You only need 5 moves and a pair of dumbbells to develop muscle in your back and biceps

the back of a man performing dumbbell presses
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're looking to develop muscle in your upper body then you better stop sleeping on the power of the mighty dumbbell. instead, go and give this back and biceps routine a whirl.

The fitness trainer behind this routine, Alex Rice said "There’s nothing like a strong back workout", and we couldn't agree more. Rice has strung together five exercises to target your back, biceps and rear delts and it's set to bring you the ultimate pull day. 

For demonstrations of each exercise and more on why this is a solid workout for your upper body, keep on reading.

What is the back and biceps workout?

There are five exercises in total and you should aim to complete three sets of each. It's possible to just use one size of dumbell for the entire workout but if this is the case, just make sure you pick a weight you can manage for all five moves.

We recommend using a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells for a routine like this. This is because they allow for quick and easy weight adjustments, meaning you can easily transition between exercises and vary the resistance levels to match different strength levels for different muscle groups.

Here's a breakdown of the routine:

  1. Bicep curl w/ static hold - 10 reps (each side)
  2. Close grip rows - 15 reps
  3. Close grip curls - 12 reps
  4. Single arm rows - 10 reps (each side)
  5. Rear delt pulls - (12 reps

Having a strong back and biceps is very beneficial for your overall health and fitness. The back muscles play a key role in supporting your posture and spine and in reducing the risk of back pain and injuries. Meanwhile, strong biceps are essential for performing various pulling and lifting movements, both in the gym and in daily life. 

Will dumbbells alone help you to achieve this? In short, yes. First of all, dumbbells are particularly beneficial for strengthening the upper body due to their versatility and ability to engage multiple muscles. Unlike gym machines that typically guide the movement path, dumbbells require you to control the weight through the entire range of motion, which activates additional muscle groups and enhances overall functional strength.

Moreover, completing a dumbbell upper body workout, structured with exercises such as bicep curls with static holds, close grip rows, close grip curls, single arm rows, and rear delt pulls, is a sure way to isolate and effectively work the back and biceps.

To continue building upper body muscle beyond this routine, it's important to progressively increase the weight used in the exercises, known as progressive overload. Incorporating a variety of exercises that target different angles and muscle fibers can also help stimulate further muscle growth. 

And last but not least, never underestimate the power of incorporating rest days into your fitness regime. Your muscles need time to recover and grow in between workouts.

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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.