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Top 5 Lower Back Dumbbell Exercises

The lower back can be trained in many ways - including with dumbbells. Barbells and machines are not always accessible, and for that reason we put together this post on our top 5 lower back dumbbell exercises that you can do in any hotel or apartment gym.

These exercises are not ranked or exhaustive. This list intends to simply give you 5 great movements to train the lower back with dumbbells that you currently may not be aware of.

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All lower back exercises below (except #4) can also be done with kettlebells, but that is purely preference-based.


The 5 Lower Back Dumbbell Exercises:

1. Dumbbell RDL

2. Dumbbell Single Leg Deadlift

3. Dumbbell Suitcase Carry

4. Dumbbell Glute Bridge

5. Dumbbell Bent Over Row


1. Dumbbell RDL

Dumbbell RDL Exercise

Dumbbell RDL (Romanian Deadlift)

How To Perform: While maintaining a straight, neutral spine, push the hips back while bending forward until you feel a strong stretch in the hamstrings. Contract the glutes and hamstrings to lift the weight back up to standing. Glute activation is key here - a good queue is to imagine trying to pinch a playing card between your buttock cheeks while doing this movement.

Muscles Worked: Glutes, hamstrings, lower back

My Unsolicited Take: I like to perform the dumbbell RDL exercise as an alternative to a regular deadlift or power clean. I'll do this when traveling and working out in a hotel gym, or when I feel my lower back just needs a break from heavier loads.


2. Dumbbell Single Leg Deadlift

Dumbbell SLD Lower Back Exercise

Dumbbell SLD (Single Leg Deadlift)

How To Perform: Grab a dumbbell (or kettlebell) in one hand, preparing to work the opposite-side leg (left hand -> right leg, right hand -> left leg). Start light and focus on balance and mind-muscle connection for the best results.

Muscles Worked: Glutes, hamstrings, lower back, balance/coordination

My Unsolicited Take: This is my favorite exercise on the page. The single-leg deadlift is incredibly functional, safe, and satisfying to do. It can be frustrating at first because the balance and mind-muscle contraction may be new, but once you can progress to using 50+lbs for clean reps this might become your favorite movement.


3. Dumbbell Suitcase Carry

Dumbbell/Kettlebell Suitcase Carry Exercise

How To Perform: Grab ONE dumbbell or kettlebell at a weight that is challenging to hold for 45 to 90 seconds (holding TWO dumbbells makes this a farmer's carry, which is a productive but different movement). Hold great posture - keeping the chin tucked, shoulders back and down, and spine straight and strong throughout the entire exercise. Walk heel to toe for 45-90 seconds. *Hyperfocus on form and perfect posture at first, and add weight as you feel strong and capable.

Muscles Worked: Quadratus Lumborum (QL), obliques, outer glutes

My Unsolicited Take: If the goal is to build a bulletproof and well-rounded lower back, it is extremely important to include "single-side" movements that work one side of the lower back at a time. The beauty of the suitcase carry exercise is its strengthening of the QL muscle, which can literally make or break your lower back health. This is a must include.


4. Dumbbell Glute Bridge

Dumbbell Glute Bridge Lower Back Exercise

Dumbbell Glute Bridge (2 legs)

How To Perform: Also known as the hip thrust exercise, the dumbbell glute bridge is pretty straightforward. Drive the heels into the ground, pinch the buttock cheeks together, and feel the contraction in your glutes.

Progression: A progression to this exercise is the single-leg glute bridge. To do the single-leg glute bridge, maintain the queues but keep one foot in the air.

Muscles Worked: Glutes

My Unsolicited Take: The glutes are essential for a strong lower back. The glutes and lower back are the main movers in bending over, picking something off the ground, jumping, lifting, etc. The stronger the glutes, the healthier and stronger the lower back is - so include the glute bridge exercise for an optimal lower back.


5. Dumbbell Bent Over Row

Dumbbell Bent Row Lower Back Exercise

Dumbbell Bent Over Row

How To Perform: Grab a set of dumbbells and pull (row) as shown in the image. Bend forward until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings and hold. Make sure to start light and maintain a straight spine, retracted shoulders, and a braced core.

Muscles Worked: Lower back, lats, trapezius, glutes

My Unsolicited Take: This is the most complete dumbbell back exercise you can do. No exercise is going to light up the entire back (lower, middle, and upper) quite like this movement. If dumbbells are all you have access to, this should 100% be included in your routine.


Beyond Lower Back Dumbbell Exercises

Honestly, dumbbells are not the best equipment to train the lower back. Barbells (read more on barbell back exercises) and kettlebells allow you to work the lower back more conveniently and intensely. In addition, machines like the glute hyperextension (aka back extension) can be done in several variations at nearly any gym.


But if dumbbells are all you have access to, the 5 lower back exercises above will build strength and get you a long way (also check out our post on back fat exercises). Share this post if you learned something of value, or read one of these next:




[1] Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.

[2] Davies, Clair, and Amber Davies. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. 3rd ed., New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2013.

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