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For this lats dumbbell workout, you’ll need a pair of dumbbells, a pull-up bar, and an adjustable bench press.
The given exercises complement each other to work the latissimus dorsi through a deep range of motion with enough volume to grow, but not overtrain.
I will offer modifications or replacements to the exercises that demand the two extra aforementioned pieces of equipment in the highlighting section.
Table of Contents
Dumbbell Lat Workout Overview
This is a bro-style workout, meaning it’s fairly high volume with the back exercises utilizing a modified form to be more lat focused.
You should only do it once per week and consider implementing it into a full bro split routine.
My scheduling recommendation for each body part is below.
Switch it up or do a deload to allow your body time to recover (decrease each working set by 1 and lower the rep ranges by 2) after three weeks on this schedule.
- Internal Rotation: 1 x 15 each arm
- Dumbbell Reverse Fly: 1 x 10
- Renegade Row: 1 x 5 each arm
Bro Style Dumbbell Lats Workout
When an exercise calls for one warm-up set perform it at roughly 50% of the weight you plan to use for your working sets.
Do the first one at 50% and the second at 70% when there are two warm-up sets.
- Incline Dumbbell Row (120 seconds rest)
- Warm-up sets: 2
- Working sets: 4
- Reps: 10
- Cross Bench Dumbbell Pullover (90 seconds rest)
- Warm-up sets: 1
- Working sets: 3
- Reps: 12
- Single Arm Dumbbell Row (120 seconds rest)
- Warm-up sets: 1
- Working sets: 4
- Reps: 12 each arm
- Dumbbell pull-up drop set (0 seconds rest)
- Working sets: 3
- Reps: 8, 6, 2-4
Recommended Weekly Schedule
- Monday: Chest
- Tuesday: Back
- Wednesday: Shoulders
- Thursday: Legs
- Friday: Bies & Tries
- Sat/Sun: Rest
Cooling Em’ Down
Do this static stretching cool-down at the end of the session to prevent your lats from getting stiff during the recovery process.
- Prayer Stretch: 1-3 x 30 seconds
- Standing Lateral Stretch: 1-3 x 30 seconds on each side
Highlighting the Dumbbell Lats Exercises Above
1. Incline Dumbbell Row
When performing incline dumbbell rows:
- Angle an adjustable bench to 30 or 45 degrees.
- Neutral grip a dumbbell in each hand.
- Lie face down with your chest against the headrest and legs extended straight back.
- Maintain a neutral spine position by facing the floor and keeping your glutes tight.
- Pack your shoulder blades back and down.
- Begin the rowing motion by pulling the DBs to your lower rib cage.
- Pause before re-extending your arms toward the floor.
Replace these with bent-over dumbbell rows but use a lighter weight to avoid lower back fatigue if you don’t have a bench.
- The likelihood of using momentum to hurl the dumbbells up sloppily is reduced since your torso is pinned against the bench.
- You’ll be able to push sets harder using heavier weights because the lower back and legs won’t experience significant fatigue compared to a bent-over row.
- Forearm and bicep fatigue are the two primary issues as lifters frequently grip the DB handles too hard or go too heavy.
2. Cross Bench Dumbbell Pullover
When performing dumbbell pullovers:
- Cup the head of one dumbbell in your hands with the palms facing upwards.
- Lay with your upper body across a flat bench and your feet shoulder-width apart on the floor.
- Lay on the floor if you don’t have a bench.
- Position the DB directly above your chin, maintaining a slight bend in your elbows.
- Stretch the weight behind your head until your upper arms are next to your ears.
- Squeeze your lats to move the weight back over your face and repeat.
Sinking your butt toward the floor during the eccentrics is a great way to deepen the stretch.
- Emphasized tension on the lat muscles in their fully stretched position for building complete development.
- A great move to add into the middle or end of your lat workouts for isolation, especially if you have trouble with bicep overactivation during compound exercises.
- Focus can redirect onto the chest and triceps if the shoulders aren’t externally rotated or if the elbows start bending dynamically during the range of motion.
- There’s a lack of concentric lat shortening due to a loss of tension from gravity in the starting position.
3. Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
When performing single-arm dumbbell rows:
- Set a dumbbell on the floor on your right side.
- Assume a staggered stance with your right foot in front.
- Hinge your hips forward to position your torso horizontally with the floor.
- Place your left hand onto a wall, table, or incline bench for stability.
- Grab the dumbbell in your right hand, positioning your pinky against the rear head using a neutral grip.
- Protract your scapula, then initiate the pulling movement by squeezing your shoulder blade back and down.
- Pull the weight up and back toward your outer thigh while keeping pressure on the heel of your front foot.
- Re-extend and repeat.
- These are an excellent way to maintain squared hips and limit cheating because the foot of the pulling arm is in front as a stability point.
- The modified movement pattern of swinging the weight back rather than straight up lets you focus on the lats without other muscle groups getting too involved.
- It can be hard to do these with proper form so stick with lighter dumbbells at first to focus on maintaining that parallel torso angle, engaging the scapula, and pulling toward your thigh.
4. Weighted Dumbbell Pull-Ups
When performing weighted pull-ups:
- Pin a dumbbell between your inner thighs and cross your ankles to secure it.
- Grab the bar using an overhand grip slightly past shoulder width.
- Fully extend your arms to position yourself in a dead hang.
- Flex your core and glutes and pull your scapula down.
- Pull yourself up in a straight line with your chest slightly pointed at the bar.
- Stop once your chin is equal to or above your hands.
- Slowly lower into the dead hang. Rebrace your body then repeat.
You can perform these on a sturdy door if you don’t have access to a pull-up bar.
Just wedge something underneath so it doesn’t swing while exercising.
- One of the best lat exercises to work the muscle fibers through a full range of motion.
- Builds an overall strong back due to the amount of musculature needed to execute the lift.
- Extremely difficult to maintain good form if you haven’t yet developed the prerequisite bodyweight strength.
Benefits of This Workout
- Targets the lats from different angles:
You’ll be working through two planes of motion with this dumbbell workout: vertical (pull-ups/pullovers) and horizontal (rows).
Some of the exercises will be more optimal for contracting them from their lengthened position.
Others do a better job of hitting them while shortened; both are key for building well-developed lats and a mind-muscle connection.
- Reduces chances of muscle imbalances:
Dumbbells require each side to control the weight individually from one another in terms of rowing variations, which isn’t the case with barbell exercises.
This reduces the chance of developing a muscle imbalance.
This correlates with the previous benefit of creating symmetrical development to prevent muscular compensation-related injuries throughout your posterior.
Targeted Muscles During This Workout
The goal of this back workout is to build stronger lats.
It’s impossible to disinvolve the surrounding back and stabilizer muscles from assisting the movements, however.
The three largest muscles that are targeted during the workout include the:
- Latissimus dorsi muscles
- Trapezius muscles
- Erector spinae muscles
Your lats are fan-shaped muscles that handle a major role in upper arm movements stemming from the shoulder joint, along with scapular control.
The trapezius (traps) are a big flat muscle that plays an important role in scapular control.
The exercises throughout this workout utilize protraction, retraction, and depression of the scapula to ensure the back works safely and efficiently to lift the loads.
Spinal stability is critical when lifting weights.
This is where the erector spinae, or spinal erectors, come in the clutch to provide you with support for holding a flat back while exercising.
The rhomboids are small, but mighty upper back muscles inserted beneath the traps that also retract and rotate the scapula.
Three areas of the arm mainly used during the workout are the biceps brachii, triceps brachii, and forearms.
They work to support the elbow during flexion and extension while gripping the dumbbell handles, respectively.
How To Better Target the Lats With Dumbbells
Focus on maintaining good posture by bracing your core and glutes, and rotating your shoulder blades downward while dumbbell lat training.
Always hinge from the hip joints rather than rounding your lower back and ensure your torso is positioned between 45 degrees and parallel to the floor for rowing exercises that require you to bend forward.
Also, you never want to squeeze the handles.
Grip as loosely as possible and focus on controlling the movements via your elbows.
Considerations for Progressively Overloading the Lats
Progressive overload is the best way to track your lat progression over the long term.
The most common strategy is tracking intensity and volume in terms of weight, reps, and sets used over time.
This is because solely measuring progress based on the accumulation of muscle mass would be difficult.
I’ll give an example of progressive overload using the one-arm dumbbell row.
Let’s say your workout routine calls for 4 sets of 12 reps and the first week you use 25 LBs for all 4 sets of 12.
Then you use 30 LBs for the same rep/set scheme in the second week and continue progressing steadily for another two weeks.
You’ve increased both the intensity and volume, which places your lats under a new stimulus to promote muscle growth.
FAQ Around Lat Exercises
What Are 4 Exercises for Lats?
4 great exercises for lats are the:
1. Lat pulldown machine
3. Undherhand grip barbell row
4. Dumbbell bent over row
How Do I Target My Lats?
To target your lats with horizontal pulling exercises such as the dead-stop dumbbell row:
– tuck your elbows at your sides with a loose grip on the handles,
– propel your elbows up and back, not straight up,
– retract your scapular at the top.
For vertical exercises like the pull-up:
– take a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip,
– draw your shoulder blades downward as you pull,
– act like you’re spreading the bar apart during the concentric and eccentric phases.
What Targets the Lats the Most?
Semi-wide overhand grip pull-ups target the lats the most as they work them through a greater range of motion in the eccentric and contracted position compared to free weights.
How Do You Get Big Lats?
You can get big lats with these 10 best exercises:
1. Cable machine or resistance band lat pulldowns
4. Seated cable row
5. Dumbbell lat pullovers
6. Straight arm pulldown
7. Dumbbell incline row
8. Dumbbell seal row
9. Bent-over dumbbell row
10. Dumbbell pendlay rows
What Do Weak Lats Do?
Having weak lats leads to a loss of normal range of motion in the shoulder joints, causing poor posture and spine health.
What Are the 2 Types of Lats?
The 2 types of lats are the upper and lower, with origins in the thoracic/lower rib and lumbar/hip regions, respectively.
What Row Form Is Best for Lats?
The best form for lat row variations is to have your hips hinged so the torso is perpendicular to the line of pull.
Hold the handles loosely in your hands and aim your elbows at your hips while squeezing your scapula as you row.
Do Deadlifts Work the Lats?
Yes, barbell and dumbbell deadlifts do work the lats via shoulder extension and scapular depression to ensure the load doesn’t move away from the body and to retain upper back solidity.
What Are Symptoms of Weak Lats?
Symptoms of weak lats include:
– Shoulder, arm, and back pain that amplifies when lifting the arms out to the side, overhead, or behind the body.
– Forward rounded shoulders.
– Trouble breathing.
– Stiffness when bending side to side.
Crush Your Fitness Goals With This Lat Workout!
Building massive lats is a difficult, yet worthwhile feat that shows how dedicated and focused you are on improving your physique and functional performance.
This workout will do just that when executed properly and consistently, with sufficient sleep and nutrition.
Try it out to see how you like the bro-style setup.