Here’s one more article about Best Dumbbell Lat Exercises. In this post, I’ll show you the top 7 dumbbell workouts that work great for your lats (latissimus dorsi) and improve the shape of your back.
You can also do these exercises for your back with dumbbells at home.
Dumbbells are a piece of fitness equipment that everyone has. You can get a pair of dumbbells whether you work out at a fancy fitness club or a bare-bones basement gym.
But most lifters only know two or three basic exercises for the lats that use dumbbells. And you’ll likely run out of ideas long before your back muscles get tired.
What Are Dumbbell Lat Exercises?
There are many different types and sizes of dumbbells. There are old ones made of rusty iron and new ones made of rubber. Also, you can get dumbbell bar sets that let you add weight plates.
No matter what you use, dumbbell lat exercises are movements like rowing, pulling, or lifting that work your back’s major muscle groups.
Benefits of Dumbbell Lat Exercises
Using dumbbell lat exercises, you can get a full back workout with just a few pieces of gym equipment. You can switch exercises quickly because you don’t have to wait for machines or racks to become available.
Many of these dumbbell lat exercises are compound moves that work more than one muscle group at once, which is better for getting stronger. Also, compared to machines or cables, they make you burn a lot more calories.
Lastly, dumbbells let you control the direction of the movement and work each arm on its own. This gives you the freedom to focus on certain parts of your back and lats.
- You can do a full lat workout at home with very little equipment.
- More muscle groups are used when you lift free weights like dumbbells.
- Compared to machines or cables, you burn more calories by running.
- You can work each lat on its own or both at the same time.
- More ways to move the body to focus on different parts of the lats
7 Best Dumbbell Lat Exercises
Below are the 7 best lat exercises with dumbbells:
- Single Arm Row
- Bent Over Row
- Pull Over
- Seal Row
- Incline Row
- Pendlay Row
- Renegade Row
- Kroc Row
- Dumbbell Yates Row
Single Arm Dumbbell Row
One of my favorite exercises is the single-arm dumbbell row, which is also a great way to train your lats with dumbbells.
How To Do It
- Hold a dumbbell with a neutral grip in one hand and use your other hand to lean against a bench or rack. Lean forward until your torso is almost horizontal. Try both horizontal and 10-15 degrees above it to see which lets you use your lats the most. Hold the dumbbell below you with your arm fully extended.
- Keeping your torso in place, pull your elbow back and toward where a back pocket would be. Row the dumbbell towards your hip. Pull until your upper arm is at the same level as your body.
- Control the load back to the starting position, letting your shoulder move forward and your arm reach as far forward as it can below you.
- Most of the time, single arm rows use more weight. This makes them a great choice for people who want to get stronger and train with lower reps.
- Let you train one side at a time.
- Single-arm training lets you build up the size and strength of each side on its own. This can help make muscle imbalances less likely or even show up strength imbalances that were already there.
- Lifters often cheat on one-arm rows to get more weight on the bar. Since single arm rows usually start with heavier weights, lifters can get caught up in trying to increase the weight too quickly and end up cheating reps by limiting their range of motion or using their torso momentum to help each rep.
How To Program
Here’s how I’d schedule one-arm dumbbell rows:
Since this is one of the exercises where most lifters can use heavier weights, I suggest keeping the rep ranges low:
- 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps each. When you can do 8 reps for each set, you should move on to the next level.
Bent Over Dumbbell Row
The dumbbell bent-over row is a lot like the dumbbell row on a bench, but we’ll be standing for this one.
This makes it more of a functional movement than just a way to work your lats, since your back muscles will be working to give you more stability.
This movement also looks like a lot of things that happen in real life, which means that it often has real-world uses.
As with the dumbbell row on a bench, the key to a good dumbbell bent over row is form and technique. We don’t want to do any quick reps that involve jerking or swinging. Instead, we want to do slow, controlled movements.
How To Do It
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand so that the palms of your hands are facing each other.
- Bend forward until your torso is almost parallel to the floor. With your arms fully extended, hold the dumbbells below you.
- Row the dumbbells back toward your hip by pointing your elbow in the direction of a back pocket. Keep your elbow close to your side as you move.
- Pull until your upper arm is in line with your torso, and hold this position for a moment.
- Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position to let your shoulders move back and your arms reach their full length.
- Equal range of motion each side. Even though the benefits of unilateral exercises are still there, dumbbell bent-over rows require you to use both sides at the same time. This lets you see if your range of motion changes from rep to rep. This makes sure that you train both sides the same way, through the same range of motion.
- Simple to set up the way you want. When you do bent-over rows with dumbbells, you don’t have to try to fit into a machine or bench setup. Instead, you can position yourself in the best way for your leverages and the overall feel of the movement. Try a few different torso angles or grips to get the most out of your back exercises.
- Requires lumbar loading and stability. Even though this isn’t a problem on its own, it needs to be managed throughout a program. For example, powerlifters who squat and deadlift a lot may want to avoid loading their lower backs when they work on their lats.
How To Program
Here is how I would schedule bent-over rows with weights:
Due to the load on the lumbar, I like to keep rep ranges a little bit higher to help limit loading.
- 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps each. Push each set almost to the point of failure, saving one or two reps, and increase the weight as you reach 15 reps. If you want to keep the load the same, you could try shortening the rest periods, adding a pause, or doing a controlled eccentric (lowering) phase.
Dumbbell Seal Row
In a way that is similar to the supported row, we can use the bench as a support and help with the pulling motion. At the same time, being horizontal helps us row against gravity by going up.
- Flat Bench
- 2 x Boxes
How To Perform Seal Rows
- Place a box under the legs of each end of a flat bench.
- Lay down on the bench with your face down. Take both of the dumbbells.
- Start by working your lats by bringing your shoulder blades down toward your hips.
- For the row, lead with the elbows by pulling them back behind the body while keeping them tucked to the sides.
- Once your elbows reach 90 degrees, slowly move back to where you started. Repeat.
- The lats can stretch out more when the bench is raised.
- When you’re on the bench, you can’t use other parts of your body for balance, so your lats and back have to do the lifting.
- Use steps that let you fully extend your arms at the elbow. This will help you stretch your lats further.
- Before each lift, let out your breath and tighten your glutes and core. This will make your body stiff, so you can concentrate on pulling more weight.
Pullover With Dumbbell
People talk about the dumbbell pullover as one of the best ways to work on the lats.
Because of how the body is set up, we can reach our arms over our heads and fully stretch our lats. So it’s great for building and getting bigger muscles.
- Flat bench
How To Perform Pull Over
- Lay on your back and put your shoulders in the middle of the bench.
- Put your feet about shoulder-width apart and lift your hips.
- Grab the weight with both hands, crossing your palms over one end of the dumbbell, and lift it over your chest.
- To start, slowly move the dumbbell from overhead to the floor.
Bring your arms down until they are parallel to the floor. Lift and go back to where you started. Repeat.
- Full stretch for the lats.
- Good for the chest and the core.
- Beginners should start with a lighter weight because the position and movement can be uncomfortable at first.
- Mind your breathing.
- When the dumbbell is over your head, take a breath in, then let it out and tighten your core as you lift the weight back to the starting position.
Dumbbell Pendlay Row
The Pendlay row is a version of the bent-over row that was created by Glenn Pendlay, a US Olympic weightlifting coach. The fact that your upper body is almost parallel to the floor is one thing that makes the Pendlay row unique.
Each rep starts from the floor, which is another thing that makes it different. The goal of this position is to get your back muscles to work as much as possible.
You can also improve your explosive power off the floor, which will help you with other Olympic lifts.
Your knees should be slightly bent when you start. And your eyes should be looking straight down at the floor while your back is mostly straight.
Pull the dumbbells quickly straight up from the floor toward your chest. As you pull, your elbows should be about 45 degrees from your body, pointing out to the sides.
How To Do It
- Stand with a neutral grip on two dumbbells. Lean forward while keeping your back straight and put the dumbbells on the floor. If you can’t reach the floor, you might want to put a bumper plate or small box on each side.
- From here, row the dumbbells toward your hip while keeping your elbows close to your sides.
- Pull until your upper arms are in line with your torso, and then put the load back on the floor. Let the dumbbells stop before starting the next repetition.
- Reinforces a full range of motion. Rowing from the floor makes sure that each rep is done with the arm fully extended and starts from the same place.
- These are easy to cheat. Pulling from a dead stop and a lower torso angle can make it more tempting to cheat the load to make the start of each rep easier. Try to keep your torso angle the same throughout the movement.
How To Program
Here is how I would schedule Pendlay rows with dumbbells:
Since it’s easier to cheat on these to get a full range of motion, I like to keep the reps high and the weight a little lower so that people don’t just chase heavy weights to their own detriment.
- 3–4 sets with 10–12 reps each. Start with a weight you can do 12 times, and add weight to each set until you can do 12 reps. If you can only do 12 reps on your first two sets, for example, you should increase the weight for those two sets the next time you do this exercise, but keep the weight for your last one or two sets the same as it was the last time. Keep each set within 2–3 reps of failing.
Incline rows are another great way to row with your chest supported. They can be done instead of a seal row machine if you don’t have access to one.
These do a lot of the same things that pull-ups do, but they work the lats from a different angle.
How To Do It
- Set up a bench that can be moved to 30–45 degrees. Lay on the bench with your face down and hold the dumbbells with a neutral grip (palms facing each other).
- Bring your elbows back toward your hips until they are in line with your torso. As you pull, try to keep your elbows close to your sides.
- Let the dumbbell pull you into a full stretch as you control the weight back to full extension of the arms.
- When you lie face down, you can’t cheat. You can’t cheat the movement by moving your torso or legs faster than they should. This makes sure that your back handles all the weight and movement.
- The slope makes it easier to pull towards your hip. I find that when I row on an incline, I pull more toward my hip instead of straight back. This makes it a good choice for rowers who find it hard to feel their lats in other exercises.
If it’s hard for you to feel your lats when you do pull-ups, these 5 tips will help you work your lats more.
- Range of motion may be an issue. Some people with longer arms may hit the floor before their arms are fully extended. You can quickly fix this by standing and leaning into the bench instead of sitting down on it. But make sure you don’t use your legs to move forward.
How To Program
Here’s how I’d schedule incline rows:
Since these are like the seal row, I think you should program them the same way.
- 3–4 sets with 8–10 reps going up. Work up in weight from set to set. Start with a comfortable set of 10 (3–4 reps) and increase the weight until you reach a near-failure set of 8 (one rep left) over 3–4 sets.
Even though it looks like someone is trying to cheat to use more weight, the Kroc row is an exercise that uses momentum on purpose.
How To Do It
- Set up like you would for a single-arm row, with a neutral grip on a dumbbell in one hand and a bench or rack in the other. Start with your torso bent at an angle of 10 to 20 degrees.
- Start the move by pulling the weight toward your hip, but let your torso move up to create momentum that will help each rep.
- Stop when your upper arm is in line with your torso, and control the weight back to the starting position. Let the lats fully stretch at the end of each rep.
- Great for getting past strength ruts. Find that your strength has stopped improving with single arm rows? You might need to do Kroc rows to break through and get going again.
- Make room for bigger loads.
These are great for breaking through plateaus, but they are also good for building general lat strength and letting you lift more weight than other exercises.
- It can be hard to use the same amount of momentum all the time. We want to standardize technique so that it is the same from week to week. When you add momentum to each rep, it can be hard to stay the same.
How To Program
I would program Kroc rows like this:
We want to use these because they let us get some momentum and lift heavier weights, so I suggest keeping the reps low.
- 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps each. Push these almost to the point of failure and increase the weight if you can do 8 reps in a set.
Dumbbell Lat Workout
I think that your next back workout should have at least a couple of these dumbbell lat exercises. But you could do an entire back workout with just dumbbells if you wanted to.
This workout is good because you can change exercises quickly, which saves time. Also, you can burn more calories if you combine exercises and work each arm separately.
I’ve put together the following dumbbell lat workout with a mix of compound and isolation exercises. You’ll also notice that the number of reps ranges from 8 to 20, which is a good way to train both strength and size.
Dumbbell Lat Workout
|Dumbbell Deadlift||3 sets||15-20 reps|
|Single Arm Dumbbell Row||5 sets||8-12 reps|
|Pull Ups||5 sets||as many reps as possible|
|Dumbbell Incline Row||5 sets||8-12 reps|
|Dumbbell Pullover||5 sets||8-12 reps|
|Reverse Flies||3 sets||10-15 reps|
Tips For Training The Lats For Growth And Strength
The lat muscle is one of the biggest in the upper back, but that doesn’t always make it easy to target.
Here are some tips that will help you do it right every time.
Do a warm-up set with a lighter weight before each exercise. This can be done with 20–60% of the maximum number of repetitions (1RM).
This will warm up your muscles, get more blood flowing to them, and help you get used to the way you’ll be moving. It also helps with our next tip, which is connecting the mind and the body.
When working out any muscle, it’s important to pay attention to how the mind and muscle work together.
By starting with a lighter weight, we can focus on the lats and contract them evenly as we move the weight through its full range of motion.
This helps us work more fibers, which makes it easier to get a defined back.
Engage Lat Before Each Rep
Before each repetition, you need to work the lats.
Start with a lighter weight and focus on pulling the shoulder blades back and down toward the hips.
This will let the lat move when you tell it to. By doing this, you put the focus of the exercises on your lats.
This makes that connection stronger, which makes your fibers work better and improves your results.
Later Sets – Load Up Weight
If you do your warm-ups right and build your connection to the muscle in the early sets, you can really hit them hard in the working sets.
From here, you can do sets of 6–12 reps of 70–95% of your 1RM. This is the best range of reps for building muscle.
To get a strong V-taper back, we have to move our joints as far as they can go and let our muscles stretch out.
The dumbbell is the best tool for the job because of this.
People might think that training with dumbbells to get a bigger back is less effective. In the end, the resistance is usually lower.
But because of how they are made, you can hold them in different ways, which is an advantage over barbells.
Are you going to try any of the ones on the list, or did I forget one?
Tell me in the comments, and make sure someone who needs it sees this article.
FAQs – Best Dumbbell Lat Exercises
➧ Can you do a lat pulldown with dumbbells?
➧ What are 3 exercises for the lats?
- Deadlift. …
- Pull-up. …
- Chin-up. …
- Barbell Row. …
- One-Arm Dumbbell Row. …
- Seated Cable Row. …
- Lat Pulldown. …
- Standing Lat Pushdown.
➧ What exercise works your lats?
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I am Camila Smith. I am a fitness expert and personal trainer and a life coach, blogger, and triathlete. As a health and fitness expert, my mission is to cut through the industry’s noise and empower people to find lasting health, happiness, and confidence through sustainable solutions. More About Camila Smith.