The Most Effective Back and Shoulder Workout with Dumbbells

Back and Shoulder Workout with Dumbbells

If you’re looking for the best exercises to forge back and shoulder muscles with dumbbells only, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, I’ve shared the best dumbbell exercises for the back and shoulder and how you can combine them to create an effective workout routine.

Whether you’re a beginner or pro, male or female, you can do these exercises at home to build and tone your back and shoulder.

About Back and Shoulder Muscle

The back is one of the largest upper body muscles, made up of multiple muscle groups, such as the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and lumbar spine. These muscles support the spine, maintain posture, and help perform various activities.

The shoulder is also an important muscle of the torso. It consists mainly of three muscles: front, medial, and posterior deltoids. These muscles are involved in different movements, such as lifting, pulling, and throwing.

Training the back and shoulder is crucial when it comes to building a strong, defined, and sizable upper body.

Strong shoulders and back improve posture, minimize injuries, and improve overall performance.

Can You Train Shoulder and Back Together?

Yes, you can train your back and shoulder together on the same day.

The back and shoulder muscles work together during several exercises, such as the upright row, reverse fly, IYT raises, and face pulls. So training both muscles on the same day wouldn’t be a bad idea.

You can train both muscles alternatively or by doing the superset. It depends on your comfort and choice. Both splits are safe, suitable, and effective.

9 Best Dumbbell Exercises for Shoulders

Dumbbell Exercises for Shoulders
  1. Overhead Press
  2. Arnold Press
  3. Front Raises
  4. Lateral Raises
  5. Incline Y Raises
  6. Bent-Over Lateral Raises
  7. Rear Delt Dumbbell Row
  8. Dumbbell Upright Row
  9. Dumbbell Shrug

1. Overhead Press

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises

The overhead press is an upper-body push exercise that primarily targets the front deltoid and helps build a solid, toned shoulder.

Steps to Perform:

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit on a 75-degree incline bench with your back resting on it.
  2. Bend your elbows and hold the dumbbells at your shoulder height with your palms facing forward.
  3. Brace your core, inhale, and press the dumbbells overhead until your arms are straight, but do not lock your elbows at the top.
  4. Pause for a second, then slowly lower the dumbbells to the start. This is your one repetition.

2. Arnold Press

The Arnold press is an overhead press variation that involves twisting your wrists and pressing the dumbbells overhead. It engages both front and lateral deltoids and helps build brawny shoulders.

Steps to Perform:

  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand and sit on the bench with your back resting on it.
  2. Hold the dumbbells against your shoulders with your elbows bent and palms facing in.
  3. Rotating your wrist, press the weight overhead until your arms are straight. Your palms will be facing forward at the top.
  4. Return to the start and repeat.

3. Front Raises

The front raises are an isolation exercise that primarily strikes the anterior deltoids and helps enhance the shoulder’s strength and muscle definition.

Steps to Perform:

  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand and stand straight with your extended below and palms facing your thigh. Brace your core, hold your chest up, and maintain a flat back. That’s the start.
  2. Raise one dumbbell in front of you until your arm is parallel to the floor.
  3. Hold for a moment, return to the start, and repeat with your opposite arm.

4. Lateral Raises

Dumbbell Lateral Raises

The lateral raises allow you to forge your side delts and help build chiseled shoulders at home with only dumbbells.

Steps to Perform:

  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand and stand upright in the normal stance.
  2. Keep your arms straight at your sides with your palms facing inward.
  3. Raise your arms to the sides until they align with your shoulders.
  4. Lower your arms back to the start. This is your one rep.

5. Incline Y Raises

The dumbbell Y raises are a time-efficient exercise that targets both the front and side deltoids and helps you build sculpted shoulders.

Steps to Perform:

  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand with a neutral and lie prone on an incline bench (60 degrees) with your chest on the edge of it.
  2. Hold your arms straight toward the floor and lift your trap and shoulder blades off the bench.
  3. Lift your arms out so your arms make a Y shape at the top.
  4. Pause for two seconds, feel the muscle contraction, then return to the start.

6. Bent-Over Lateral Raises

dumbbell workouts for back and shoulders

The bent-over lateral raise targets the rear delts, middle delts, and upper back simultaneously and helps build a muscular upper body.

Steps to Perform:

  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand and sit on the edge of a bench.
  2. Bend your torso forward until your chest is nearly parallel to the floor.
  3. Keep your arms straight toward the floor with your palms facing each other. This is your starting position.
  4. Raise your arms out until you feel the full contraction in your upper back muscles.
  5. Pause for a couple of seconds, then return to the start.

7. Rear Delt Dumbbell Row

Dumbbell rear delt row

The rear delt row is an upper-body pull exercise that targets the posterior shoulder and upper trap and helps build firm shoulders and a defined back over time.

Steps to Perform:

  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip and stand in the hip stance.
  2. Hinge forward from your hips to lower your trunk towards the ground until your torso is parallel.
  3. Extend your arms below with your palms facing the body. That’s the start.
  4. Brace your core, maintain a flat back, and pull the dumbbells towards you until your elbows are in line with your shoulders.
  5. Pause for a moment, feel the contraction, and extend your arms back. That’s one rep.

8. Dumbbell Upright Row

The upright row works on the upper trap and deltoids and helps build functional and good-looking shoulders.

Steps to Perform:

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells with an overhand grip and stand upright with your back straight.
  2. Hold your arms straight in front of your thighs with your palms facing in.
  3. Pull the dumbbells up toward your neck as high as possible.
  4. Hold for a couple of seconds at the top and then slowly lower it back to the start.

9. Dumbbell Shrug

Dumbbell Shrug

The shrug is an exercise that targets the muscles around the neck and shoulders and helps improve torso strength, posture, and definition.

Steps to Perform:

  1. Hold one dumbbell in each hand and stand straight with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Keep your arms straight at your sides with your palms facing in.
  3. Slightly lean forward and pull your shoulders as close to your ear as possible.
  4. Squeeze your muscles for a second, then return to the start.

9 Best Dumbbell Exercises for Back

Dumbbell Exercises for Back
  1. Dumbbell Bent Over Row
  2. Single-arm Dumbbell Row
  3. Incline Dumbbell I-Y-T Raises
  4. Lat Pullover
  5. Incline Chest Supported Row
  6. Superman Row
  7. Alternate Gorilla Row
  8. Renegade Row
  9. Yates Row

1. Dumbbell Bent Over Row

The bent-over row is a back exercise that hammers the lats, traps, and lower back and helps build an athletic torso.

Steps to Perform:

  1. Holding a pair of dumbbells, hinge at your hips and bend your torso forward.
  2. Keep your arms straight below your trunk with your palms facing inward. That’s the start.
  3. Row the dumbbells at your sides until your back muscles are engaged.
  4. Hold for a second, then lower your arms to the start. This is your one rep!

2. Single-arm Dumbbell Row

Single dumbbell back exercises

The one-arm dumbbell row is a unilateral back exercise that allows you to train each side individually and helps build a balanced and symmetrical back.

Steps to Perform:

  1. Set the bench to a 30-45 degree incline, grab a dumbbell in your right hand with a neutral grip, and place your left knee on the bench.
  2. Push your hips back and lean your torso forward so your chest is nearly parallel to the floor.
  3. Brace your abdominal muscles, inhale, and row the dumbbell at your side until your back muscles are engaged.
  4. Pause for a moment, then lower the dumbbell to the start.

3. Incline Dumbbell I-Y-T Raises

The IYT raise is a dumbbell compound exercise that helps bolster the back and shoulders simultaneously and develop a firm torso.

It is a time-efficient exercise, allowing you to train more muscles in less time and making it an excellent exercise to include in any training program.1 What Is the Best Back Exercise? by Holly Edelburg, B.S., John P. Porcari, Ph.D., Clayton Camic, Ph.D., Attila Kovacs, Ph.D., and Carl Foster, Ph.D., with Daniel J. Green – American Council of Exercise

Steps to Perform:

  1. Lie on an incline bench with your face down and arms straight below your shoulders.
  2. Raise your arms in front of you until your body forms an I shape.
  3. Return to the start and raise your arms slightly out to form a Y shape.
  4. Return to the start, then lift your arms out to form a T shape. That’s one rep.

4. Lat Pullover

The pullover is an old-school dumbbell exercise that bodybuilders use to build broader lats and thicker pecs.

It involves lying on your back and pulling the dumbbell all the way from the back of your head to above your chest.

This exercise stretches your latissimus dorsi, a comprehensive back muscle, every time you lower and pull the dumbbells.

If dumbbells are the only equipment you use to train, I recommend doing it on your back day to grow your back.

Steps to Perform:

  1. Grab a dumbbell with both hands and lie on a flat bench with your face up and feet firmly on the ground.
  2. Extend your arms behind your head with a soft bend in your elbows.
  3. Pull the dumbbell all the way from the back of your head to above your chest.
  4. Lower your arms to the start, then repeat again.

5. Incline Chest Supported Row

The incline row hits multiple muscles at once, such as lats, traps, and rhomboids, and helps you build a stronger and more defined back.

Steps to Perform:

  1. Holding one dumbbell in each hand, lie prone with your chest at the end, your arms straight toward the floor, and palms facing each other.
  2. Slightly lift your shoulder blades off and drive your elbows deliberately, feeling the contraction in your back.
  3. Pause for a moment, feel the squeeze, then return to the start.

6. Superman Row

The Superman Row is a pull exercise you can do while lying on the floor. It bolsters the posterior chain muscles, primarily the lower back, and helps contribute to developing a resilient back.

Steps to Perform:

  1. Lie on the mat with your legs extended and arms straight.
  2. Grab one dumbbell in each hand with your palms down.
  3. Lift your chest off the floor, then driving your elbows in, pull the dumbbells toward your chest until your back is fully engaged.
  4. Extend your arms back, then repeat for the desired times.

7. Alternating Gorilla Row

The Gorilla is one of the rowing exercises that strikes the back muscles and helps stimulate mass growth. It targets the upper and middle back and plays a key part in building a muscular back with dumbbells.

Steps to Perform:

  1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Lean your torso forward until your chest is parallel to the floor. Keep your arms straight, with your palms facing each other.
  3. Drive your right elbow behind as you pull the dumbbell at your side.
  4. Squeeze your back muscles at the top, then return to the start and repeat on the opposite side.

8. Renegade Row

The renegade row involve rowing the dumbbells in a high plank position. It hammers the multiple muscles simulatsneoly, particularly the back and abs and develop a sturdy torso.

Steps to Perform:

  1. Start in a plank position with your hands on dumbbells, your feet shoulder-width apart, and your body in a straight line from head to heels.
  2. Brace your core, maintain a flat back, and row one side of the dumbbell up to your side while maintaining a plank position.
  3. Lower the weight back down to the starting position, then repeat the movement on the other side.

9. Yates Row

Yates row is another rowing variation that involves gripping the dumbbells with an underhand grip. It targets the upper and middle back and plays a key part in building a muscular back with dumbbells.

Steps to Perform:

  1. Holding a dumbbell in each with an underhand grip, stand upright with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Slightly bend at the waist, lean forward, and keep your arms straight at your sides.
  3. Pull the dumbbells up to your sides until your lats are engaged.
  4. Lower your arms to the start and repeat for the desired times.

30-Minute Dumbbell Back and Shoulder Workout to Build Muscle

Let’s see how you can design workout routines to forge your back and shoulder with dumbbells only.

An effective workout routine must include at least one exercise for each muscle group. For the back and shoulders, you should perform at least one exercise for the front delt, side delt, posterior delt, trapezius, and latissimus dorsi.

I’ve designed a few samples. You can look at them to get some idea of how to create a well-structured routine.

For Beginners

30-Minute Dumbbell Workout to Build Firm Delts and Back

Workout AWorkout B
Front Raises (3 sets x 12 reps)Overhead Press (3 sets x 12 reps)
Lateral Raises (3 sets x 12 reps)Incline Y Raises (3 sets x 10 reps)
Single-arm Row (3 sets x 10/side)Bent-Over Lateral Raises (3 sets x 10 reps)
Chest-Supported Row (3 sets x 15 reps)Bent Over Row (3 sets x 15 reps)
Rear Delt Fly (3 sets x 12 reps)Alternating Gorilla Row (3 sets x 10/side)

For Intermediates and Advanced

30-Minute Superset Shoulder and Back Workout

SupersetSets x Reps
Overhead Press + Bent Over Row3 x 10-12
I-Y-T Raises + Lat Pullover3 x 8-10
Rear Delt Row + Superman Row3 x 8-10
Dumbbell Shrug + Renegade Row3 x 8-10

Download The Workout PDF

References

  • 1
    What Is the Best Back Exercise? by Holly Edelburg, B.S., John P. Porcari, Ph.D., Clayton Camic, Ph.D., Attila Kovacs, Ph.D., and Carl Foster, Ph.D., with Daniel J. Green – American Council of Exercise

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Murshid Akram

I’m a personal trainer, fitness blogger, and founder of thefitnessphantom.com. I help people achieve their best shape through my science-based and practical workout programs.
Picture of Murshid Akram

Murshid Akram

I’m a personal trainer, fitness blogger, and founder of thefitnessphantom.com. I help people achieve their best shape through my science-based and practical workout programs.

About Me

I’m Murshid Akram, a personal trainer, fitness blogger, and founder of thefitnessphantom.com. I primarily design workout plans and share science-based and practical information that can help you become stronger, functional, and healthier.

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