The Best Dumbbell Exercises For The Lats

The lats, or latissimus dorsi muscles, are the large V shaped muscles on the upper back. Building the lats is key to building functional strength and to creating an athletic look too.

Targeting the lats gives the impression of a slimmer waist and stronger torso.

Whether you’re here because you’re stuck for equipment during a home workout or because you dislike pull ups and barbell rows, this article is going to be for you.

Really targeting the lats with dumbbells is totally possible but takes a clever strategy and some great exercises. Luckily, we’ve got your back (literally) and are about to give you an easy breakdown of these movements!

Quick Overview- 7 Dumbbell Lat Exercises:

  1. Standing dumbbell row
  2. Wide dumbbell row
  3. One arm dumbbell row
  4. Renegade row
  5. Reverse fly
  6. Decline dumbbell pullover
  7. Incline row

1. Standing Dumbbell Row

The standing dumbbell row is a staple movement when trying to build the lats. To perform this movement, stand with your feet around a shoulder’s width apart.

Bend your knees and focus on bending at the waist and keeping your back straight. Hold your dumbbells out with your arms fully extended and your knuckles facing forward. Pull the dumbbells up to your ribcage and lower them back to the original position.

2. Wide Dumbbell Row

Variation is key to building the lats and the wide dumbbell row is a great variation on the standing dumbbell row. Form is crucial when performing this exercise. Get into the same position as in the regular, standing dumbbell row. Then pull the dumbbells into your chest but keep your arms a little wider than your shoulders.  Ensure that you return to the original position before repeating.

It’s also best to make sure that you have mastered the regular standing row before trying this out.

3. One Arm Dumbbell Row

One arm dumbbell rows are a great way to isolate and focus on the lats. To perform this exercise, you need a bench or a sturdy platform of about thigh height. Kneel your leg down on the bench and hold onto the bench with the arm that is on the same side as your leg.

Bend over so that your upper body is almost parallel to the ground and pick up the dumbbell with your palm facing into your body. Bring the dumbbell up alongside your body to your chest and lower it again slowly.

4. Renegade Row

In case you hadn’t guessed by now, rowing movements are incredible for building the lats. The renegade row is a difficult move that targets a range of muscles including the abs and it requires only dumbbells and a bit of floor space.

Place the dumbbells out in front of you and set yourself up in a plank position with your toes resting on the floor and your hands on the dumbbells.

From here, raise one of your arms and bring the dumbbell into your chest as you support your body with the other arm. You will want to stick to a lighter weight with this movement!

5. Reverse Fly

Stand with your feet a hip width apart. Keep your knees soft and, with your back flat, lower your chest until it is almost parallel with the floor. Your arms should hang in front of you with your palms facing each other.

From here, raise your arms out to the side until they’re in line with your body. Ensure that you squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of this movement. The reverse fly can also be performed when seated on a bench.

6. Decline Dumbbell Pullover

The decline dumbbell pullover is a slightly lesser known exercise that is incredibly effective at burning out those lats. Lie down on an 45 degree incline bench so that your head is lower than your legs.

If you don’t have a bench, you can perform this exercise on any flat surface with your head just leaning off and your neck supported. Hold a single dumbbell over your head with your arms straight. Keep them straight as you lower the dumbbell in an arc motion behind your head and back up.

7. Incline Row

If you do have a bench available for use, the incline row is another row variation that you should not miss out. Position your bench at 45 degrees and lean into it, facing forwards.

Hold your dumbbells down by your side, with your knuckles facing in towards your body, and rest your chin on the bench. From here, bring the dumbbells up to your side, focusing on retracting the shoulder blades as you do.

Ensure that you do not rotate your wrist as you perform this movement and that your torso is straight throughout.

A Final Note:

So there you have it! 7 exercises that require only dumbbells and will really work those lats.

To make the most out of these movements try starting off with more compound movements- like the standing dumbbell row- and moving on to exercises like the decline dumbbell pullover that you will notice will be more onerous on the lats specifically. 

As always, mind to muscle engagement is key so get used to focusing your attention on your lats as you perform these exercises.

And don’t forget to bookmark this article to return back to it next time you want to switch up your back workouts!

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