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Doing dumbbell lat exercises at home is convenient to build the resounding v-taper by improving your mind-to-muscle connection and working the lats through a deep range of motion.
This list contains row variations, along with a few vertical, and static movements to hit your lats without having to leave your bedroom.
Table of Contents
What Are Dumbbell Lat Exercises?
Dumbbell lat exercises consist of single and multi-joint movements to target this area directly or indirectly, with multiple muscle groups firing to efficiently move the load.
- Less learning curve:
Unlike barbell exercises, you can purchase super light dumbbells, allowing you to practice proper form.
To clarify, a typical unloaded barbell weighs 45 LBs while DBs can weigh as little as 1 LB.
- Single-sided contractions:
When working with DBs, each side lifts independently.
This prevents uneven movement patterns due to the stronger side taking over, which can fix or prevent muscular imbalances.
- Greater range of motion:
With dumbbells, your range of motion isn’t restricted by your torso or the underside of a bench when pulling.
For example, during barbell bent-over rows you can only pull until the bar hits your stomach, but DBs remove that constraint.
- Enhances neuromuscular Junction
The ease of use, ROM, and unilateral capabilities make dumbbells ideal for learning how to engage the lats, especially for novices.
The most effective way to train the lats is through controlled eccentric and concentric actions.
This will be easier during exercises that use cables or resistance bands such as pulldowns and seated rows.
Conversely, there’s less consistent pulling force from dumbbells in the lengthening phase which can be suboptimal in comparison.
Another important note is that it can often be difficult to make small incremental weight progressions with a dumbbell exercise.
This is because most people don’t own dumbbells that jump by 2.5 LBs (standard sets usually move up in increments of 5 LBs each).
So you’d technically be increasing the OVERALL load by 10 LBs, which can feel much harder to do with heavier loads as your strength goes up.
15 Lat Exercises With Dumbbells
1. Dumbbell Pullover
I’d say dumbbell pullovers are toward the top of the list for best lat exercises with DBs.
Specifically because of the deep stretch during the eccentric phase.
One thing to be mindful of is how you position your elbows.
Imagine you’re trying to touch them together as you hold the weight.
This helps put the focus on the lats rather than the chest.
Don’t be surprised if you feel a lot of tricep activation too.
This is inevitable regardless of elbow positioning.
- Rest your upper back perpendicularly on a flat bench.
- Raise your hips so they’re even with the upper body.
- Cup one end of a DB in both hands.
- Hold the weight over your chest with a slight elbow bend.
- Reach your arms backward until your hands are in line with the crown of your head.
- At the same time, drop your glutes until they’re a few inches above the floor (this boosts the stretch in your lats).
- Raise the load and your glutes to their original position.
Tip: Use your elbows to lead the motion instead of the hands.
Adjustment: Lie on the floor if you don’t have a bench.
Allow the weight to touch the ground before pulling back over.
2. Single Arm Dumbbell Row
This is a methodical approach for the single-arm dumbbell row.
It’s especially convenient for sufferers of lower back pain (courtesy of John Meadows).
Also, it’s entirely unilateral so like we discussed earlier, you can hone in on fixing imbalances.
Start with whichever side is weaker and do an equal number of reps on both.
- Stand above a bench with a split stance.
- Shift to the left so your right calf/thigh is pressed against the side of the bench and the left leg is kicked further out.
- Bend forward and grab the DB in your left hand.
- With your upper arm tucked in, row your elbow toward the ceiling and flex that lat muscle.
- Release to the bottom and go again.
Tip: Refrain from twisting your torso as you pull upward, remain squared in the transverse plane.
Adjustment: To do these with a DB alone (no bench) you can stand with the opposite foot in front and set your free hand on that knee for stability.
3. Dual Bent-Over Dumbbell Row
These are just like the former, except considered bilateral, and can save time.
The trade-off is added lower back fatigue.
- Begin in a standing upright position with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Sit your glutes back and lean forward so your upper body is parallel to the ground.
- Slightly bend your knees and clutch the DBs using a neutral grip.
- Drive your elbows back with the arms tucked close to your ribs.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades at the same time.
- Stop once you feel a deep contraction in your back muscles.
- Straighten your elbows and repeat.
Tip: Keep a neutral spine position while bent over and as you row.
Adjustment: You can target more of the upper back by assuming an overhand grip and pulling towards your chest, rather than hips.
4. Dumbbell Seal Row
Seal rows build eccentric control for the bench press.
- Lay prone on a flat bench so your entire body forms a straight line.
- Your knees and chin should be pressed on the bench.
- Grab a dumbbell in each hand with the palms facing each other.
- Pull the DBs toward your waist.
- Pause for a moment and tighten your lats.
- Slowly lower your arms until the weights touch the floor or once you reach full elbow extension.
Tip: You want to minimize lumbar spine motion.
Ensure your core and glutes are activated throughout the exercise to do this.
Adjustment: Prop each end onto some heavy-duty boxes or bumper plates if your bench is naturally low to the ground.
This will improve the range of motion to ensure the lats are adequately stretched.
5. Pendlay Row
The body position and movement pattern are the same with these as they were for the dual bent-over row.
The main difference here is that there’s a dead stop during the eccentric phase of every repetition.
Meaning, you’ll allow the weights to come to a complete halt on the floor before powerfully pulling upwards.
This intention is to practice form cues and proper trunk muscle activation/loading from a safer position.
Plus, there’s less likely hood of using leg drive and momentum to lift the load for more optimal back gains.
- Assume the same starting position as the dual bent-over row.
- Grip the DBs with your elbows angled at 45 degrees to your lateral torso.
- Drive the weights toward your ribs and pull your shoulder blades together.
- Slowly lower until the DBs are rested on the ground.
- Rebrace your muscles and repeat.
Tip: You want to prevent lower body assistance.
So, sticking to a lighter weight is beneficial.
Adjustment: You can also use an alternating motion.
This will provide your pulling arm with a base of support from the nonworking arm.
6. Dumbbell Renegade Row
These challenge core stability and promote unilateral lat engagement.
- Set two dumbbells on the ground parallel to one another. Space them apart so they’re the width of your shoulders.
- Take a plank position with a wide foot stance.
- Place your hands on the DBs with your arms straight and stacked underneath your shoulders.
- Row one elbow upward and toward your hip. Squeeze the shoulder blade at the top.
- Bring the DB back to the floor in a controlled manner.
- Continue alternating sides for reps.
Tip: Maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise.
Setting your feet wider than shoulder width can assist in this.
Adjustment: Place your feet closer together to increase core activation and make the move harder.
7. Incline Row
Commonly referred to as chest-supported rows, the bench helps lumbago sufferers row pain-free.
- Set an incline bench to roughly 45 degrees.
- Grab your DBs with a neutral grip.
- Lay prone with your chest on the edge and your legs extended straight. The upper soles should be pressed against the floor.
- Pull the dumbbells up with your arms close to your sides. Retract your scapula during the contracted phase.
- Move your arms downward, letting the shoulders unwind toward the floor.
Tip: Pull through your elbows, not your biceps.
Adjustment: For greater upper back stimulation angle the dumbbells slightly outward and pull them to your chest.
8. Dumbbell Pull-Up
I’m sure you’re over the moon that I included pull-ups on this list (JK).
But they work the lats through a full ROM so what’s not to love?
- Bear a DB between your upper thighs and cross your ankles.
- Overhand grip the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Squeeze your abs and butt. Puff your chest and slightly arch your back.
- Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar.
- Reverse until your arms are straight, then go again.
Tip: If using a door, wedge something underneath to add compression so it doesn’t break.
This’ll also restrict it from swinging as you pull up.
Adjustment: You can switch to an underhand chin-up grip if you’re fortunate enough to have an actual bar.
This may help you lift more weight but puts added strain on the biceps.
9. Dumbbell Superman Pull
These are more for building functionality while getting some blood flowing to the lats.
Ideally, they’re for active recovery, injury rehab, or warming up prior to a full back workout.
It’s hard to go heavy so once the muscles adapt they won’t be stimulated enough to continue progressing load-wise.
- Lie face down on a bench or the floor with your legs extended.
- Hold the DBs with your arms straight overhead and palms facing down.
- Pull your arms toward your ribs (similar to a pull-up motion) while also raising your head, chest, and legs off the ground as high as you can.
- Hold for 3-5 seconds.
- Re-straighten your arms and relax your body to the floor.
Tip: Practice without external weight until you get the hang of the slow and controlled movements.
Adjustment: You can remove your legs from the equation and focus on upper body movement.
10. Helms Row
The Helms row, invented by Dr. Eric Helms, is specifically used to isolate the lats without overburdening the lumbar spine.
It’s advised to perform higher reps with lighter weights.
- Set an adjustable bench to 45ish degrees.
- Neutral grip your DBs.
- Lean forward to rest your nipple line on the edge of the bench with a slight knee bend.
- Row the weights back to your hips focusing on elbow movement. Squeeze your shoulder blades at the top.
- Return your arms straight and repeat.
Tip: You want your back to be parallel to the floor.
Adjust the angle of the bench as needed to accommodate your height.
Adjustment: Pull the weights straight up instead of back to make this more trap dominant.
11. Kroc Row
Invented by a world-class powerlifter (Matt Kroc), Kroc rows are meant to be performed for high reps with big loads.
These are a must for grip strength and upper back development (lats included).
Going heavier with added speed is acceptable, with good form.
- Grab a dumbbell in one hand.
- Set your free hand onto something sturdy (a bench or DB rack) and take a staggered stance with that same foot in front.
- Position your torso 15 degrees to the floor.
- Brace your legs and hips, driving through them as you pull the weight, aiming at the side of your abdominal region.
- Reverse the motion and repeat.
Tips: Let your shoulder sink toward the floor at the bottom and shrug upward at the top to work the lat through full ROM.
Also, keep your reps fast-paced with a consistent tempo.
There’s no need for any long pauses.
Adjustment: For added stability, rest the knee of your nonworking side on a flat bench.
Just ensure the shoulders stay above the hips.
12. Yates Row
The Yates row, named after Dorian Yates (6x Mr. Olympia), is typically performed with a barbell using an underhand grip.
But many people seem to think that this is the only way to do them.
However, the torso angle is the factor that actually classifies a Yates row as what it is.
Unlike a standard bent-over row, the torso is only bent to 45 degrees, rather than parallel.
Resulting in fewer lower back injuries and potentially larger lat gains.
- Grasp your DBs with the palms facing forward.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Hinge your hips and bend your torso to 45 degrees to the floor.
- Align your hands under your abdomen with the arms extended.
- Initiate the rowing motion by engaging your lats and driving your elbows up.
- Stop once your hands reach belly button height.
- Lower to the starting position and repeat.
Tip: Keep your torso and legs held in a strict static position.
Adjustment: Take a pronated grip to target more of the upper back while still hitting the lats.
13. Gorilla Row
I’m not going to make false claims and say this will get you to King Kong’s level of mass, but if it does, remember who showed it to you.
In all seriousness, Gorilla Rows are splendid for reducing stress on the lumbar region and for building functional strength.
Plus, they’re not super common so if you do them in a commercial gym you’d be considered the cool kid on the block, or just some weirdo doing a made-up exercise.
Either way, you’ll be able to grow your back with something besides a vanilla bent-over row.
- Place two DBs parallel to one another at hip-width apart.
- Stand in front of them.
- Hinge your hips to angle your torso parallel to the ground.
- Bend your knees enough so you can reach the weights.
- Row one DB up and back toward your hip while holding the other one flat on the floor.
- Lower the weight then alternate sides.
Tip: Don’t round your lumbar spine.
Adjustment: Perform single-arm gorilla rows if you only have one dumbbell.
14. Dumbbell Reverse Fly
This movement is often used to isolate the rear delts.
However, by prioritizing scapular retraction and depression during the concentric we can better target the lats.
I wouldn’t rank reverse flyes among the best dumbbell lat exercises, but they will contain the monotony of doing the same workout for 6 months straight.
Plus, they’re a great accessory to do after your compounds for chasing that juicy pump.
- Stand upright with your feet spaced hip-width, holding the DBs with a neutral grip.
- Push your glutes back and lean your torso parallel to the floor.
- With your arms slightly bent, push the weights out and up toward the sky in an arc motion.
- Squeeze your scapula at the top.
- Lower your arms, but don’t let the DBs hit each other.
- Repeat the motion.
Tip: The arms should be fairly straight but the elbows should NOT be fully locked.
Adjustment: These can also be done with the chest supported to reduce spinal erector fatigue.
15. Dumbbell Deadlift
Dumbbell deadlifts are THE compound movement for building a strong posterior chain.
- Set your weights at about shoulder width apart on the ground.
- Stand next to them with a hip-width stance.
- Bend down to pick them up, then resume the standing position.
- Retract and depress your scapular to engage the back muscles.
- Inhale then hinge your hips and lean your torso forward.
- Once you feel your hamstrings start stretching bend your knees until the legs are bent to 90.
- Exhale as you return to the starting position.
Tip: Your head and neck should be in alignment throughout the entire motion.
Adjustment: Taller people might prefer a sumo stance.
This consists of the feet spread wider than shoulder width and the toes pointed outward.
Recruited Muscles During Dumbbell Lat Exercises
The primary movers during most dumbbell lat exercises are the latissimus dorsi (clearly), trapezius, and rhomboids.
Secondary muscle targets are the rear deltoids, biceps, core, and spinal erectors.
Latissimus Dorsi Muscles
The lat muscles are the largest of the back, spanning the lower and mid portions.
Upper Back Muscles
Two notable upper back muscles are the rhomboids and traps, which play a big role in scapular retraction.
Lower Back Muscles
The transverse abdominis and spinal erectors are recruited as lumbar spine stabilizers, especially during hip hinge exercises.
How To Implement These Into Your Routine
You can implement these lat exercises into your routine by choosing 1-4 and doing them once or twice a week.
Add them to a PPL, Upper/Lower, Full body, or Bro Split program.
Start by doing a combined total of 10-15 sets per week for moderate (6-12) or high reps (12-15).
Sample Dumbbell Lat Workout
Do a dynamic warm-up with light cardio prior to the workout.
Bro Split Back Workout
|Movement||Exercise Sets||Exercise Reps|
Dumbbell Lat Exercises FAQ
How Do You Build Lats With Dumbbells at Home?
You can build your lats with dumbbells at home by incorporating pullovers and a few rowing exercises, like bent-over dumbbell rows into your workout routine.
What Dumbbell Exercises Work Your Lats?
5 of the best dumbbell exercises to work your lats are the:
1. Dumbbell Pullover
2. Dual Dumbbell Bent-Over Row
3. Single Arm Row
4. Weighted Pull-Up
5. Incline Row
How Do You Increase Your Lat Size With Dumbbells?
To hone in on increasing your lat size with dumbbells you’re gonna want to opt for the pullover.
– Lay supine on a bench or the floor.
– Grab one end of the dumbbell in both hands, holding it above your chest with the elbows nearly locked (but not quite).
– Lower the weight behind you until your hands are even with the top of your head.
– Lead with your elbows to pull the DB to the starting position. – Repeat.
How Do You Hit Your Lats With One Dumbbell?
You can hit your lats with one dumbbell by doing single-arm rows:
– Assume a bent-over position with the feet staggered (left in front).
– Grab the DB in your right hand and row it toward your hip.
– Once your arm is bent at 90 degrees, squeeze before lowering.
How Do You Hit Your Lats Without Pull-Ups?
To hit your lats without pull-ups you can do lat pulldowns using resistance bands or a cable pulley system.
– Grab the handles with your arms straight overhead and sit in a secure position.
– Pull the resistance to your chest, drawing your elbows toward the ground.
– Squeeze for a second and return to the start.