Strengthen Your Upper, Middle & Lower Back With This Dumbbell Workout
As you've probably learned at this point in my strength training at home series, your back muscles are integral to overall core strength. They help stabilize and bend your spine, raise and retract your arms, and are the key to good posture. Truly, your back muscles play a role in just about every movement you can make.
That's why, for this workout, we're homing on this important area of the body. This five-move routine pays close attention to your upper, middle, and lower back—for a complete challenge.
All you need is a single heavier dumbbell, a set of light dumbbells, and a yoga mat to get started.
- Time: 20 minutes
- Equipment: Set of lighter dumbbells, single heavier dumbbell, yoga mat
- Instructions: Complete three set of 8 to 12 reps of each exercise. Move from one exercise to the next with some rest in between.
- Start standing, hinge at the hips, and brace your core. Hold a heavier dumbbell in between both hands (or a set of lighter dumbbells in each hand).
- Press your shoulders down toward your hips to initiate the movement. Draw your elbows toward your hips to lift the dumbbell.
- Maintain control as you return to dumbbells back toward the floor. That's one rep. Repeat for three sets of 8 to 10 reps.
- Note: While the chest stays open for the movement, be sure to initiate by pressing your shoulders down toward the hips instead of shoulder blades together (that's more for upper-back-focused moves).
Works: Upper back & lats
- Lie on the mat with your feet planted on the ground.
- Hold one dumbbell with both hands and brace your core.
- With straight arms, press the weight to the sky and reach the dumbbell overhead and toward the floor.
- Hover the weight for a moment and return the dumbbell to the start position. That's one rep. Repeat for three sets of 8 to 10 reps.
- Lie on your stomach.
- By squeezing your back muscles, lift your chest off the floor with gaze remaining down and forward.
- Lower chest to the floor to complete the movement.
- Add dumbbells in hand to advance the exercise. That's one rep. Repeat for three sets of 8 to 10 reps.
Works: Rear deltoids
- Hinge over at the hips and maintain position throughout the set.
- With soft elbows and weights in hand, initiate the movement by squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Float arms up toward the sky to make the shape of a capital letter T.
- Return arms back down toward the floor. That's one rep. Repeat for three sets of 8 to 10 reps.
- Note: A strong visual cue is to imagine you are a falcon flying over the land.
Standing Bird Dog
Works: Whole back
- Hold a lighter weight in one hand, and stand on the opposite leg.
- Hinge over and extend your free leg behind you like a tail, and bring your hand with the weight out in front of you.
- Bring your elbow and knee together in the center then extend back into that long body position.
- Keep your hips square throughout the exercise. That's one rep. Repeat for 8 to 10 reps, then switch sides. Complete 3 sets on both sides.
- Note: You will feel the greatest challenge in your back when the body is fully extended.
BB Arrington is NASM-certified personal trainer, holistic nutritionist, and sustainability advocate. Not only are fitness and nutrition integral to healthy function, but the way we treat the planet and others. She advocates for a true wellness that is inclusive of all six tenements: physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, environmental, and social.