You don't need the gym to build stronger back and biceps — use this 7-move dumbbell workout instead

a man performing bicep curls on a bench with a pair of dumbbells
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Running out of inspiration for your next back and biceps pump? Don't go anywhere. We've got a fuss-free upper body workout that involves just seven exercises, requires one set of dumbbells and is especially designed to torch the muscles in your back and biceps.

This workout is perfect for using at home as it only requires one piece of equipment. Any dumbbells will do but we'd tend to favor a pair of the best adjustable dumbells for this style of workout so that you can easily move up or down weight if need be, as some moves will feel more challenging than others. It also means you can gradually add volume to the workout over time.

How to do the 7-move back and biceps workout

This back and biceps routine comes from fitness trainer Britany Williams and involves 10 reps of each exercise, repeating the full circuit three times over. Williams recommends picking just three or four exercises from her list but if you can take on more, don't be shy to give it a go.

Just make sure you work with a sensible-sized weight; something that challenges you but isn't so heavy it will compromise good form. Take a look at the exercises listed below followed by Williams' demonstrations and decide which moves you feel ready to tackle.

  1. Neutral to underhand row
  2. Renegade row to plank rotation
  3. Wide to bent-over row
  4. Lat pullover
  5. Biceps curl to underhand row
  6. Alternating biceps curl to isometric hold
  7. Sumo squat hold biceps curl

This dumbbell workout is excellent for strengthening the upper body because it incorporates a mix of compound and isolation movements. A workout that includes both compound and isolation moves offers a solid session for your upper body by simultaneously engaging multiple muscle groups for overall strength and by tuning in on specific muscles for more balanced growth and definition.

Wondering if a dumbbell only workout really can help you build strength in your back and biceps? Now, of course, there are plenty of machines you can find at gyms especially designed for building upper body strength and muscle but the big selling point for training with dumbbells is that they provide a free range of motion. This allows for a more natural movement pattern compared to machines and engages your stabilizing muscles as well.

When you work on strengthening your back and bicep muscles with a dumbbell routine like the one above and stay consistent with training, you should expect to see the impact that a strong upper body can have on both your exercise performance and everyday life. 

A strong back is essential for supporting the spine and maintaining proper posture, which can prevent pain and make your movement more efficient. Meanwhile, strong biceps are important for any activities that involve lifting, pulling, or carrying.

Together, these muscles play a significant role in exercises such as pull-ups, deadlifts, and rows, which are fundamental for building overall upper-body strength. 

To continue making gains beyond a single back and biceps workout, it is essential to follow a structured progression plan. Progressive overload, which involves gradually increasing the weight, repetitions, or sets, is key to making continuous improvement. 

Finally, you might not like to hear it, but rest and recovery are equally important as your muscles need time to repair and grow!

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Jessica Downey
Fitness Writer

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her love for keeping fit and fueling her body with healthy and enjoyable food quite naturally led her to write about all things fitness and health-related. If she isn’t out testing the latest fitness products such as the latest running shoe or yoga mat for reviewing then she can be found writing news and features on the best ways to build strength, active aging, female health, and anything in between. Before then she had a small stint writing in local news, has also written for Runners World UK (print and digital), and gained experience with global content marketing agency, Cedar Communications.

Born and raised in Scotland, Jessica is a massive fan of exercising and keeping active outdoors. When at home she can be found running by the sea, swimming in it, or up a mountain. This continued as she studied and trained to become a PPA-accredited magazine journalist in Wales. And since working and living in London, she splits her time between weight training in the gym, trying new fitness classes, and finding scenic running routes. Jessica enjoys documenting this on her fitness-inspired Instagram page @jessrunshere where she loves engaging with like-minded fitness junkies.

She is a big fan of healthy cooking and loves learning more about this area with expert nutritionists she has met over the years. Jessica is a big advocate for building healthy relationships with food rather than building restrictive attitudes towards it. When she isn’t eating or running she also enjoys practicing yoga in her free time as it helps her to unwind and benefits her performance in other sports.