13 Lat Exercises With Dumbbells (Get V-Shaped Lats At Home)

You've probably got dumbbells at home that you use all the time. Many people know how to use them to work their chest and arms, but they aren't using them to train their back.

If that sounds like you, you're missing a trick, because exercising your lats and upper back is really simple and effective with dumbbells.

If you're looking to build a broad back and well-defined V shape physique, your dumbbells will help get you there.

In this guide, we'll show you the best dumbbell lat exercises so you can create effective workouts which you can do from the comfort of your own home.

1. Dumbbell Bent Over Row

Rows are regarded as one of the key back exercises. Rowing movements target your upper back, and the specific motion involved makes them one of the best exercises for your lats. They're also pretty straightforward, so a dumbbell row is a useful exercise for beginners.

The exercise involves bending your body forward and pulling the dumbbell back. The range of motion engages your lats but also targets your other upper body muscles across your back for a well-rounded workout. This is why it's regarded as one of the best dumbbell exercises.

How To:

  • Start by standing, holding a single dumbbell in one hand and with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Lean your torso forward until you're nearly parallel with the floor, with your arms straight.
  • Engage your core, and let the weight drop down.
  • Pull the dumbbell back and upwards until it reaches just above your belly button.
  • Pause for a second, and then lower back to starting position to complete the rep.
  • Aim for 8-12 reps in a set, but always use a challenging weight.
13 Lat Exercises With Dumbbells (Get V-Shaped Lats At Home)

2. Single Arm Dumbbell Row

Single arm dumbbell rows are really effective at engaging your lats. They let you focus on one side of your body at a time, controlling the movement in a way that’s great for isolating your lats and traps.

It’s why many people consider single arm rows more effective than a regular dumbbell row. The movement is basically exactly the same as dumbbell row but uses a single dumbbell instead of two. 

It's an easy exercise for beginners and perfect for anyone carrying an injury on one side of their body.

How To:

  • Lean forward until your body is almost parallel to the ground.
  • With your knees bent, reach down and pick up one dumbbell from the ground.
  • Start with your arms fully extended, and engage your lats and back to pull the dumbbell upwards until it reaches your chest.
  • Pause for a second, and then return to starting position.
  • Repeat for 8-10 reps to complete a set.

More Training Options - Best Single Dumbbell Exercises

Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

3. Dumbbell Lat Pullover

A dumbbell pullover (not to be confused with a lat pull down) is often regarded as a chest exercise, but the movement of the dumbbell engages your upper back muscles too.

It is sort of like a horizontal rowing motion, but with your arms straight, forcing your shoulder blades to move and use your lats for stabilization.

This is one of the more challenging free-weight lat exercises for beginners because it engages a variety of muscles and requires a higher level of core strength. You'll need access to a flat or adjustable bench and a single heavy dumbbell to perform it.

How To:

  • Lie back on the bench and hold a single dumbbell above your head, using a neutral grip. Try to grip the weight itself, not the bar in the middle.
  • Keep your arms straight and start by slowly lowering the barbell in an arc behind your head.
  • Once you feel a stretch in your chest, pause and return to starting position.
  • You should feel your lower lats pushing the dumbbell back up, so try to keep the movement controlled.
  • Repeat for 6-8 reps to complete a set.
Dumbbell Lat Pullover

4. Elevated Plank Row

The elevated plank row uses the same movement as other row variations but an incline bench to change the angle. This allows you to move more freely and activates your lats specifically.

By keeping your core tight throughout the movement, you'll also help train your abdominal muscles simultaneously with your back.

The elevated plank row doesn’t really require any specialist gym equipment, but you will benefit from using an incline bench.

The exercise itself is a little more challenging because of the plank position, but it should be an effective workout for people of all abilities.

How To:

  • Start in a single arm plank position on the bench. Make sure your legs are spread wide and your elbow is slightly in front of you so you can perform the dumbbell row.
  • Reach down and lift the dumbbell with your palms facing inwards. Keep your core and glutes tight.
  • Row the weight upwards until it reaches your torso, pause, and squeeze your shoulder blades to maximize the benefit on your lats.
  • Slowly return to starting position and then repeat 6-10 reps to complete the set.
elevated plank row

5. Dumbbell Seal Row

The dumbbell seal row helps to isolate the movement to your back and shoulders and prevents you from using your body's momentum to aid in lifts. This helps you fully engage your rear deltoid and lats to maximize the lift's benefit.

This is one of the best db lat exercises for those with limited mobility or those carrying a lower-body injury. Taking all your other major muscles out of the equation allows you to get the most from your workout and grow your shoulder width quickly.

How To:

  • Start by lying flat with your chest on the bench and two dumbbells on the floor beneath you.
  • With your shoulders square on the bench, reach down and grip the dumbbells with your palms facing toward you.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades and slowly row the dumbbells upwards until they are in line with the bench.
  • Pause, and lower them back down until your arms are straight.
  • Repeat this 8-12 times to complete a set.
Dumbbell Seal Row

6. Incline Rows

Incline rows are another great variation that helps to isolate your lats and upper back. Your legs and core are taken out of the equation completely, and you'll really feel this in your lower lats. The motion is similar to an elevated plank row but uses an incline bench to adjust the angle.

An incline row is a useful alternative to a bent over row because you don't have to adopt a standing position at all throughout the movement. This makes them perfect for those with limited mobility, or anyone carrying a lower-body injury.

How To:

  • Set your bench to a 45-degree angle and lie with your chest flat on it.
  • Engage your whole body by leaning forward on the bench and planting your feet on the floor.
  • Grip the dumbbells and keep your neck in a neutral position by staring right ahead.
  • Pull from the upper arm and row the dumbbells up towards you, squeezing your shoulder blades at the top.
  • Pause, and then slowly lower back to starting position.
  • Repeat for 6-8 reps to complete a set.
Incline Rows

7. Wide Dumbbell Row

The wide dumbbell row is a great alternative to a regular row because it puts more strain on your lats.

Shifting the dumbbells so they're slightly more than shoulder width apart means that your body has to work harder to keep you stable. This forces your lats to tense and can give you a great back pump.

The challenge with this exercise is keeping your arms out from your body throughout the movement. This can be difficult for beginners and requires a bit of strength in your lats already.

This row is better for more experienced lifters and should only be attempted once you've mastered the regular dumbbell row.

How To:

  • Start by standing in an upright position with your knees slightly bent and holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Bend forward and lean your torso, so you are almost facing the floor.
  • Keep your arms out from your body and row upwards, moving the dumbbells until they reach chest height.
  • Pause, and then lower back down to starting position.
  • Repeat for 8-10 reps to complete a set.
Wide Dumbbell Row

8. Reverse Fly

The reverse fly movement is slightly similar to the bent over row, but instead of pulling upwards, you move the weights out to the side. The movement uses your shoulders and back to move the dumbbells and really hits your lats hard.

Reverse flys are great for beginners because they help you build broad shoulders, improve stability, and even work your core. This will help you to perform other exercises and to gain muscle across your back.

How To:

  • Start by standing upright with a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Bend forward so your torso is parallel to the ground, and extend your arms down fully towards the floor.
  • Keep your arms straight, and lift the dumbbells out to the side.
  • Pause when they reach shoulder height and lower back down.
  • Repeat for 10-15 reps to complete each set.
Reverse Fly

9. Dumbbell Pull Up

Pull-ups are regarded as one of the most effective back exercises you can do, but if you don't have a pull-up bar, you can still train the same muscles.

A dumbbell pull-up trains your lats and upper back just like you do with regular pull-ups, but without needing anywhere near as much space.

The key to an effective dumbbell pull-up is to load as much weight as possible. You want to try and mimic the challenging resistance that you have when you do pull-ups, so try and lift heavy.

How To:

  • Start by standing with a dumbbell in each hand and feet spread about shoulder width apart.
  • Bend forward slightly and let the dumbbells fall to around your knees.
  • In one motion, lift the dumbbells so your elbows are over shoulder height, and straighten your back to stand tall.
  • Pause at the top, and then reverse the movement to get back to where you started.
  • Repeat for 6-10 reps per set.
Dumbbell Pull Up

10. Renegade Row

The renegade row is a great way to train your core and back at the same time. The plank position and reliance on your own body to keep you stable makes it quite challenging but strengthens smaller muscle groups that you might not otherwise engage.

It's one of the best compound exercises that you can perform with just a pair of dumbbells and will help you build functional strength.

A renegade row can be difficult for beginners, and if you don't have enough strength already, you could struggle to get the form right. You'll likely need to lower the weight, so if your ultimate goal is to build strength, this may not be the best option.

How To:

  • Start in the plank position with your toes on the floor and a dumbbell in each hand, resting your weight on the handles.
  • With your hands shoulder-width apart, brace your body and pull one dumbbell upwards toward your hip in a rowing motion.
  • Keep your elbow tucked in at your side and your torso straight throughout the movement to really work your lats.
  • Pause at the top, and then lower the dumbbell to the ground.
  • Repeat with the other side and aim for 12-15 reps.
Renegade Rows

11. Dumbbell Deadlift

Deadlifts are used to develop your hamstrings, glutes, and back. A dumbbell deadlift can be just as effective, and it is great for targeting your lats because the movement involves raising and lowering heavy weight.

This forces your lats to work to keep your body stable and can help you add a lot of width to your back.

This is an effective compound exercise, but because it involves a lot of different muscles, it can take a bit of time to get it right.

You'll need to keep the weight down and focus on your form until you've truly mastered it, but once you have, it's a powerful dumbbell exercise to incorporate into your routine.

How To:

  • Start with two heavy dumbbells on the ground in front of you.
  • Stand in an upright position with your feet just behind the dumbbells.
  • Bend your knees and push your hips back, lowering yourself to the floor.
  • Reach down and grip the dumbbells in an overhand grip.
  • Pull the dumbbells upwards by standing tall and engaging your core to keep your posture consistent throughout the movement.
  • Keep rising until your hips have pushed forward and you’re standing tall.
  • Slowly lower the barbells back to starting position but reversing the movement.
  • Repeat for 5-8 reps using as heavy a weight as possible.
Dumbbell Deadlift

12. Decline Dumbbell Pullover

Lat pulldowns are a great way to train your whole back, but it’s difficult to mimic the movement with dumbbells. Dumbbell pullovers are a great alternative to a lat pulldown because they train the same muscles and really isolate the muscles along your side.

A decline dumbbell pullover involves a controlled movement of the dumbbell across your upper body and over your head. The decline pullover is more challenging than a regular pullover and forces your lats to work against gravity.

By incorporating this variation into your workout, you'll be able to develop more lean muscle and build a broader back.

You’ll need a decline bench and a heavy dumbbell for this exercise. It can be a little challenging for beginners, but start slow and have a spotter there to help grab the weight if it starts to slip.

How To:

  • Lie back on a decline bench so your head is near the floor.
  • Grip a dumbbell in both hands and raise your arms straight up above your chest.
  • With your index finger wrapped around the top of the weight, slowly move your arms so the dumbbell passes up and over your head.
  • Keep your arms straight throughout the movement, and when the dumbbell is in line with your head, then pause and return to the starting position.
  • Lifting the dumbbell back up again from a decline angle can be really challenging, so you may have to use a light weight at first.
  • Repeat for 12-15 reps per set.
Decline Dumbbell Pullover

13. Dumbbell Superman

The dumbbell superman is a functional exercise that builds on a bodyweight movement. Adding in some weights forces your lats and back muscles to work harder and encourage greater gains.

The dumbbell superman exercise is perfect for people of all abilities because it's a floor exercise that needs very little equipment and is easy to perform.

Alongside strengthening your lats, it helps to increase your overall stabilization and shape your upper body.

How To:

  • Start by lying on the floor with a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Raise your chest and legs off the floor and move the dumbbells up in front of you, so it looks like you're superman flying through the air.
  • Keep the dumbbells off the floor, and move your arms back until your hands are just over your lower back. This will engage your lats to keep you stable.
  • Pause, then move the dumbbells back up, so it looks like you're superman again.
  • Repeat for 15-20 reps to complete the set.
Dumbbell Superman

Benefits Of Training Your Lats With Dumbbells

People often associate dumbbells with training smaller muscle groups, particularly biceps and triceps, and they’re less likely to use them to train their lattissimus dorsi or back muscles.

While it might be tempting to use barbells or machines, dumbbells actually offer a few key advantages:

Better Range Of Motion

Dumbbells give you more freedom to move the weight around your body. You can adopt various positions and perform several different rows, which will engage your lats effectively and help you develop a stronger back more quickly.

Just remember to keep your elbows tucked in to maximize the benefit to your lats.

Improves Strength And Flexibility

Dumbbells don't just help to improve strength; they can also improve your overall flexibility, which is why they're often included in mobility drills.

Studies have found that they activate more muscles and can improve muscle force and flexibility. This improves your coordination and can help to improve an athlete's overall performance. [1]

Better Variety

If you're using a barbell or other weights, you are limited in what exercises you can perform. With dumbbells, you have much more choice, so you can mix up your routine and engage your lats differently.

By changing your workouts regularly, you'll keep your body from getting used to a movement and help to maximize your gains.

Prevents Back Pain

A 2018 study found that lower back pain is becoming increasingly common. It's partly as a result of more sedentary lifestyles and partly because we just aren't training our backs as often. [2]

Using dumbbells to perform a dumbbell bent over row, lat pulldowns, or other strength training exercises listed here, we can keep our backs in good condition and our bodies functional for longer.

man showing his trained lats

Tips To Effectively Target Your Lats With Dumbbell Movements

Your latissimus dorsi are wide, flat muscles that run along the side of your body and your lower back. They help to stabilize your back, shoulder blades, and hips, making other exercises easier and improving your posture. This is why athletes put a lot of time into training them.

Dumbbells are effective at targeting your lats because they give you a wide range of motion. Most key back exercises focus on vertical movement (pull-ups and deadlifts, most notably), and while this will work your latissimus dorsi, it won't isolate them.

The key to training your lats is to incorporate some horizontal movements. That's why most dumbbell lat exercises need a slightly different form than your regular back workout exercises. Rows or a row variation movement is generally best for training your lats.

To effectively train your lats, you should adjust your positioning so that the dumbbells are closer to your sides. Don't flare your elbows, and try to keep them really close to your body as you row, pulling the weights up to your sides when performing row movements. This will help to target your lats more than your back muscles.

You should also try to use a neutral grip or an underhand grip when performing dumbbell lat workouts. This will help you to maintain the correct form to target your lats and give you a more effective workout routine. An overhand grip can still work, but it may put more focus on your upper arm and back muscles.


Common Questions About Dumbbell Lat Exercises

How do you get a wide back with a dumbbell workout?

The key to getting a wide back is to develop your lats. This will add a lot of width and thickness to your back and help you get the V shape across your upper body.

Dumbbell rows, particularly the bent over row and renegade rows, will help you to develop your lats and make your back wider.

How long does it take to build lats with dumbbells?

If you're working your lats frequently, then you should start to see muscular improvement within a few weeks. However, it will probably take a few months to see a significant difference.

How often should you train lats with dumbbells?

Your lats are big and powerful, but they still need time to recover. You should therefore only train them 2-3 times a week.

If you're using light dumbbells, you can train them more frequently, but even with lighter weights, it's a good idea not to train them more than 3-4 times a week.

Why can’t I feel my lats no matter what?

If you can't feel your lats, then it's possible that your form is wrong and your upper arms are doing all the work.

Try using a lighter weight and focus on using a slow, controlled movement. Avoid locking your elbows and try to keep all the stress on your lats.

Do push-ups work lats?

Push-ups will work your lats, and performing them regularly can give you a well-developed, symmetrical physique.

However, push-ups will primarily work your chest and don't give you the same range of motion as a pair of dumbbells can, so it's a good idea to use at least a few of the workouts from this list.


Conclusion

Performing lat exercises at home can help you to grow a strong, broad, and thick back. By doing lat exercises with weights, you'll develop a lot more quickly, and dumbbells are more effective at isolating lats than barbells or other weights.

The best lat exercises include the dumbbell row, incline row, renegade row, or pretty much any row variation.

By incorporating 2-4 of the dumbbell rows and other exercises on this list into your weekly routine, you can make significant gains and build the upper body you want.

Hopefully, this guide has helped you find some new exercises to work into your schedule, and you can use them to create some really effective workouts.

References:

1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/best-dumbbells#health-benefits

2. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)30480-X/fulltext

Last Updated on September 5, 2022