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These lower lat exercises with dumbbells target the stubborn-to-grow portion of the fan-shaped muscles through two different angles (horizontal and vertical).
This ensures that you’re hitting them with their main anatomical motions to ultimately build a stronger, more functional, and wider back.
You won’t need much weight since the priority is isolation.
For two of the exercises, you will need an adjustable bench and a pull-up bar in addition to the dumbbells.
Table of Contents
The Best Dumbbell Exercises for Your Lower Lats
1. Single Arm Dumbbell Row to Hip
I learned this great exercise from watching the Godfather of Bodybuilding, Charles Glass.
He’s known for having a unique training style, and this modified single-arm row is no exception.
For full-blown lat annihilation, there’s an emphasis on pulling to the hips while standing with cockeyed legs to maximize the range of motion.
How to execute the single-arm dumbbell row to hips:
- Neutrally grab a dumbbell (DB) in your right hand.
- Plant your left hand out to the side onto a stable point such as a bench, seat backrest, or wall.
- Put your feet together and point them outwards to the right with your left foot slightly in front.
- Hinge your hips to bend your torso parallel to the floor and lean your body weight onto that left hand.
- Hang your right arm toward the floor underneath the midline of your chest, then pull the DB to your hip.
- Re-extend your arm to the starting position and repeat for reps before switching sides.
- Don’t rotate your waist as you pull. Focus on locking your core muscles so your upper body stays square to the floor.
- Slightly raise your chest by retracting your shoulder blades while pulling the dumbbell toward your hip.
- Adjustments in body positioning offer a greater range of motion to maximize eccentric and concentric contractions compared to how a single-arm row is normally performed.
- For developing the mind-muscle connection in the lower lat, unilateral recruitment is essential since it’s such a precise portion of the entire flat muscle.
- This can be a difficult movement to do right since the position is kind of awkward.
2. Dual Bent-Over Row to Hips
This is another modified row, courtesy of Charles.
How to execute the dual bent-over row to hips:
- Grab a pair of dumbbells using a neutral grip.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and a slight bend in your knees.
- Hinge your hips forward to lean your torso parallel to the floor.
- Hang your arms below your chest.
- Raise your chest as you row the DBs toward your pockets.
- Reset to the start and repeat.
- Have your elbows tucked close to your waist to target the lats without the traps and rhomboids getting excessively involved.
- If your arms are longer and the weights are hitting the floor during the extended phase, stand on a step-up box for a full range of motion.
- Ensure your glutes are tight and your core is braced by breathing air into your stomach, then flexing.
- An excellent exercise for stimulating those lower fibers due to the low torso angle and pulling pattern. This allows you to work them through a more anatomical-friendly motion.
- Hard on the lumbar spine if you don’t properly hinge forward from the hips or fail to tighten your core and glutes.
3. Conventional Dumbbell Deadlifts
Conventional deadlifts, whether using dumbbells or a barbell, rely on the lats as a whole to control the line of pull.
Without proper lat engagement, the weights will draft too far forward, leading to excessive lower back pressure or causing you to elevate onto your toes.
This is a BIG no-no.
How to execute the conventional dumbbell deadlift:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the midline of each foot aligned under the DB handles.
- Hinge your hips forward to shoot your butt back and angle your torso parallel with the floor.
- Slightly bend your knees and straighten your arms to grip the DBs.
- Pull the weights off the floor, keeping them tight to your body.
- After you reach the standing position, reverse the motion to the floor.
- Pin the dumbbells close to your shins while lifting.
- Tuck your elbows into your waist, lift your chest slightly, and brace your core before beginning every rep.
- Develops overall strength throughout your entire body, mainly the posterior chain.
- Compared to the other exercises on this list, you can lift heavier loads since so many muscles are engaged simultaneously.
- Activating the lower lats can be tricky. This reduces their hypertrophy response at best. If other muscles have to compensate to complete the lift, your risk of injury or imbalance increases at worst.
- These injuries are prevalent in the bicep tendons and lower back.
4. Dumbbell Lat Pullovers
How to execute the dumbbell pullover:
- Grab a single dumbbell in your dominant hand with your other hand clasped around its knuckles.
- Lie with your upper back perpendicular on a flat bench and feet flat on the floor.
- Raise your hips to align your thighs with your upper body.
- Extend your elbows to hold the DB above your chin.
- Lower the DB behind your head as far as your shoulder mobility comfortably allows you under control.
- Pull the dumbbell over to the starting position.
- Actively squeeze your elbows like you’re trying to touch them together and have them slightly bent the entire time.
- Sink your hips as you lower the weight behind your head and raise them back up while pulling the weight over your chin.
- Stimulates your lower lat muscles without needing to use a ton of weight or overfatigue your nervous system.
- Easily manipulate elbow and hip position to achieve a greater stretch reflex when moving from shoulder flexion into extension.
- Not a safe eccentric position for unhealthy rotator cuffs.
- The amount of stretch you can achieve is predicated on how good your overhead shoulder mobility is.
- However, the more you do these, the more flexible you’ll become.
5. Dumbbell Weighted Chin-Ups
Dumbbell-weighted chin-ups are one of the best lower lat exercises for building muscle mass while also improving overall functional strength.
How to execute the weighted chin-up:
- Assume a slightly wider than shoulder-width underhand grip on the bar.
- Hang from the bar with your arms extended.
- Draw your shoulder blades back and down.
- Point the top of your chest at the bar, then drive your elbows to your hips and pull yourself up in a straight line.
- Stop once your upper arms and chin are even with the sides of your waist and your hands, respectively.
- Re-extend your arms and repeat.
- Perform 1-3 second isometric holds at the top for a deeper lower lat contraction.
- Hold the bar with a thumbless grip to minimize bicep activation.
- Tighten your glutes to support and neutralize your spine.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades back and down before initiating each rep.
- Works a large amount of upper body musculature, so you get more bang for your buck if you want a quick and effective workout.
- Shoulder extension with the elbows tucked is a key action during chin-ups, which will really fire up those lower fibers.
- You need a pull-up bar.
- Hard to do for high reps as the scapula tends to protract forward, causing the biceps to take over once exhaustion sets in.
Origin of the Lower Lats
The lower latissimus dorsi muscles originate directly above the glutes, at the hips, as an upside-down point.
They become wider, forming a triangle-like shape as they travel up the lumbar region.
The muscle fibers are more vertical, conversely to the upper lats, which are mainly horizontal.
This lower portion of the lat muscle group mainly functions when the upper arm bone moves down from overhead in the sagittal plane (shoulder extension) and during scapular depression.
- Extension is when your arm is held straight in front of your chest, and you move your hand down toward your pocket, for example.
- Depression occurs when you pull your shoulder blades downwards.
They also play a major role in transferring force between the upper and lower body, which I was surprised to learn.
These functions are vital for exercises like the deadlift, squat, bench press, and chin-up.
How To Emphasize the Lower Lats in Training
The best way to emphasize the lower lats in training is to:
- Ensure your elbows are tucked:
Grip the dumbbells with your palms facing each other for an exercise like the single-arm row.
For exercises like the deadlift and chin-up, avoid excessive flaring by pinning them against your lateral waist during the concentric phases.
- Pull your elbows to your hips:
During rows, use a controlled swinging motion to aim the dumbbells toward your hips rather than pulling them to your chest.
- Pull your upper arms to the sides of your waist:
The lower lats are at peak contraction when the upper arms are even with your ribs.
Reverse into the eccentric phase once you reach this point instead of allowing your elbows to travel behind your torso.
This maintains better tension without the upper back muscles getting as involved as they would from deep scapular retraction.
Benefits of Training Them With Dumbbells
Dumbbells are a great way to develop the mind-muscle connection since they allow you to control elbow positioning much easier than barbell exercises.
Less Risk of Injury
When you learn how to properly engage your lower lats, you’ll be surprised how much extra stability you’ll have in your lower back while lifting heavier weights.
Building this lower section will give your lats a more complete look, which is great for dominating the back shots and front lat poses in bodybuilding.
Form Mistakes To Avoid
- Going too heavy:
To really isolate the lower lats, stick with a lighter weight and hone in on executing the aforementioned training tips.
- Excessive elbow flare:
The wider your elbows flare away from your waist, the more you’re going to activate the traps and rear delts.
Try to keep your elbows angled between 15-30 degrees with the sides of your torso.
- Pulling your elbows too far:
The scapula is going to retract more when pulling past your waist.
This puts greater tension on the traps and rhomboids.
Lower Lat-Focused Back Workout
Practice scapular depression and shoulder extension ahead of the workout using the two warm-up exercises below:
- Forward arm circles: 1 x 15
- Backward arm circles: 1 x 15
During the main workout, take about 1.5 to 2 minutes of rest between sets.
- Single-Arm Row to Hips
- Sets: 3
- Reps: 8-12
- Sets: 3
- Reps: 12-15
- DB Weighted Chin-Ups
- Sets: 1
- Reps: failure
The lats/back are the largest muscles in your upper body as a whole, and having a balanced musculature is important to maintain good posture and mobility.
Combine your lower lat workouts and exercises with upper back training.
If your lower lats are a weak spot, I recommend doing a weekly workout dedicated to them and another for the upper lats, traps, and rhomboids.
The upper back workout might consist of back exercises like the wide-grip lat pulldown or weighted pull-ups and the Kroc row.
Since the lower back and spinal erectors will be engaged during rowing variations and deadlifts, don’t worry too much about them.
Advice for Long-term Progression
To fill the lower lats with blood, I suggest placing isolation exercises toward the start of your back workout.
This makes activating them throughout the rest of the session easier since they’re such a stubborn origin to grow.
Once you’re able to develop a mind-muscle connection, reorder the isolators to the middle and end to maximize strength and progressive overload with compound exercises like deadlifts and rows.
Mainly because you’ll plateau much sooner when relying on accessories for incremental loading progressions since fewer muscles are helping to move the weight with proper form.
Lower Lat FAQ
What Exercises Build the Lower Lats?
Here are 9 of the best exercises to build the lower lats:
1. Cable machine low row
2. Dumbbell tripod row to hips
3. Neutral grip incline row
4. Supinated barbell row
5. Supinated pendlay row
6. Supinated lat pulldowns
8. Resistance band straight-arm pulldowns
How Can I Hit Lats With Dumbbells?
You can hit lats with dumbbells using these 10 exercises:
1. Helms row
2. Yates row
3. One-arm dumbbell rows
4. Dual bent-over dumbbell rows
5. Renegade row
6. Dumbbell Pullover
7. Weighted pull-ups
8. Dumbbell seal row
9. Chest-supported row
10. Pendlay row
How Do You Hit Lats on Low Rows?
Hit your lats on low rows by holding the bar with a neutral grip and pulling your elbows back and slightly down at your hips.
End the concentric range of motion when your upper arms are even with the side of your rib cage.
What Machine Targets Lower Lats?
An underhand grip on the lat pulldown machine targets the lower lats as this hand position makes extending the shoulders easier compared to an overhand grip.
The elbows also drive downward, closer to the hips, to engage the lower fibers effectively.
Are Lower Lats Important?
The lower lats are important for extending the shoulder joints and lower back, described as moving your arms toward the back of your body and arching the spine backward, respectively.
They also help retain alignment in the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex.
What Can I Replace the Lat Pullover With?
You can replace the lat pullover with:
– Lat pulldowns
– Seated cable rows
– Bodyweight pullover slides
Don’t Neglect the Lower Lat!
If your goal is to develop strong lats, you should consider adding one or two of these exercises to your workout routine.
They contribute to your pulling power and support your spine during squats or lifting heavy objects at work, assisting in building beefy legs and your bank account.
Now go get some blood into those little suckers!