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Dumbbell lat exercises are resistance training exercises that target the latissimus dorsi muscles, aka the lats.
Best dumbbell lat exercises for building and strengthening your upper body muscles
The lats are large muscles located in the back. They are responsible for many movements, including pulling, rowing, and extending the arm. They play a crucial role in upper body strength and posture.
Incorporating dumbbell lat exercises into your workout routine can improve upper body strength and posture and enhance functional fitness.
Below are some of the best dumbbell lat exercises to consider.
As the title implies, you will need one or two dumbbells for each of the exercises discussed here
The dumbbell pull-over is one of the best dumbbell lat exercises that target the latissimus dorsi and several upper body muscles, including those in the chest and the triceps.
You will need a dumbbell and a weight bench for the exercise. The movement involves a pulling motion to target the muscles.
Using a flat bench for the exercise allows the workload to distribute evenly across the chest, back, and shoulders.
The flat bench dumbbell pull-over targets the entire chest, including the pectoralis major (upper and lower fibers), as well as the latissimus dorsi (back muscles) and the deltoids (shoulder muscles).
It provides more stability, making it more beginner-friendly.
Slightly flare your elbows and keep the weight close to your body during the exercise. That will help target the lats much better.
Dumbbell Pendlay Rows
Dumbbell Pendlay Rows are one of the best dumbbell lat exercises that target the back, particularly the latissimus dorsi or lats, rhomboids, and trapezius muscles.
They are a variation of the traditional Pendlay row, which uses a barbell, and are some of the best dumbbell lats exercises for building back strength and muscle mass.
Using dumbbells instead of a barbell allows for a better range of motion. It also allows you to concentrate on the weaker side of your body, making it possible to build a more symmetrical physique.
Steps to follow
To do the Pendaly Row dumbbell lat exercises,
- Place a pair of dumbbells on the floor in front of you, stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and slightly bend your knees. Hinge at the hips, keeping your back straight and parallel to the ground.
- Reach down and grab the dumbbells with a neutral grip (palms facing each other).
- With your back straight, retract your shoulder blades, bend your elbows, and pull the dumbbells toward your chest. Keep your elbows close to your body and squeeze your back muscles as you lift the dumbbells.
- Lower the weights back to the starting position in a slow and controlled manner, allowing them to touch the ground. Ensure your back remains straight throughout the movement.
- Repeat 8-12 reps per set and 3-4 sets per session
Keep the following in mind for the best results:
- Engage your core and maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise.
- Keep your elbows close to your body and avoid swinging excessively.
- Pull the dumbbells towards your chest while squeezing your back muscles, and focus on the contraction.
- Lower the weights in a controlled manner to the ground, and don’t jerk or drop the dumbbells.
- Start with lighter weights to ensure proper form before progressing to heavier loads.
You can incorporate the dumbbell Pendlay rows into your strength training routine and other back exercises for a well-rounded workout.
Dumbbell Seal Row
The dumbbell seal row, essentially a prone row, is one of the best dumbbell lat exercises that can add more mass to your back.
It is one of the best dumbbell lat exercises for targeting the back muscles, particularly the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and upper back muscles.
You will need a flat weight bench and a pair of dumbbells for the seal row dumbbell lat exercises.
Steps to follow
- Lie chest-down on a flat weight bench with feet on the floor, holding a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip, palms facing each other. Let your arms hang straight down towards the floor.
- With your back straight and your head in a neutral position, retract your shoulder blades and bend your elbows to pull the dumbbells toward your ribcage. Keep your elbows close to your body and squeeze your back muscles as you lift the dumbbells.
- Lower the dumbbells back to your starting position by fully extending your arms and allowing your shoulder blades to protract. Ensure you do the movement in a slow and controlled manner.
- Aim for 8-12 reps per set and 3-4 sets per session.
For best results,
- Keep your back straight and avoid excessive arching or rounding.
- Retract your shoulder blades and pull the dumbbells towards your ribcage while maintaining a stable position on the flat bench.
- Lower the weights in a slow and controlled manner, avoiding jerking or dropping the dumbbells.
- Start with lighter weights to ensure proper form and progress to heavier loads when confident.
The dumbbell seal row can be part of your back workout routine to promote strength and muscle development in the back muscles.
Dumbbell Renegade Row
The Renegade row is a compound exercise that combines the row and plank exercises. It primarily targets the back muscles, including the lats, shoulders, arms, and core.
The renegade row is one of the best dumbbell lat exercises for developing upper body strength, core stability, and overall muscle coordination. But it may not suit everyone, especially those with pre-existing back or shoulder issues.
You will need strong core muscles for the exercise.
Beginners should ensure they can hold the plank pose and balance their body on one arm for the duration of the exercise before attempting the renegade row.
Bent-Over Dumbbell Row
The bent-over dumbbell row is one of the most popular dumbbell lat exercises that target muscles in the back, including the lats, upper back, lower back, shoulders, and biceps.
The exercise mimics such daily movements as picking up a heavy object. Continuously doing bent-over row exercises as part of your training routine can help improve functional mobility and reduce the risk of back injury.
You can do the movement with one hand at a time or with both hands together.
Using one hand will allow you to emphasize your weaker side to help build a more balanced physique.
Newbies should start with a lower weight to avoid causing shoulder impingement.
Weighted Pull-Ups with Dumbbells
Weighted pull-ups with dumbbells are a challenging variation of the traditional pull-up exercise that adds additional resistance in the form of weight plates, dumbbells, or other weighted objects to increase the difficulty and intensity of the movement.
Pull-ups are a compound exercise that targets the back muscles, particularly the lats, biceps, shoulders, and core.
They also engage the biceps, shoulders, and core.
You will need a pull-up bar for the exercise.
Steps to follow
- Attach a weight plate, dumbbell, or another weighted object securely to a weight belt or hang it from a dip belt.
- Alternatively, you can grasp the dumbbell in between your feet if you don’t have a weight belt.
- Hang from the pull-up bar with your arms extended, palms facing away from your body, and your feet off the ground.
- Bend your elbows, squeeze your back muscles, and pull your body towards the bar. Keep your shoulders down, your body straight, and your chest as close as possible to the bar.
- Hold the position for as long as you can
- Lower your body back down to the starting position in a slow and controlled manner. Ensure you fully extend your arms and keep your core engaged.
- Repeat 8-12 reps per set and 3-4 sets per session.
- Choose a weight that is challenging but allows you to maintain proper form throughout the exercise.
- Keep your body straight and avoid excessive swinging or kipping.
- Engage your back muscles, particularly the lats, as you pull your body toward the bar.
- Lower your body in a controlled manner to avoid injury and maximize muscle engagement.
- Newbies should start with bodyweight pull-ups or assisted pull-ups using pull-up assisted bands to build strength before attempting the dumbbell pull-ups.
Band Resisted Dumbbell Row
The Band Resisted Dumbbell Row is a variation of the traditional dumbbell row exercise that uses resistance bands to increase the intensity of the movement and make it more challenging.
The exercise targets the back muscles, including the lats, shoulders, arms, and core.
It is one of the best dumbbell lat exercises for targeting and building upper body strength and improving posture.
You will need a resistance band for the exercise.
Steps to follow
To do the band resisted dumbbell row exercise,
- Secure a resistance band at waist height around a sturdy anchor point, such as a squat rack or post.
- Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip, that is, with palms facing each other.
- Step back from the anchor point to create tension in the resistance band
- Stand facing the anchor point with feet shoulder-width apart and slightly bend your knee
- Hinge forward at the hips. Keep your back straight and engage your core.
- Allow your arms to hang straight down. Relax your shoulders and extend your elbows.
- Start the rowing movement by pulling the dumbbells up towards your ribcage, ensuring your elbows stay close to your body. Squeeze your shoulder blades towards your spine and engage your back muscles as you row.
- Lower the dumbbells to your starting position in a slow and controlled manner.
- Choose a resistance band that provides an appropriate level of challenge for your fitness level.
- Keep your core engaged and your body in a neutral position throughout the exercise, avoiding any rounding or arching of the back.
- Control the movement, both during the rowing phase and the lowering phase. That will help to engage the muscles.
- Experiment with different hand placements on the dumbbells, such as an overhand or underhand grip, to target various areas of the back.
- Incorporate proper breathing, inhaling as you lower the dumbbells and exhaling as you row them up.
One Arm Dumbbell Row
The one-arm dumbbell row is one of the most effective dumbbell lats exercises for targeting and strengthening the latissimus dorsi, or lat muscles.
Using a dumbbell instead of a barbell allows a better range of motion and more effective targeting.
Incorporating the dumbbell row in your fitness regimen can help you build bigger lats.
You will need a weight bench for the exercises.
The exercise involves using one hand at a time for the movement, allowing you to concentrate on your weaker side to help build a more symmetrical body.
Incline Bench Two-Arm Dumbbell Row
The incline dumbbell row, aka chest-supported incline dumbbell row, is a variation of the dumbbell row exercise performed with dumbbells while lying chest-down on an incline bench.
The dumbbell variation allows you to use one or two dumbbells instead of a barbell, allowing for a better range of motion.
Using a single hand allows you to concentrate more on your weaker side, making it possible to correct imbalances.
It targets the latissimus dorsi or lats, traps, rhomboids, rear deltoids, and upper back muscles.
You will need an incline weight bench for the chest-supported dumbbell row exercises.
Benefits of Dumbbell Lat Exercises
Incorporating dumbbell lat exercises into your workout routine can provide several benefits:
- Muscle hypertrophy
Dumbbell lat exercises can help increase the size and strength of the lat muscles through resistance training.
Dumbbells allow for a better range of motion and provide a unilateral or asymmetrical load. That can help stimulate muscle growth and strength development in a balanced manner.
- Boosting Upper Body Strength
The lats are one of the major muscle groups involved in upper-body pulling movements.
Dumbbell lat exercises can strengthen the lats and other supporting muscles, including the biceps, rhomboids, and rear deltoids. That can enhance your overall upper body strength.
- Improving Posture
Strong lats play a role in maintaining good posture. They help retract and depress the shoulder blades, which can counteract the effects of slouching and forward shoulder posture.
Dumbbell lat exercises can help improve the strength and stability of the lats, leading to better posture and reduced risk of postural imbalances.
- Improved Functional fitness
The lats are involved in many functional movements, including pulling, rowing, and lifting, performed in daily activities and sports.
By training the lats with dumbbell exercises, you can improve their strength and endurance, leading to better performance in such tasks.
- Wide Variation and Versatility
Dumbbell lat exercises offer several options, performed at different angles and positions and with varying weights. Thus they are versatile and adaptable to suit diverse fitness levels and goals.
- Better Muscle Balance
Many individuals tend to have stronger muscles in the front of the body, e.g., chest and biceps, compared to the back of their body. Such imbalance can lead to poor posture and an increased risk of injuries.
Dumbbell lat exercises can help correct such imbalances by targeting and working the back muscles, including the lats, which can promote muscle balance and help build a more symmetrical body.
Final words from LiveLIfe
The lats are the large muscles of the back that give the back its “V” shape. They are responsible for various movements, including pulling, rowing, and lifting. Well-developed lats can improve your overall back aesthetics and give you a more balanced and athletic physique.
Dumbbell lat exercises are one of the best for strengthening and developing the latissimus dorsi muscles, helping you to build mass and strength.
Incorporating dumbbell lat exercises into your fitness regimen can help improve your pulling and rowing strength, which can help with many activities, including lifting objects, climbing, or participating in sports like swimming or rock climbing.
They are versatile and will allow you to customize your workout routine and adapt it to your specific goals and preferences.
Include dumbbell lats exercises in your training and fitness plans to help you to meet your fitness goals.
- Park SY, Yoo WG, An DH, Oh JS, Lee JH, Choi BR. Comparison of isometric exercises for activating latissimus dorsi against the upper body weight. J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2015;25(1):47-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2014.09.001
- Pete McCall. 2016. 5 Benefits of Compound Exercises. American Council on Exercise