, and shoulders.

Can I build muscle with 25 pound dumbbells?

It depends.  If a 25 pounds dumbbell allows you to get near technical failure on each set then it is an adequate weight.  If you get done with a set and think “I could have probably done 10 more reps” the weight is too light and 25 pounds will not be enough weight to build muscle.

Dumbbell Only Back Workout Recap

This back workout will provide you with all the exercises to target all the muscles in your back, provide a stability element, get your lower back and hamstrings involved, and get you a pump in your biceps to finish the workout.

Make sure to pick a weight that you have intent for each set and pick a weight that is challenging.

If you have intensity with each set, follow the prescribes sets, reps, and rest, you’re going to have an awesome workout.

Make sure to screenshot the image so you have the workout saved!