3 Variations of Back Exercises from Beginner to Advance

3 Variations of Back Exercises from Beginner to Advance

In a world where we sit at a desk, are hunched over our phones and rarely pull our shoulders back, these exercises are so important. Not only will they help with your posture and prevent neck/back pain, they should also be included in any workout routine. So here are three back exercises where all you require is a set of dumbbells to complete.

  1. Single arm dumbbell row (easiest)- A single arm dumbbell bench row is a great way to work your back muscles. This exercise allows you to focus on one side at a time- which can help you to get a more even workout. To do this exercise, start by putting one knee of the bench (or chair) and have the other foot planted firmly on the ground. You want to make sure that hips stay even through the exercise. Draw the dumbbell up and squeeze the bottom of your shoulder blades as your elbow helps squeeze your back tight. The biggest mistake we see in this movement is the shoulder elevates towards the ear and traps begin to take over from the lats. This would be the first dumbbell back exercise I would teach to someone who is new to the gym. The one-arm dumbbell row is a unilateral exercise that targets the lats and biceps.
  • Two arm dumbbell bent over row (intermediate)- The two arm dumbbell bent over row is a great exercise for the back muscles. This exercise works the back muscles by rowing the weights up to the chest. This exercise can be done with light weights or heavy weights, depending on your goal. To do this exercise, start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a weight in each hand. Bend your knees and hinge forward at the hips, keeping your back flat and head up. Let the weights hang down at arm’s length. Bend your elbows and pull the weights up to your chest, leading with your elbows. Pause at the top of the move and then lower the weights back down to arm’s length. This is a more advanced movement as we need to have the body awareness to push our weight back into our heels and hamstrings. Our back must not round and our core is going to have to be engaged. The two-arm bent-over dumbbell row targets upper and middle back muscles, including the lats, biceps and erector spinae
  • The dumbbell birddog row (advanced)- The bird dog row is a more advanced dumbbell back exercise that requires a ton of body awareness and core strength. You would start with your knee on a bench (or floor) and the opposite hand on the bench, you will then extend that arm and leg out so it is parallel with your spine. In the other hand you are going to hold the dumbbell and perform a single arm dumbbell row. This exercise is so difficult because your centre of gravity will be off balance and you are going to have to engage your core to make sure you do not fall over. Make sure to perform this exercise slow and controlled to activate all the proper muscle groups. The bird dog exercise works the lats, biceps, erector spinae, rectus abdominis, and glutes.

Through any exercise, one of the most important things many people forgot is proper muscle activation, and that can lack when we don’t slow down. So for these back exercises the reps should take 3-5 seconds and we should really focus on recruiting those back muscles. That means for 10-12 reps each set should take you around a minute.

So as you can see these are three very similar movements, but by adding in a slightly different variationis how we get a different degree of difficulty. As the variation gets harder, the more muscle groups are recruited.

Make sure to add these into your workout routine so we don’t all end up walking around like apes!

Brett Kirkland


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