Build a strong, defined back with this workout: the 8 best back exercises at home. This back workout for women requires just a set of dumbbells to build strength and definition. The back is the largest muscle group in the upper body – making this an efficient calorie-burning workout as well. Reach muscle fatigue in under 30 minutes thanks to efficient drop set formatting.
You don’t need an expensive gym membership or tons of fancy equipment to strengthen and tone your back at home. This workout targets the latissimus dorsi (lats), rhomboids, trapezius (traps), and erector spinae using minimal equipment.
The drop set format found in today’s workout is particularly helpful if your goal is muscular hypertrophy, or muscle growth.
Repeatedly challenging the same muscle causes the muscle to adapt by growing in strength and size.
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Back Workouts FAQs
Are Back Workouts Good For Women?
Back workouts are extremely beneficial for women to include in their training routines. Strong back muscles are essential for daily movements such as lifting, reaching, and twisting. Additionally, the back is a large metabolic muscle – which means training it can burn more calories and boost the resting metabolism.
What Are The Best Back Exercises?
The best back exercises can be broken into different movement patterns. Row movements (dumbbell row, barbell bent over row), pull movements (lat pull downs, seated cable row, pull ups, and dumbbell pullovers), and hyperextension movements (supermans).
What Are The Benefits of Back Workouts for Women?
Back workouts for women can improve posture and core strength, increase muscle mass and definition (resulting in a “toned” appearance), improve bone density, and help prevent injury and back pain.
You can focus on back workouts up to three non-consecutive days a week. This gives the muscle groups proper time to recover between training sessions. Alternate back workouts with other upper body workouts, such as bicep workouts, tricep workouts, shoulder workouts and chest workouts to create a well-rounded workout plan.
30-Minute Back Workout For Women
The eight best back exercises for women combined in an isolation back workout.
Note: I say “back workout for women” here because in my experience, women tend to under-train the back. That makes it especially important for women to include back exercises in their training routines. However, these are great dumbbell back exercises for both men and women.
Drop Sets (perform each back exercise for 14 reps, then 12 reps, then 10 reps)
Repeat All 8 Back Exercises x3 Sets (drop reps with each set, but try to maintain the same weight)
Note: we re-filmed this back workout to improve video and sound quality (and changed up some of the moves). You can find the original best back workout for women video here if you’d like to compare them.
Targets: Both the lower back and upper back, specifically the lats and rhomboids.
This compound exercise also strengthens the biceps as they are also engaged in the “pull” motion.
How To Do Reverse Grip Back Rows
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
Grip a set of dumbbells, palms facing out away from the body.
Hinge at the hips until your chest is parallel to the floor (neck in line with your spine, flat back, and belly button and rib cage pulled in).
Pull the weights back towards your hips, squeezing the shoulder blades together.
With control, slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position.
Single Arm Back Row
Targets: Latissimus dorsi (or lats; the largest back muscle known for its large, flat “V” shape).
Bonus: unilateral exercises (single-sided exercises) like this single arm dumbbell row also work the abs and core.
How To Do Single Arm Back Rows
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Option to keep feet parallel or take a slightly staggered stance to better support your low back (stepping your left leg slightly behind your right leg).
Hold a dumbbell in your left hand, palm facing in (narrow grip).
Bend forward at the hips maintaining a flat back, belly button pulled back towards your spine.
Pull the dumbbell back towards your left hip (think of pulling from your elbow joint versus your wrist), as if you were starting a pull-start lawnmower. Stop once your elbow is in line with your rib cage, making a straight line from shoulder to elbow. Hold the row at the top for a moment squeezing your shoulder blade in.
With control, lower the dumbbell back to the starting position and repeat.
Modification: Perform a bird dog row from a box or bench to increase core engagement and get greater range of motion.
Straight Arm Pull Backs
Targets: The back of the arms including the triceps, lats, rear deltoids (shoulders), and upper back (rhomboids and traps).
How To Do Straight Arm Pull Backs
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Grip a set of dumbbells, palms facing in towards each other.
Hinge forward at the hips approximately 45 degrees until your body is in a straight line (torso parallel to the mat).
Keep your arms straight as you pull both dumbbells back to your hips (just past your hips).
Control the dumbbells back down. Return to the starting position, trying not to let the dumbbells touch at the bottom.
Deadlift and Narrow Row
Targets: The hamstrings, glutes, upper back and core.
How To Do Deadlifts and Narrow Rows
Start standing with feet hip-width apart, core engaged. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing in towards your thighs. Think about squeezing oranges in your armpits to activate your lats.
Hinge at the hips, pushing your glutes back towards the wall behind you and gliding the dumbbells down the front of your legs. Lower until you feel a stretch along the back of your legs – range of motion will be different for anyone.
Hold at the bottom of your deadlift, then perform a narrow row. Pull the dumbbells back towards your hips (think of pulling from your elbow versus your wrist). Stop once your elbows are in line with your ribcage, making a straight line from shoulder to elbow.
With control, slowly lower the dumbbells down. Then press through your heels to stand tall, returning to starting position.
Plank and Row (Renegade Row)
Targets: Primarily the back muscles, specifically the latissimus dorsi (lats) and rhomboids. As well as the biceps, triceps, shoulders and core.
The renegade row is a challenging exercise that requires stability and strength in the upper body and core, making it an effective full-body exercise for building strength and muscle.
How To Do Plank and Rows (Renegade Rows)
Start in a high plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders and feet shoulder-width apart.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your palms facing each other and your arms extended. Your wrists should be in line with your shoulders.
Engage your core and keep your back straight as you row one dumbbell up towards your chest, keeping your elbow close to your body. Try to keep your hips and shoulders parallel to the floor.
Lower the dumbbell back down to the starting position, then repeat the movement with the other arm.
Alternate rowing the dumbbells, keeping your core engaged and maintaining a stable plank position throughout the exercise.
Modification: Drop to your knees and perform a modified plank and row. Alternatively, place your dumbbells on an incline (such as a bench or box) to bring the ground closer to you.
Targets: Mainly the lats (latissimus dorsi) and pecs (pectoralis major and pectoralis minor) while also targeting the core and abs for stability.
The dumbbell pullover is one of the only dumbbell exercises that targets the same muscles as pull ups. This is a great exercise to include if you don’t have access to a pull up bar or while you’re building the upper body strength to do pull ups.
How To Do Dumbbell Pullovers
Start lying on your back, either on the ground or on an exercise bench, knees bent and feet planted firmly on the floor. Engage your core to press your lower back into the ground.
Hold a dumbbell with both hands, grasping the top of the weight with your palms facing up. Your arms should be extended straight above your chest.
Keeping your arms straight with a slight bend in your elbows, slowly lower the weight behind your head until your arms are parallel to the floor.
Exhale to slowly lift the weight back up to the starting position by squeezing your chest muscles and pulling the weight back up over your chest. Keep your arms straight as you lift the weight.
Prone Superman Back Fly and Extension
Targets: The entire posterior chain (or backside of your body).
The superman exercise strengthens your back muscles, back extensors, glutes and hamstring muscles to increase overall core strength. Adding the lat pull also engages the upper back muscles.
How To Do Prone Superman Back Flys and Extensions
Lie face down on a mat or flat surface with your legs straight out behind you. “Goal post” your arms, bending both elbows to 90 degrees, elbows in line with shoulders. Keep your neck in a neutral position by looking down towards the floor.
Take a deep breath and engage your core muscles to lift your arms and chest off the ground simultaneously.
Hold the top position for a second, squeezing your glutes and lower back muscles to keep your chest lifted.
Then, reach your arms overhead, extending your hands away from your body.
Squeeze your back to pull your elbows back towards your hips, returning your arms to a goal post position.
With control, lower your upper body towards the mat, returning to starting position.
Modification: Perform a bird dog exercise, extending opposite arm and opposite leg away from each other in a quadruped position.
Dumbbell Back Fly (Reverse Fly)
Targets: The posterior deltoids (rear shoulders), and major upper back muscles including the rhomboids and trapezius.
How To Do Dumbbell Back Flys (Reverse Fly)
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Grip a set of dumbbells, palms facing in towards each other. Hinge forward at the hips.
Open your arms, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you raise the dumbbells. Aim to bring dumbbells just to shoulder height.
With control, slowly lower the dumbbells back down, returning to starting position.
Modification: Perform alternating single arm back flys.
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