Finding dumbbell Lat exercises can be extremely hard when you’re training at home with minimal equipment.
Question: How do you build monster Latissimus Dorsi muscles and expand your back terrain, if all you have to hand are dumbbells?
Hi, I’m Psymon H., your online training partner. In my 40 years of clashing with the iron, of which 20 years have been spent training at home with minimal equipment, the one piece of advice I would give you is this; it doesn’t matter what exercise you do on your dumbbell back workout, you have to learn how to activate and use your Lats.
Sounds straightforward, but in my experience, you can often get carried away with either going through the motions when doing your exercises, or being so ego-driven with how much weight you’re moving, that you forget about initiating the movement with your Lats.
Some of these problems can stem from not being able to see the muscle you’re working during an exercise unlike training arms or chest; hence the mind-muscle connection is poor.
1: Slow down your repetitions and concentrate on feeling the exercise.
2: Build a better mind/muscle connection
3: Retract your shoulder blades to help activate your lats
4: Use wrist straps to maintain a better grip during heavy rows.
5: Learn the seven best dumbbell lat exercises.
Today, I'm going to break down what I consider to be the 7 best dumbbell exercises if you want to target the Lats and get jacked from the Back. Be warned, the fourth exercise on the list will bury you and quickly drain your workout battery especially if it’s implemented in a full-body workout after legs.
All Lat exercises with dumbbells come with cues and pictures so you can be up and running on your very next dumbbell back workout, and bookmark this page so you can refer back to it.
Let’s get this Lat-attack started!
When it comes to Dumbbell Lat Exercises, you have to respect the Dumbbell Bent Over Row as one of the best exercise movements to thicken out the Lats. While you may not be able to shift as much weight as you would normally do using a barbell, the dumbbells have a major advantage in that they don’t lock your wrist into place which means you could start with palms facing in, and at the top of the movement turn them so they face forward.
Where you start and finish with your palms is going to be up to you. My advice is to be a mad scientist and try all the positions and see what works for you...But either way this should be on your list of lat exercises with dumbbells.
Items Needed: 2 Dumbbells.
Cue 1: Take a dumbbell in each hand and hinge at the waist with your feet set shoulder-width apart.
Cue 2: Have the dumbbells in front of your shins with palms facing back. Maintain a flat back and a slight bend at the knees as not to put stress in unwanted areas.
Cue 3: Retract your shoulder blades by pulling them down; this will help to activate the Lat muscles and get a better mind/muscle connection. Tighten your core and squeeze your back.
Cue 4: Pull the dumbbells smoothly to your hips or until your arms are bent at a 90-degree angle, and as you reach the top of the movement, rotate your palms so they are facing each other. Hold and squeeze briefly before lowering the weight to the start position.
Cue 5: At the bottom of the movement, protract your shoulders so it looks as if you are hunching over. This will help to engage more upper Back muscles. Repeat all of the cues as you go through each repetition.
This makes my magnificent 7 dumbbell Lat exercises simply because this beast of a movement gives you every opportunity to row some growth into the Lats without having to bend over at the hip.
Similar to the Chest Supported T-Bar Row you see in some gyms, the advantage here is that you’re not locked into a single plane movement. After doing this exercise a few times you'll wonder why this hasn't been on your list of lat exercises with dumbbells.
There are two ways to perform this movement, I’ll show you both ways and you decide which one you want to do. If you’re going up in weight, just make sure to pad out the top of the bench as it can become uncomfortable on the ribcage.
Items Needed: Incline Bench set at between a 45 and 60-degree angle (experiment to see which one you prefer). You’ll also need one pair of dumbbells.
Cue 1: (Option 1) Turn a high incline bench around so that you are behind it. Balance a pad on the top of the bench for comfort. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and rest your upper torso on the pad.
(Option 2) With weight in hand, straddle an incline bench and walk your way up until you are comfortably resting face-forward at the top of the bench.
Cue 2: Have your palms facing you at the beginning of the movement, Retract your shoulder blades by pulling them down; this will help to activate the Lat muscles and get a better mind/muscle connection. Tighten your core and squeeze your Lats.
Cue 3: Pull the dumbbells smoothly into your hips or untill your arms are bent at a 90-degree angle, and as you reach the top of the movement, rotate your palms so they are facing each other. Hold and squeeze briefly before lowering the dumbbells to the start position. If you row the weight higher than hip-height you will be engaging more Rear Delts.
Cue 4: At the bottom of the movement, protract your shoulders so it looks as if you are hunching over. This will help to engage more upper Back muscles. Repeat all of the cues as you go through each repetition.
Check out our 6 Dumbbell Chest Supported Row Variations
If you’re looking for dumbbell Lat exercises that closely mimic the seated pullover, this is it. The advantage the decline pullover has on a flat dumbbell pullover is all in the position of the bench, as the decline puts more stress on the Lat fibers through a larger range of motion.
This makes a great exercise if you are looking for a Lat Pulldown Dumbbell alternative, and that's why it's on my list of Lat exercises with dumbbells
Items Needed: A decline bench or one end of a flat bench resting on a platform, and one dumbbell.
Cue 1: Turn the dumbbell on its head and carefully lay back on your decline bench setup. Slide your palms under the top knuckle or plate of the dumbbell, and lift it over your chest making sure to turn your elbows in so that your biceps are facing you.
Cue 2: Keeping arms straight, slowly lower the dumbbell to a comfortable position over your head.
Cue 3: Retract your shoulder blades before returning the dumbbell to the overhead position.
Dumbbell Pullovers For Lats - Build Width With These 4 Pullover Variations
This list of dumbbell Lat exercises definitely gets taken up a notch with this movement. If you’ve never done the Seated Dumbbell Deadlift before, you are in for a treat. The fact that this deadlift is placed in the seated position, helps you to focus on activating the muscles of the back rather than going through the motions of just lifting the weight from point “A” to point “B.” Follow the cues and do this exercise regularly, and your Lats will thank you.
As this may quickly empty the gas tank and drain the workout battery, make sure to do these near the beginning of your session if possible.
Items Needed: Two dumbbells, a flat bench, and a block or platform. If you are going heavy, wrist straps are advised.
Setup: If you have long arms or simply want to extend the range of motion, place a block or platform under the seated end of the bench.
Cue 1: Sit at the edge of a flat bench with your knees at a right angle to your ankles. Place a dumbbell on the outer side of each foot.
Cue 2: With palms facing each other, lean forward so your chest is almost touching your thighs, and grip the dumbbells making sure that your back remains flat. As you lift them a few inches off the ground, compress your shoulder blades as hard as you can, which will activate your Lats.
Cue 3: As you slowly pull yourself up, you should feel the stress in your Lats from retracting your shoulders. Pull until you are in the fully upright position and hold for a second or two before lowering the dumbbells down to touch the floor. By placing the dumbbells on the outer side of each foot, you involve a lot of upper Back action as you pull up.
Repeat all of the cues for the desired amount of repetitions.
If you've grown stale from your list of dumbbell Lat exercises, why not try the Twisted One Arm Dumbbell Row. While similar in some ways to the Single-Arm Dumbbell Row, the twisted version targets the lower Lats to the point that they almost cramp.
Equipment Needed: Flat bench and one dumbbell.
Set-Up: The set-up is the most important aspect for getting the exercise looking and feeling right.
1: Start by kneeling on the edge of a flat bench and placing your hand as support, similar to a Single-arm dumbbell row. The goal here is to place the leg that is on the ground as far back as possible without losing your balance and falling over.
2: The next part of this setup is responsible for the lower Lat being involved. Pick up a dumbbell and twist your upper torso so that you're looking over the hip of the leg resting on the ground.
Cue 1: Unlike the traditional Single Arm Row, where you lower the weight to the floor for a fuller stretch before rowing it, here you only row until your arm is straight. With your torso twisted in place, retract your shoulder and pull the dumbbell as if you're about to place it in your back pocket.
Cue 2: At this point, you should feel your lower Lat muscles contract. While maintaining the twist, bring the dumbbell back to the straight arm position, making sure not to lose your balance. Remember that you are not rowing the dumbbell to the ground but until your arm is straight.
Cue 3: Make sure that before each repetition that you are twisted and looking over your hip before retracting your shoulder and setting off.
When it’s time to get strict with your list of dumbbell Lat exercises, this rowing movement does everything to make sure you fall into line. Unlike the other dumbbell row variations that leave room for you to jerk around, the Flat Platform dumbbell Row locks you into place, giving you less room to swing or use momentum.
Items Needed: Flat bench, 2 crates, and one pair of dumbbells
The Setup: Raise a flat bench off the floor by placing it on two crates to allow for more room without the dumbbells hitting the floor.
Cue 2: Lay flat on the bench and grab a weight in each hand with palms facing each other. Have your feet set back to allow your thighs to stay out of the line of the movement.
Cue 3: Set Scapula first by pulling back on your shoulder blades. Pull the dumbbells back and row them up in line with your Hips.
Cue 4: As the dumbbells return to the start position, protract the scapula to invite an extra stretch and involvement of the upper back muscle.
You could also turn this exercise movement into a Dumbbell Row Hold by placing more effort into the row portion of the exercise with a 2-5 second hold at the top of each repetition.
You could also test yourself by turning this movement into an Isometric Dumbbell Row by only focusing on the top portion of the movement and holding the position for up to 30 seconds. This will also help you to strengthen your grip on other exercises.
I’ll never forget the first time I tried a Nautilus Pullover and thought it was the best exercise you could do for Lats. Since then, I’ve never been able to replicate the same feeling; but with the Reverse Decline Dumbbell Pullover, I think you can get in the same ballpark which is close enough for a dumbbell Back workout at home. This will target the lower Lat area.
This is where you need to slow the movement down and find your groove to get the best out of this dumbbell Lat exercise.
Items Needed: A decline bench or one end of a flat bench on a low to medium height platform. You will also need one pair of dumbbells.
Cue 1: Lay back on a decline bench with your arms behind the head and the dumbbells in a reverse grip.
Cue 2: Retract your shoulders by bringing them down and tensing your Lats.
Cue 3: Bring your arms over in a semi-cycle motion to your mid-torso while still squeezing your Lat muscles.
A great rep range to work in for building muscle and achieving maximum motor unit recruitment is from 5 to 20 repetitions per set, aiming to leave 1- 2 repetitions in reserve on all working sets. Sets will depend on your training structure, ability to recover, and general fatigue levels, but a good start would be anything from 2-3 working sets and upwards of 4-5 working sets per exercise.
If you use full-body workouts, you could choose one dumbbell back exercise per session changing rep ranges on every workout – Example:
Workout One: 5- 6 reps per set
Workout Two: 7-8 reps per set
Workout Three: 10-12 reps per set
Workout Four: 15-20 reps per set.
To take your dumbbell back workout to a new level, add in an intensity technique once per week.
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