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The ‘lats’ refer to your latissimus dorsi muscle, which is a large fan shaped flat muscle located posteriorly.
It’s the broadest muscle of the back and also one of the largest muscles in the entire body which attaches at the upper arm, running down the spine to the thoracolumbar fascia of the lower back.
Lats also assist in arm and shoulder movement with the primary function being extension, adduction and medial rotation of the humerus.
It also plays an important role in providing stability to several other muscles including the shoulders, upper and lower back, right down to the hips.
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Incorporating lat specific exercises will not only lead to a more muscular back, workouts can result in good posture helping to alleviate lower back pain and increased overall strength to the upper body.
In this article we will discuss our recommended lat exercises at home with dumbbells to achieve a wider and stronger back.
Why Is It Important To Work Your Lats?
Many people are under the misconception that strong lats are just mandatory for bodybuilders who are looking at building muscle.
However, this is not true.
As mentioned above, the latissimus dorsi helps to stabilize much of your upper body.
If you suffer from weak lats, this can impact movements to certain limbs which may result in reduced range of motion along with associated aches and pains.
A strong back is likely to offer better support during exercises such as the bench press, squat, deadlift, and other similar exercises.
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It’s also important to remember that the lat muscles are attached to your scapular, pelvic, and humeral regions.
So, by working out your lat muscles helps to strengthen and stabilize multiple muscle groups.
9 Lat Exercises At Home With Dumbbells
Now that we’ve briefly touched on the anatomy of the latissimus dorsi and its function, let’s consider some of the best dumbbell lat exercises you can perform either at home or your local gym.
Something to consider is that isolation of the lats is not possible, and all exercises performed will be a compound movement as you’ll use several muscles collectively to complete full range of motion.
Dumbbell Bent-Over Row
A single-arm dumbbell row is a unilateral exercise as it lets you work on one lat at a time. This is ideal if you want to address any strength or muscle imbalances.
Besides a dumbbell, you’ll also need a bench for this exercise or a similar platform to provide you with stability.
How To Do A Dumbbell Bent Over Row:
- Decide which side you wish to work on first and position your opposite knee on the bench or platform for support.
- Your other leg will remain outstretched throughout the movement with the foot being directly underneath your hip.
- Lean forwards and place your hand on the bench for additional stability.
- Your back should remain straight with your head neutral.
- Grab your dumbbell with your free hand and let it hang down towards the floor.
- From here flex your elbow and retract the shoulder blades bringing the dumbbell up towards you.
- Pause briefly at the top before slowly lowering the dumbbell back towards the ground. Repeat.
Muscles Worked During The Dumbbell Bent Over Row
A dumbbell bent over row will activate the following muscles:
- Posterior Deltoid
In a dumbbell pullover, you’ll work your pectoralis muscles along with your lats.
It’s worth noting that this exercise is heavily reliant on good shoulder joint mobility to be able to perform a full range of motion.
So if you have any pre-existing shoulder issues this exercise should be avoided.
How To Do A Dumbbell Pullover:
- Begin by laying down flat on a bench.
- Extend your arms up towards the ceilings whilst holding your dumbbell with both hands.
- Keep your feet spread out and planted on the ground to provide stability. This is your starting position.
- Brace your core and begin to lower the dumbbell behind your hand.
- Be sure to maintain a slight bend to the elbow joint whilst attempting to get the dumbbell as low to the floor as possible.
- Slowly, and with control, bring the dumbbell back up to the starting position and repeat.
Muscles worked In The Dumbbell Pullover
The dumbbell Lat pullover works the following muscles
- Teres Major
They also target the wrist flexors for better grip strength.
Incline Plank Row
If you want to engage your back muscles and core at the same time you should give the incline plank row a go.
Whilst being a great exercise for working the lats, if excellent for building strength to the stabiliser muscles which will help with mobility and co-ordination.
You’ll need access to a weight bench or other similar platform for this exercise.
How To Do The Incline Plank Row
- Maintain a plank position but instead of resting on your forearms on the ground, your hands should be flat on a bench with your arms extended.
- Position your feet beyond shoulder width apart as this will increase stability.
- Take hold of your dumbbell with one hand (the other should remain flat on the bench).
- Keeping your arm tucked in, bend your elbow and draw the dumbbell towards you.
- Keep your core and glutes engaged throughout the exercise.
- Pause at the top for a second before lowering back down and repeat.
Incline Plank Row Muscles Worked
The incline plank row is a great way to engage the following muscles:
Dumbbell Pendlay Row
The DB Pendlay row helps to enhance your speed, balance, strength, and stability.
Besides the latissimus dorsi muscles, it also works the posterior delts, arms, and rhomboids.
If you’re mindful of stress to your lower back, you could wear a weightlifting belt to provide some additional support.
How To Do The Dumbbell Pendlay Row:
- Start by standing upright with hip width apart whilst holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Roll your shoulders back and down.
- Hinge forward at the hips until your upper body is parallel to the floor.
- Your arms should be hanging down towards the ground.
- From here, bend at the elbows and draw each dumbbell towards your chest.
- Be sure to keep your elbows close to your body throughout the movement to maintain proper form.
- Lower the dumbbells back to the ground and then repeat.
Pendlay Row Muscles Worked
The Pendlay row targets these muscles: rear deltoids, hamstrings, glutes, biceps, and rhomboids.
- Rear Deltoids
The Kroc row is one of the best lat exercises to break through any strength plateaus and named after Janae Marie Kroczaleski formerly known as Matthew Kroczaleski.
If you feel that your strength-building progress has stalled, incorporate a few sets of Kroc rows in to your workout routine.
How To Do The Kroc Row Exercise:
- Position yourself in front of a stable platform such as table or chair.
- Keeping your left foot forward, take your right foot behind you so you are now standing with a staggered stance.
- Lean forward to create a slight angle at your torso and rest your left hand on the table or chair.
- Take hold of your dumbbell with your right hand.
- Retract your shoulders and pull with your back to bring the dumbbell up towards the bottom of your ribcage.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell back towards the ground.
- Once you’ve completed your reps on this side, repeat with the other arm.
Muscles Worked During The Kroc Row
The Kroc row works these muscles:
- Lower Back
- Middle Back
- Lat Muscles
It also engages the shoulders, traps, and forearms.
The Renegade row increases your mobility and strength whilst building lean muscle mass in the upper body.
Although it’s not as engaging as other lat exercises, it’s a great exercise to add some versatility to your upper body training.
How To Perform The Renegade Row Exercise:
- Start by placing a pair of dumbbells on the ground.
- Position yourself on the floor in the plank position.
- Take hold of each dumbbell as through you’re about to perform a push up exercise.
- Alter the position of your feet so they are just outside of shoulder width apart, this will provide more stability.
- Taking one hand, retract your shoulder and bend the elbow bringing the dumbbell towards the side of the hip.
- Keep your elbow tucked in and avoid rotating your torso.
- Perform the same movement with the other arm.
- Repeat the desired number of repetitions.
Renegade Row Muscles Worked
The following muscles are targeted when performing the Renegade Row:
- Core Muscles
If you follow the proper form, this workout will also improve your upper body strength in addition to improving balance and co-ordination.
The Yates row is similar to a bent-over barbell row but instead of an overhand grip you would utilise an underhand grip.
It gets the name from Dorian Yates, the bodybuilder who popularized this back workout.
Although traditionally performed with a barbell, this can easily be swapped out for a pair of dumbbells.
How To Perform The Yates Row:
- Start by standing with feet shoulder width apart.
- Take hold of a dumbbell in each hand using an underhand grip.
- Your palms and forearms should be facing away from you.
- Hinge forward at the hips slightly and push the glutes back. Keep a slight bend to the knees.
- Keep your arms down by your spine and keep your back straight.
- Your head and chest should be up.
- Slowly bend your elbows and draw the dumbbells towards the top of your legs.
- Pause briefly and squeeze the lats at the top.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells back towards the ground.
- The key is to keep a tight core and straight spine position. You should also keep your elbows as close to the body as possible to engage the mid-back and lat muscles.
Muscles Worked In The Yates Row
The Yates row targets the following muscles:
- Rear Deltoids
- Erector Spinae
- Upper Back
Dumbbell Seal Row
The dumbbell seal row is a row movement performed in a prone position (chest down) and isolates your back and arms muscles, offloading the core and the legs.
Whilst it can be done at home, you will need access to an adjustable bench.
How To Do The Dumbbell Seal Row:
- Start by setting the incline of your bench between 30 or 45 degrees.
- Take hold of a dumbbell in each hand so that your palms face inwards.
- Position the midline of your chest across the top of the bench, your chest should be fully supported.
- Your arms should be hanging down.
- Your feet and legs should extend out behind you.
- Bending your elbows and retracting your scapula, draw the dumbbells towards your hips.
- Squeeze your mid back and lat muscles at the top.
- Lower the dumbbells back down before repeating.
Dumbbell Seal Row Muscles Worked
The dumbbell seal row works the following muscles
- Rear Deltoids
- Trapezius Muscles
This exercise also engages your forearms, biceps, and rotator cuff muscles to a lesser extent.
Staggered Stance Row
The dumbbell staggered stance row is very similar to the Kroc Row with the main difference you won’t be resting your hand on anything for support.
This means you’ll likely need to perform this one with a lighter weight to maintain proper form and you’ll also be activating your abdominals.
How To Perform The Staggered Stance Row:
- Start by standing upright holding a dumbbell in your right hand.
- Push back your glutes by hinging forward at the hips.
- Your torso should be around 45 degrees to the floor with knees slightly bent.
- Maintain a straight back and take back your right leg. This is your start position.
- Draw the dumbbells up towards your waist by bending your elbow.
- Don’t be tempted to rotate your upper body and keep your back straight throughout.
- Pause briefly at the top whilst squeezing your lats.
- Lower back to the start position and repeat the number of reps before switching sides.
Staggered Stance Muscles Worked
The staggered stance single arm dumbbell row primarily targets these muscles:
- Upper Back
This exercise also engages your biceps, traps, shoulders, and rotator cuffs. It’s also a great exercise for improving shoulder mobility.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Lat Exercises Are Best For Beginners?
Some of the best freeweight lat exercises for beginners include bent-over rows, dumbbell single-arm rows, and inverted rows.
They are simple to execute with minimal equipment required.
When it comes to machines at the gym, the lat pulldown machine is a great beginner exercise to build stronger lats and increase muscle growth.
What Are The Best Exercises For Wide Lats?
The following exercises are perfect for adding width to your lats:
-Wide grip pull up
-Wide grip lat pulldown
-Seated cable row
-Incline Dumbbell Row
How Often Can You Train The Lats?
When performing heavy compound movements, train the lats no more than twice per week.
Whilst the lats are a large muscle, adequate rest is important to allow them to grow in terms of width and thickness.
Also remember that you’ll be activating this muscle when training other parts of the body through various other exercises.
There are a wide range of exercises that can be performed with just a pair of dumbbells when you want to focus on building muscle and strength to your lats.
By increasing strength to the lats, you’ll notice improved stability to other joints throughout the body helping with overall mobility and coordination.