4 Effective Dumbbell Lat Exercises (Latissimus Dorsi)

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Dumbbell workouts can offer you impressive benefits for many muscles but what are some dumbbell lat exercises you can do for a bigger back?

Dumbbells are one of the most popular types of gym equipment and for a good reason. You can use them in many exercises to work a variety of muscles.

Your lat, also known as latissimus dorsi, is a big muscle located in the middle to upper back. Due to the movements that work this muscle, back equipment like the cable machine is often used to target the lats.

Even so, you can definitely also work your lats with these dumbbell exercises.

1. Dumbbell pullover

For the dumbbell pullover, you preferably have a flat weight bench or something similar to lie on. Once you have that take the following steps to do the exercise:

  1. Lie on a weight bench with your head on the end of the bench. Hold a dumbbell in both of your hands.
  2. Extend your arms upward until they are slightly less than stretched and point them up.
  3. Slowly move back your arms as far as comfortable. To engage your back muscles more instead of your lower chest bring your elbows somewhat away from your body. Your arms stay slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
  4. Move your arms back to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion.

If you feel your lower chest muscles working a lot harder than your latissimus dorsi your technique may be off. In that case, you will likely have to focus more on pointing your elbows outward.

Due to the position of the dumbbell, you don’t want to be too optimistic about your capacity in the pullover exercise. Start light and build up from there.

2. Reverse grip dumbbell bent-over rows

By doing the bent-over row with a reverse grip, the exercise focuses more on your lats. Depending on your training goals you can do the regular bent-over row too.

Take the following steps to do a reverse grip bent-over row with dumbbells:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet at about shoulder width and a dumbbell in each hand. Your hand palms face forward/upward through the exercise.
  2. Slightly fold your knees and tilt your upper body forward until it is at about a 45-degree angle with the ground while keeping your back straight. Let your arms hang down to the ground for now.
  3. Bend your elbows until your hands reach your body. The goal is to mainly make your back muscles support this movement. Keep your arms close to your body, your body in a straight line, and your feet in the same position during the movement.
  4. Lower your hands again to the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.

By doing the row standing up you engage muscles like your core and legs more compared to a row on an incline bench or a seated row with the cable machine.

Even so, this dumbbell exercise still mainly focuses on muscles like the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius.

One benefit of this lat exercise is that you can easily do it with some dumbbells at home since you don’t need any other equipment.

3. Renegade rows

Take the following steps to do a renegade row with dumbbells:

  1. Place the dumbbells on the ground at about shoulder-width and the grips at horizontal lines with each other.
  2. Get into the position where your face is facing the floor with your hands on the dumbbell grips. Your arms are slightly less than stretched and your knees are on the ground.
  3. Move your feet back until your body is in a straight line. If you notice you need more stability during the exercise you can put your feet slightly more apart.
  4. Raise one dumbbell upward until it is at the height of your upper body. Keep your elbow close to your body and mainly use your back muscles for this movement.
  5. Lower the dumbbell back into the position of step 3 and raise the dumbbell on the other side in the same way.
How to do a renegade row

The upper body movement of the renegade row is similar to the bent-over row. However, due to the different lower body setup, this compound dumbbell exercise engages your leg and core muscles less.

Similar to regular bent-over rows you can easily do the renegade row lat exercise at home.

4. Weighted pull-ups with dumbbells

The pull-up is a classic latissimus dorsi exercise but most people don’t know you can make them more challenging using dumbbells. Take the following steps to do a pull-up with a dumbbell:

  1. Either put the dumbbell straight up on the ground in front of the pull-up bar or attach a dip belt to the dumbbell and put on the dip belt.
  2. Grab the dumbbell between your feet and jump up to the pull-up bar or ask a partner to put the dumbbell between your feet. If you have a dip belt you can just hang from the pull-up bar. Your hands should be at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward.
  3. Pull your body up slowly until your shoulders are the height of the bar.
  4. Lower your body again into starting position in a controlled motion.

Making pull-ups weighted with dumbbells can be a great option if regular pull-ups are not challenging enough for your lats. The extra weight from the dumbbells can help you build more muscle faster.

That being said, some people prefer other weights like a good weighted vest, heavy chains, dip belt, or ankle weights because these are harder to drop to the ground.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.