Even using dumbbells can strengthen your back, one that comes to mind is the bent-over row where you kneel over the side of a bench and lift/pull the dumbbell up to your side....or you could lie on your chest at the end of a bench and have dumbbells in both hands and pull them up to your sides (I think that one is called dumbbell lying row)
I hope I provided you with some helpful info!!!! sorry if I didn't! (:^/
Purchase one of those big exercise ball kits, ( you will find them in the sportinggoods dept at Wal-Mart, under $ 20.00, they come with instructions and a portable inflator so you can take the ball with you on trips ) Check out Amazon.com or a good book store for a book on ball exercises. My physical therapist has me do ball exercises to strengthen my back muscles. They really do work!
pullups, OTOH, are excellent for the upper back. however, if your back is weak, it's unlikely that you'll be able to do even one pullup (very few women can do an unassisted pullup). check out this thread if you want to do a pullup, with some helpful tips and links:
however, if you can't do a pullup, some alternate back exercises are bent over rows, lat pulldowns, modified lat pulldowns (as illustrated in the article linked in the link, which will prepare you for your pull-ups), and for the lower back, either weighted good mornings or weighted hyper-extensions. good luck! -erin
Here's the link directly to back exercises:
Erin, pushups are beneficial to the chest as well. If done properly though, they have benefits similiar to a row machine. I have seem great results in my upper back from adding them to my routine. As for dumbells, starting at the hip; lift the dumbells directly in front with a straight arm (both at the same time). Then, lift out to the sides with a straight arm. Do 10 in each direction for 2-3 sets. I trust both your shoulders and back will get a workout!
PS. You are looking at an unassisted pullup girl.
I second the suggestion on the exercise ball, but I've also discovered that Power Yoga has done wonders for strengthening up my back.
If you have a weak back to begin with, though, there are Yoga workouts that are specifically designed for people with back problems or who are going through physical therapy.
when you're rowing (or doing rows), your back is doing the brunt of the work (or should be - it's the 'target', although for many people, some other part of their upper body - arms, shoulders, etc. - will not be as relatively strong as their back and will fatigue and fail earlier, so even though the back is doing the brunt of the work, it will "feel" harder on, for example, their traps, biceps, or, for bent over rows, forearms). i never row on a machine (i always use free weights where possible), but the principle is the same - you're really working your back hard as hell, your traps, rear delts, biceps are assisting. your chest may be assisting a bit + a lot of other parts are working to stabilize you (at least when you do them with free weights). this is very different from a push-up. though you get some of the same parts assisting, think of it as push/pull + you'll see the difference.
the dumbbell exercises you describe are usually called 'front raises' and 'lateral raises'. their targets are, of course, the shoulders. the trapezius muscles obviously will assist (much to the upset of many women who would like to have shoulder muscles without having traps), a bit of assistance from the muscles on the side of your chest above your obliques (known as the serratus anterior, but this is not really your back) - other than assistance from the trapezius muscles, with proper form, there really shouldn't be anything going on in the back. Now, perhaps strengthening the lower traps would be somewhat useful (though not terribly so) to someone who wants to strengthen their entire back, but as far as i can see, there's no good reason for her to do shoulder exercises instead of back exercises if her goal is simply to strengthen her back (and if she wants to strengthen her shoulders, imo, she'd be better off with a simple standing barbell military press than with a bunch of different kinds of dumbbell raises).
i do unassisted pullups as well. but most untrained women CAN'T. a woman asking for information on basic back strengthening exercises almost certainly will not be able to do even one.