If you're looking to strengthen your back and core, don't overlook the latissimus dorsi. The large muscles stretch from the middle of the back around to the chest; strong "lats" can give your back a toned look. While a number of cable and stability ball exercises will strengthen this area, you can do dumbbell exercises as well. The dumbbell exercises that work this area all involve a "rowing" motion.
Grasp a dumbbell in one hand and stand with a bench at the opposite side of your body, in preparation for the dumbbell bent-over row. Place the knee closest to the bench on top of the bench, with the shin resting on top of the bench. Lean forward and place your free hand on the bench, moving it forward enough so that the arm remains straight. The arm holding the dumbbell, meanwhile, should hang straight down toward the floor, just under your shoulder. Maintain a flat back and engage your torso as you pull the dumbbell upward, working to bring the dumbbell to your ribs. At the top of the motion, your upper arm should be parallel with the floor. Lower the arm back down to complete one repetition.
Place a dumbbell on the floor on either side of a weight bench in preparation for the dumbbell lying row. Lie face down on the bench, with your entire torso on the bench and your legs off the bench. Your toes should rest on the floor, with your heels pointed toward the ceiling. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and position them so they're just below the shoulders, with your arms hanging straight down. Pull the dumbbells upward toward the sides of your ribs, until your upper arms are nearly parallel with the floor. Lower the dumbbells back down to complete one repetition.
Stand with your feet together and hold a dumbbell in your right hand in preparation for the single-leg Romanian deadlift. Brace your torso as you lift your right leg off the floor a few inches and lean forward at your hips. Move your right arm down toward the floor as you continue to lean forward, working to keep the arm holding the dumbbell perpendicular to the floor. Keep leaning forward, working to get your torso as close to parallel with the floor as possible. Come back to standing, placing the right foot back on the floor when you are upright.
- Do each of these exercises eight to 12 times to complete one set. For the single-arm dumbbell row and the single-leg Romanian deadlift, repeat the exercise on the other side of the body. You can complete a second set if time permits. Use dumbbells of a weight that challenges you; as a general rule, you'll know you're lifting enough weight when it's difficult -- but not impossible -- to complete the last few repetitions of each set.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.