When you’re planning your workout routine, setting aside time to hit all your muscles is important for building balanced strength. And having a solid list of dumbbell back exercises to choose from is a helpful way to make sure you’re prepared to show your entire body some love.
Many people tend to neglect their back muscles—like the latissimus dorsi, or the “lats,” rhomboids, and lower trapezius or “traps”— when strength training simply because, well, they’re in the back of the body, ACE-certified personal trainer Sivan Fagan, owner of Strong With Sivan, tells SELF. So when they’re looking to get in some upper-body work, they tend to gravitate toward working muscles that are a little easier to see, such as their shoulders, arms, or chest.
But building back strength is super important, and the good news is, you can do so in a bunch of ways, from bodyweight moves to those which use free weights or resistance bands. While there are a bunch of bodyweight back exercises or barbell or kettlebell moves to choose from, in this article we’re going to focus on dumbbell back exercises—including those that hit your upper back and lower back. Read on to find out more about the importance of building back-of-the-body strength, as well as some options for exercises to slot into your upcoming back workouts.
Why is it important to work your back muscles?
There are tons of benefits of back exercises: For one, strengthening that area helps improve muscle imbalances and posture. Especially when we spend lots of time sitting, our back muscles tend to be weak, Fagan says. This can make it more likely that you’ll end up rounding your shoulders or assuming a hunched-over position.
Weak back muscles coupled with lots of sitting can also impair the mobility in your upper back, making it difficult to move your shoulder blades effectively. “A lot of times people will start to get shoulder injuries from that,” Fagan says. “They don’t have enough mobility and strength in the upper back, and when they do any kind of exercises that target the ‘pushing’ muscles, like the shoulder or chest muscles, that’s when we get into trouble.” (While your rear deltoids are technically part of your shoulders, they’re also small-but-important back-of-the-body muscles to focus on strengthening for this reason, too).
Your lower back muscles (called the erector spinae, which include your longissimus, iliocostalis, and spinalis muscles) are also considered part of your core, and strengthening this area helps to keep your spine supported. That helps everything from standing posture to gait, balance, and even joint health. Good alignment takes pressure off your joints, and that can provide major injury prevention, Kemma Cunningham, CPT, personal trainer at Life Time, a fitness and wellness company, tells SELF.
“Working the back muscles yields great benefits,” Cunningham tells SELF. “A strong back will aid in spine alignment and stabilization. This will give support and power to the rest of the body to perform not only exercises, but also daily activities.” For instance, when you pull a heavy door shut or pull a lawnmower to start, those are your back muscles firing.