Top 3 Lat Workouts at Home With Dumbbells for a Wide Back

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Lat Workouts at Home With Dumbbells

These lat workouts at home with dumbbells provide the latissimus dorsi and the surrounding back muscles with the stimulation they need to grow.

I’ve created three separate workouts to accommodate you whether you’re a novice, intermediate, or advanced lifter.

Now let’s discuss their set-ups along with how to decide which one is right for your current fitness level.

Key Takeaways:

  • Determine your training age to know which workout to follow (Nov. <6 mo., Int. 6 mo. to 2 yrs., Adv. 2+ yrs.).
  • The workouts progress in volume and frequency, gradually increasing the number of sets and sessions as you advance training ages.
  • Dumbbells can target the lats unilaterally with incremental progression and provide versatility for individual biomechanics.

Briefing of These 3 Lat Workouts

The following are novice, intermediate, and advanced workouts designed to be incorporated into a Push Pull Legs (PPL) routine.

There won’t be significant variations in exercise selection between the three in terms of movement pattern.

More so, the weekly volume and frequency will increase up the ladder.

The novice plan has 10 sets for the lats each week, and you’ll knock them all out in a single pull workout for instance.

However, the intermediate and advanced programs have slightly higher weekly sets so there is 1 additional lat session per week with the volume distributed across them.

You should choose the program best suited to your current training age.

The categories are as follows: consistent for 6 months or less for novice, 6 months to 2 years for intermediate, and 2+ years for advanced.

Proper technique mixed with adequate recovery are the most important factors regardless.

Consider opting for one of the lower volume plans if you notice yourself taking longer to recover in between sessions (eg. intermediate over advanced, novice over intermediate, and so on).

This also pertains to the other end of the spectrum when you’re doing the lower-level workouts.

Consider moving one level higher if they aren’t providing enough volume to gain muscle.

The Exercise Specific Warm-Up

You should perform exercises that have warm-up sets (known as the specific warm-up) using a much lighter weight than what you plan to use for the working sets.

Your warm-up set would use 25 LBs (50% less) for 12 reps if you’re gonna use 50 LBs for your workings sets of 8-12 reps on the single arm row for example.

You’d perform the first at 50%, the second one at 60% for 10, and the third one at 70% for 8, if there were two or three working sets

Keep in mind that the warm-up sets are meant to practice the form before increasing the intensity via working sets.

The warm-ups do not count toward the weekly volume tally.

The General Warm-Up

The general warm-up is separate from the specific warm-up and should be performed before doing anything else to raise your body temperature.

  • Jumping Jacks: 2 x 20
  • Internal Rotations: 1 x 15 each arm
  • Arm Circles: 1 x 10 each direction

Novice Dumbbell Lat Workout

Again, the novice workout has 3 lat exercises with 10 working sets, accomplished in one session.

Wednesday Pull Day

ExerciseRepsWarm-Up SetsWorking SetsRest (minutes)
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row8-12242
Dumbbell Pullover12121.5
Dumbbell Bent-Over Row12-16042
Dumbbell Reverse Fly15021.5
Alternating Bicep Curls10-14021.5

Frequency Schedule

MonTueWedThurFriSatSun
PushRestPullRestLegsRestRest

Intermediate Dumbbell Lat Workout

The intermediate workout consists of 13 weekly working sets to target the lats across two sessions.

The first of which is a pull day and the second is a full body day with exercises hitting the upper and lower body.

Tuesday Pull Day

ExerciseRepsWarm-Up SetsWorking SetsRest (minutes)
Incline Dumbbell Row6-10232
Pendlay Row8-10122
Dumbbell Pullover12-16031.5
Alternating Bicep Curls8-12031.5

Saturday Full Body Day

ExerciseRepsWarm-Up SetsWorking SetsRest (minutes)
Dumbbell Deadlift4-8332.5
Incline Dumbbell Press8-12141.5
Incline Plank Row6-10 each side121.5

Frequency Schedule

MonTueWedThurFriSatSun
PushPullRestLegsRestFull BodyRest

Advanced Dumbbell Lat Workout

The advanced lat workout has 16 working sets per week spread across two sessions.

Tuesday Pull Day

ExerciseRepsWarm-Up SetsWorking SetsRest (minutes)
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row8-12232
Dumbbell Seal Row6-10132
Dumbbell Pullover10-14021.5
Helms Row16-20021.5
Alternating Bicep Curls8-12021.5

Friday Pull Day

ExerciseRepsWarm-Up SetsWorking SetsRest (minutes)
Kroc Row5-9332
Dumbbell Pull-Up Drop Set6, 4, 2030
Dumbbell Reverse Fly16-20131.5
Alternating Bicep Curls10-14021.5

Frequency Schedule

MonTueWedThurFriSatSun
PushPullLegsPushPullLegsRest

Explaining the Included Dumbbell Lat Exercises

Now I’ll give the directions and form cues on these 11 dumbbell lats exercises.

There will also be rep and set suggestions in case you decide to craft your own back workout routine.

Each one is listed in the order it appears in the workout it’s first included in (if it’s used in multiple).

Dumbbell Single Arm Row

Directions and cues

  1. Grab one dumbbell (DB) with a neutral grip and assume a split stance with the opposing leg in front.
  2. Lean forward to angle your upper body parallel to the floor.
  3. Place your free hand on that front knee for support.
  4. Protract your shoulder blade then drive your elbow back toward your glute, retracting the shoulder blade simultaneously.
  5. Lower the DB to the starting position and repeat before switching sides.

You can do the three-point dumbbell row by planting your free hand on a chair or table rather than your knee for greater stability.

Pro

  • Dumbbell single-arm rows are performed completely unilaterally to hone in on recruiting more muscle fibers.

Con

  • Difficult to emphasize the lats with heavier weights.

Rep and set suggestions

  • 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps at the beginning or middle of a session
  • or 3-5 reps at the beginning.

Cross Bench Dumbbell Pullover

Directions and cues

  1. Grab a dumbbell in one hand with your pinky against the outer plate and clasp your other hand over your knuckles.
  2. Rest your upper back perpendicularly on a flat bench with your feet shoulder-width apart on the floor.
  3. Position your thighs in line with your torso and hold the DB with your arms extended straight above your chest.
  4. Lower the weight behind your head so that your upper arms are parallel with it.
  5. Push through your elbows to lift the weight back up, but instead of stopping above your chest, stop above your face to maintain constant lat tension.

Do these on the floor if you don’t have access to a bench.

Pro

  • This is my favorite dumbbell exercise for hitting the lats eccentrically as it provides a deep stretch.

Con

  • Be sure to keep your elbows locked and avoid bending them as you do the movement to prevent feeling these too much in your triceps.

Rep and set suggestions

  • Do 2-4 sets for 10-20 reps after 1-2 compound exercises.

Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

Directions and cues

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing each other.
  2. Hinge your hips and slightly bend your knees to bend forward from the upright position.
  3. Stretch your lats toward the floor, then drive your elbows up, aiming the DBs at your back pockets.
  4. Retract the scapula at the top before re-entering the stretched phase.

It’s imperative to maintain a neutral neck and spine, and also engage your glutes, core, and hamstrings as you row to protect the lumbar.

Pro

  • Just a pair of dumbbells is the only equipment needed.

Con

  • These aren’t ideal for strength-focused loading since they can harm the lumbar spine with too much weight if you can’t properly engage your stabilizing muscles.

Rep and set suggestions

  • I prefer to use these in higher rep ranges of 10-15 x 3-4 sets as a primer exercise to get the back warmed up.

Incline Dumbbell Row

Directions and cues

  1. Lie facedown on a 45-degree incline bench with a dumbbell held neutrally in each hand and your feet planted on the floor behind your butt.
  2. Slide your body up the bench so your chest is on the edge and extend your arms below your shoulders.
  3. Row the weights to your lower rib cage, squeezing your shoulder blades during the contraction.
  4. Extend your arms toward the floor and relax your scapula then repeat.

Ensure your stomach remains completely flat on the bench to avoid lower back pain and loss of engagement in the target muscles.

Pro

  • The bench gives you a base of leverage to pull heavier weights and push past initial fatigue without compromising the lumbar spine.

Con

  • Incline dumbbell rows can feel awkward if you have a wide bench or your clavicle width is narrow.

Rep and set suggestions

  • Utilize 3-6 or 6-12 reps for 3-5 sets depending on whether you’re focusing on strength or hypertrophy, respectively, typically at the front of a workout.

Dumbbell Pendlay Row

Directions and cues

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hinge your hips to lean forward so that your torso is parallel to the floor.
  2. Grab a dumbbell in each hand using a neutral grip, but don’t pick them up off the floor.
  3. Tighten your back and core.
  4. Drive your elbows up to move the DBs toward your lateral waist in an explosive fashion.
  5. Squeeze your scapula then release the weights to the floor.
  6. Rebrace your core and back muscles, then repeat.

The dead stop dumbbell row is another variant of this movement, but the floor touches will be fast instead of pausing in between reps.

Pro

  • These help practice engaging the core and back musculature simultaneously with less risk involved than a regular bent-over row or heavy deadlift.

Con

  • Pendlay rows remove the stretch-shortening cycle, which is good for improving efficiency in the deadlift, but limits eccentric muscle actions.

Rep and set suggestions

  • Add these to the start of your pull days for 2-3 working sets of 5-10 reps.

Dumbbell Deadlift

Directions and cues

  1. Place two dumbbells on the floor parallel to one another.
  2. Stand between them with your feet hip-width apart.
  3. Hinge your hips and bend your knees to lean your upper body forward/downward while maintaining a flat back.
  4. Hold the DBs but don’t lift them yet.
  5. You want to pack your lats first by pulling your scapula back and down and tucking your elbows. Engage your abdominals as well.
  6. Lift the weights by performing an upward squat-like motion to move your body into the standing position without bending your elbows.
  7. Bring the DBs back to the floor and repeat.

Pro

  • Builds thickness in the entire posterior chain for time efficiency and strength gains, so I programmed these on the full body day in the intermediate program.

Con

  • Doesn’t isolate the lats.

Rep and set suggestions

  • Dumbbell deadlifts are a compound movement, meaning they recruit greater musculature, so it’s wise to perform them first with 4-10 reps of 3 working sets.

Incline Plank Row

Directions and cues

  1. Set one dumbbell next to a flat bench.
  2. Assume an angled plank position (hands on the bench, feet spread shoulder width apart on the floor) and place one hand over the dumbbell using a neutral grip.
  3. Keep the freehand propped on the bench while letting the DB hang above the floor in your other hand.
  4. Row the DB toward your hip, making sure to flex your lat.
  5. Re-extend your elbow and repeat for reps before switching sides.

You don’t want your shoulders or hips to sway during the movement, they should remain square with the bench at all times.

Use a lighter weight to prevent this if you need.

Pro

  • Incline plank rows not only challenge core stability but also work each lat individually, one side at a time, to reduce muscular imbalances.

Con

  • Requires a flat bench or sturdy tabletop/chair (the Dumbbell Renegade Row is a practical alternative that can be done from the floor).

Rep and set suggestions

  • Because this is a functional exercise the 5-12 rep range is usually adequate for 3 sets.
  • Even though they exhaust a lot of muscle groups I like them at the end of a workout as a burner.

Dumbbell Seal Row

Directions and cues

  1. Lie completely flat on a bench with your entire body in a straight line, facing the floor.
  2. Hold a dumbbell neutrally in each hand.
  3. Tighten your glutes and pull the weights to the sides of your waist, squeezing your shoulder blades as you do so.
  4. Reverse into full elbow extension (if possible) before repeating.

Just concentrate on getting good squeezes during the upward portions if you’re unable to achieve a full elbow extension during the negatives.

Pro

  • The prone, neutral body position reduces strain on the spinal erectors by preventing forward rounding of the lower back.

Con

  • You either need a tall bench or elevate it onto aerobic risers or bumper plates to achieve a full range of motion.

Rep and set suggestions

  • Stick to the 6-12 or 10-15 rep range for the seal row.
  • They’re great at the beginning or middle of a pull session or as an accessory during a push session.

Helms Row

Directions and cues

  1. Angle an adjustable bench to 45 degrees.
  2. Grab the DBs with your palms facing each other.
  3. Lean forward to rest your nipple line on the headrest with your knees slightly bent and hips hinged while standing.
  4. Protract your scapula with your arms extended.
  5. Swing the DBs toward your hips, using your elbows as a guide.
  6. Pinch your shoulder blades to deepen the contraction.
  7. Lower the weights down and slightly forward to lengthen the lats, then go again.

Your upper body should be virtually parallel to the floor, adjust the angle of your bench to accommodate if it’s not.

Pro

  • The bench forces you to isolate the lats with reduced assistance from surrounding back muscles making this one of the best dumbbell lat exercises for isolation in the horizontal plane.

Con

  • Although the pro is amazing, these can be hard to do correctly if you don’t have access to lighter dumbbells.

Rep and set suggestions

  • Implement Helms rows in the range of 10-20 reps for 2-3 sets, and unlike many rowing exercises, they’re better for the end of training as an accessory.

Kroc Row

Directions and cues

  1. Grab a dumbbell in one hand using a neutral grip.
  2. Take a split stance with the opposite leg in front and tilt your torso to roughly 15 degrees to the floor.
  3. Place your free hand on your knee, an incline bench, or another sturdy object for support.
  4. Hang your working arm underneath the corresponding shoulder.
  5. Drive the DB straight up to the side of your chest, pinching your shoulder blade at the top.

You should rest before switching to the other arm when doing these heavy.

Pro

Con

  • There’s increased momentum which leads to the lower body assisting the movement so you can’t gauge back-specific strength.

Rep and set suggestions

  • Matt Kroc, the creator of these, does anywhere from 6 upwards of 40 reps for 1-3 working sets.

Dumbbell Pull-Ups

Directions and cues

  1. Wedge a DB between your thighs.
  2. Assume an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on a sturdy bar or door with your arms fully extended.
  3. Flex your core and glutes and pull your scapula downwards to slightly raise your chest.
  4. Pull yourself in a straight line until your chin reaches or is above your hands.
  5. Squeeze for a second then lower to a dead hang.

Pro

  • Recruits considerable musculature in the back, shoulders, and arms, while also taking the lats through a complete ROM.

Con

  • You’re limited by your ability to lift your body weight (unless you have bands to assist), making these less effective for hypertrophy for some trainees.

Rep and set suggestions

  • I typically recommend lower rep ranges of 4-10 for 2-4 sets at the start of a lift since pull-ups are difficult to do for high reps.

Lat Training Tips With Dumbbells

For most dumbbell lat exercises:

  • Use a neutral grip rather than an overhand grip.
  • Direct the weights at your hips when pulling.
  • Keep your elbows tucked.
  • Don’t grip the handles too hard.
    • Use a false grip (thumbless) if needed.

Why Do Lat Workouts With Dumbbells?

  • Affordable and versatile:

Dumbbells are cheaper than a barbell and weight plates or back-focused workout machines.

Plus, you can modify a majority of the lat exercises that require additional equipment.

You can do DB pull-ups on a door, or swap incline rows for freestanding bent-over rows for instance.

They can also be used for exercises in both the horizontal and vertical planes, including rows and pullovers.

  • Shoulder and lat range of motion:

The eccentric and concentric phases are important when working the latissimus dorsi muscles.

This is achieved well with dumbbells since the shoulder blades can protract and retract sufficiently.

  • Incremental progression capabilities:

A standard dumbbell progresses in 2.5-5 LB increments, which is convenient for tracking and making steady progress.

When To Utilize Them

Utilize dumbbell exercises for your lats to:

  • Correct muscle/strength imbalances.
  • Complement compound movements.
  • Adapt exercising to your unique biomechanics.

When To Adjust Volume & Intensity of Lat Exercises

You should progress volume (sets/reps) and intensity (weight) over time when performing the lat exercises in the aforementioned workouts.

The novice plan calls for 4 working sets of 8-12 reps for example.

So, in week 1 you’d choose a load you can do for 8 reps in all 4 sets.

The next week you’d shoot for 9 reps for each set using the same load.

You’d continue doing this until you get 12 reps across the board, then you’d increase the weight and repeat the process.

Conversely, do a deload by dropping the sets to 3 and decreasing the load by 10% for one week if you notice yourself plateauing.

Let’s Talk Lat Muscles

The lats are a flat muscle located in the back that mobilizes the glenohumeral joint and stabilizes the spine while doing so.

Movements like dumbbell rows rely upon this area to move the upper arms toward the torso and for maintaining a secure hip hinge.

FAQ Around Lat Exercises

How Can I Grow My Lats at Home?

You can grow your lats at home using resistance band lat pulldowns.

Anchor a band to a secure door to start.

Grab the handles with palms facing forward then sit on the floor.

Pull the handles toward you by driving your elbows toward your ribs, pressing your shoulder blades downward as you go.

Release to feel a stretch in the lats and repeat.

How Do You Do Lats Exercises at Home Without Equipment?

Opt for movements that involve shoulder extension, adduction, horizontal abduction, or internal rotation to do lat exercises at home without equipment.

This could be Superman W pulls, bodyweight pullover slides, or bring-backs.

Is Lats Hard To Grow?

The lats is a hard muscle to grow for many people because they have trouble keeping engagement throughout the full range of motion while exercising.

The biceps may take over during exercises like the lat pulldown for instance.

How Long Do Lats Take To Build?

How long the lats take to build will depend on how much muscle mass you’ve already accumulated, but if you’re new to the gym and training them properly 1-2 days per week, you may see growth within 2-6 weeks.

What Builds Bigger Lats?

Build bigger lats using these 9 best lat exercises:

1. Lat pulldown
2. Bent-over row
3. Dumbbell incline row
4. Helms row
5. Pullover (dumbbell, barbell, machine)
6. Straight arm pulldown
7. Pull-up
8. Chin-up
9. Seated cable row

How Did Arnold Get Such Big Lats?

Arnold got such big lats by working them 2-3 days per week with high reps and sets.

He utilized pull-up and pulldown variants along with the dumbbell lat pullover.

Why Are Your Lats Not Growing?

Your lats are not growing because you’re focusing too much on weight over form and not recruiting them sufficiently for hypertrophy.

Sure tale signs this is the issue is when your biceps are getting fatigued or pumped more than your back during rows, pulldowns, or pull-ups, but this may only be part of the problem.

Sources:

https://exercisewithstyle.com/dumbbell-lat-exercises/

https://www.acefitness.org/resources/pros/expert-articles/5675/5-benefits-of-dumbbell-training/

https://www.t-nation.com/training/deconstructing-the-dumbbell-row/

Eric De Cremer
Eric De Cremer

Eric is an NCCA-accredited Certified Personal Trainer and competitively trained powerlifter. Feel free to contact him anytime at edecremer@wildnswole.com!