Free Weights (Back & Biceps)

Exercises > Gym Exercises > Free Weight Exercises (Back & Biceps)

The following free weight exercises are designed to strengthen many of the major muscles of the upper body using free weights. You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should only be performed provided they do not cause or increase pain.

For those who are untrained, you should begin by performing one or two sets of only a few free weight exercises, with light resistance, working a variety of muscle groups and gradually increase the number of exercises, resistance and sets over a number of sessions provided there are no signs of injury.

For beginners, it is generally advisable to begin with light weights that allow you to perform 20 – 30 repetitions of each exercise with good control, posture and form. Allow approximately 1 minute rest and recovery between exercise sets.

As your endurance and strength improves, aim to gradually increase the number of sets of each exercise over a number of sessions until you are eventually performing 3 – 4 sets of each exercise provided the exercises are pain free. These free weight exercises can then be progressed by gradually increasing the weights used so that fatigue is achieved by 8 – 12 repetitions and by progressing to other unaccustomed exercises provided they are pain free.

Specific requirements may vary between individuals depending on the functional goals they wish to achieve. Your physiotherapist can advise on the most appropriate resistance, sets and repetitions to meet your needs.

Ensure you always perform an appropriate  warm up before beginning any strengthening exercises, an appropriate cool down after and ensure you balance recovery periods from training to prevent injury. Generally, it is advisable to perform a selection of the following free weight exercises, working a variety of muscle groups 1 – 2 times per week provided they do not cause or increase pain. Allow approximately 4 – 7 recovery days before repeating the same exercises, to allow muscle recovery. Generally you should perform between 1 – 3 different exercises for each muscle group.

 Major Muscles of the Upper Body (Anterior)

Figure 1 – Major Muscles of the Upper Body (Anterior)

Major Muscles of the Upper Body (Posterior)

Figure 2 – Major Muscles of the Upper Body (Posterior)


Free Weight Exercises – Back & Biceps

Bent Over Row

Major Muscles Used – Latissimus Dorsi, Teres Major, Rhomboids, Posterior Deltoid, Trapezius, Biceps.

Begin this mid-back strengthening exercise holding a light dumbbell weight in optimal posture (with your back and neck straight) in the position demonstrated (figure 3). Slowly pull the weight towards your chest, squeezing your shoulder blade backwards, then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 4 sets of 8 – 30 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Free Weights - Bent Over Row

Figure 3 – Bent Over Row

Prone Incline Row

Major Muscles Used – Latissimus Dorsi, Teres Major, Rhomboids, Posterior Deltoid, Trapezius, Biceps.

Begin this mid-back strengthening exercise lying on an incline bench in optimal posture (with your back and neck straight) and holding a light dumbbell weight in each hand as demonstrated (figure 4). Slowly pull the weights towards your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together, then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 4 sets of 8 – 30 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Free Weights - Prone Incline Row

Figure 4 – Prone Incline Row

Reverse Flys

Major Muscles Used – Rhomboids, Posterior Deltoid, Trapezius, Triceps.

Begin this mid-back strengthening exercise lying on an incline bench in optimal posture (with your back and neck straight) and holding a light dumbbell weight in each hand as demonstrated (figure 5). Keeping your elbows in a slight bent, slowly take your arms to the side, squeezing your shoulder blades together, then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 4 sets of 8 – 30 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Free Weights - Reverse Flys

Figure 5 – Reverse Flys


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