For full transparency: This post contains affiliate links. If you buy through a link I would earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Only personally used or thoroughly researched products are recommended. Learn more.

7 Lat Exercises At Home (With Dumbbells)

In this article, I’m going to show you how to train your lats across all of their functional ranges of movement. You’ll build a strong, healthy back without causing shoulder issues. Pull ups, rows and even overhead pressing will become easier if you follow this program.

The lats are a really interesting muscle (well, if you’re a training geek like me – they are!)

They’re huge, they’re functionally important for a wide range of reasons, and they’re prized by many men for aesthetic reasons. Unfortunately though, they’re really misunderstood. 

A lot of lat exercises don’t really help them. They repeat the same moving patterns over and over again, don’t vary rep ranges, and eventually lead to ‘overactive’ lats (they become too tight). 

Overactive lats are one the most common causes of shoulder pain and compromised overhead and general shoulder movement patterns. Typically this is the result of an ineffective, poorly-constructed training program.

I’ve used this with dozens of my clients over the past 20 years as a personal trainer. 

So give these 7 exercises your time, and I’ll give you a brand new back.

This program is written with home gyms in mind, meaning you don’t need access to a range of specialist equipment. The lat workouts here can be done with basic equipment you can easily buy for a home gym.

Equipment requirements

To do these 7 lat exercises without having to tweak anything, here’s the equipment you’ll need…

7 lat exercises

Here’s the main lat exercises that will help you to get those developed lats and strong back…

The Meaty Wings Program part 1

1. Inverted rows

Inverted rows are a great way to train the lats, scapular retraction, core and spinal stability in one go. It’s a simple set up, doesn’t need much in the way of technique and has a lot of additional bicep and shoulder training benefits.

Inverted rows are deceptively tough as well! As always, focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together throughout the movement. 

This is a great lat exercise that can be done without any equipment too (you simply can use a table if you must!)

Equipment needed for inverted rows:

Rogue Ohio Cerakote Bar

Rogue Ohio Bar Cerakote
Read our best Olympic barbell guide here

This is the bar that we recommend for ‘most people’.

We have spent over 120 hours of research and tested over 100 barbells.

It is affordable but comes with some high specs. The Rogue Work Hardening and 190k PSI tensile strength mean the bar will last a lifetime in a home gym.

It is a multi-purpose bar with a 28.5mm diameter shaft and composite bushings in the sleeves. This means it’s balanced for heavy slow bench presses but you can also perform snatches and fast overhead lifts.

How to do an inverted row:

  • Secure your bar in place
  • Secure your feet (or at least make sure they’re not going to slip!)
  • With a straight back, slowly lower yourself away from the bar until your arms are straight
  • Maintaining the straight back, pull yourself back up to the bar, squeezing the shoulder blades together throughout
  • When your torso reaches the bar, pause then slowly lower yourself away from the bar by straightening your arms
  • Repeat as many times as required

The inverted row is becoming too easy already? Then check out our more challenging inverted row alternatives.

2. Deadlifts

Deadlifts are the ultimate hinge movement. They’re a foundation human movement with huge crossover into other patterns and physical abilities. Used properly, they can build strength, reduce injury risk and ofer huge variety to a program.

Deadlifts are often seen as the king of exercises, and it’s a claim with plenty of support.

This is a great lat exercise with dumbbells or a barbell. 

Equipment needed for deadlifts:

Rogue Fleck Bumper Plates

Rogue Fleck Bumper Plate
Read our best bumper plates guide here

Bumper plates are ideal for a home gym.

They can last a lifetime and allow you to do additional lifts which require you to drop the bar.

Our team has compared over 100 types and the Rogue Fleck plates came out on top.

They are great value, use color allowing you to quickly see how much you’re lifting and the pattern will give your home gym a unique look.

How to do deadlifts:

  • Assume an overhand or alternating grip on the bar, about shoulder width apart
  • Bend your legs, keep your back straight and your chest up
  • Drive through your legs, keeping your arms straight as you lift – this will lift the bar to hip height
  • At the top of the movement squeeze the glutes together and push the hips forward slightly
  • Reverse the movement on the way down – start by pushing the hips back and lowering the weight down by bending your legs, keeping your chest up and back straight throughout
  • Repeat as many times as required

3. Wide grip bent over barbell row

This is the classic horizontal row exercise and has been a staple of training programmes for years. It’s a way to not only train the back, but it also activates the glutes and lower back as it requires them to work in order to keep the torso stable whilst lifting a heavy weight.

Always go with an overhand grip for the exercise in this program.

Equipment needed for bent over barbell rows:

  • Barbell
  • Plates

How to do bent over barbell rows:

  • Hold the barbell with an overhand grip
  • Set your body position – straight, stiff back. Chest pointing towards the floor, perhaps with a slight incline, slight knee bend
  • Pull the barbell up towards your chest, squeezing the shoulder blades together at the top
  • At the top of the movement pause then slowly lower the barbell, but don’t let it touch the floor
  • Repeat as many times as required

If you’re finding the bent over row too hard on your lower back, consider substituting it with another exercise from our bent over row alternatives.

4. Single arm row

Single arm rows are very effective because they force each side to work independently. They require shoulder and trunk stability to maintain good torso position throughout the lift too.

With the single arm row you can lift some serious weight – this forces the lats to engage hard in order to maintain spinal stability and prevent over-rotation throughout the lift.

Equipment needed for single arm rows:

  • Dumbbell
  • Bench

REP AB-3000 Bench

REP AB-3000 Weight Bench
Read our best weight bench guide here

This is the weight bench we recommend for ‘most people’.

We compared over 70 benches against 12 criteria. This is our highest-ranked flat, incline & decline (FID) bench.

Some adjustable benches can be a bit wobbly when on the incline. But the AB-3000 is very sturdy.

With a height 18mm it’s comparable to benches that cost twice as much.

How to do an single arm row:

  • Place a hand and knee on a bench, with the other leg on the floor for stability.
  • Hold the dumbbell in the free hand, with your arm straight down. 
  • Pull the dumbbell up to the rib cage, bending the elbow behind you as you do.
  • Once the dumbbell is at rib height, pause and lower to the start position.

Note: be sure to check out our dumbbell back exercises or our upper body dumbbell workout if you enjoy using your dumbbells.

The Meaty Wings Program Part 2

5. Pull ups

The Everest of bodyweight lat exercises for many. Pull ups combine the huge muscle building benefits of training a lot of muscle in one go, with the physical challenge of being pretty damn tough.

They also train grip and at the bottom, they stretch the lats. This stretch helps with shoulder health.

They’re a simple technique to learn, but hard to do. If you can do pull ups well, add weight to ensure you fail at around the 8-10 rep mark.

Equipment needed for pull ups:

How to do a pull up:

  • Jump up and grab the pull up bar with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder width
  • Lean back slightly and pull your chest to the bar, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you do
  • When your chest reaches the bar, slowly lower yourself down to a full extension of the arms
  • Repeat the movement

6. Chin ups

The chin up is the pull up with an underhand grip. Although the movement pattern is exactly the same, the underhand grip activates the bicep more, which has a couple of benefits – it builds the arms, so you don’t need additional bicep work.

The other one is that it is slightly easier than pull ups because of the bicep help, so you can add more volume. Adding the pull ups and chin ups to the lat workout makes it both challenging and effective, plus it’ll help you improve your strength and shoulder flexibility dramatically.

Equipment needed for chin ups:

  • Pull up/chin up bar

How to do a chin up:

  • Jump up and grab the pull up bar with an underhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder width
  • Lean back slightly and pull your chest to the bar, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you do
  • When your chest reaches the bar, slowly lower yourself down to a full extension of the arms
  • Repeat the movement

7. Dumbbell Pullovers

The dumbbell pullover is an excellent lat exercise for two reasons – the first is that it forces a deep stretch of the lats and thorax. The second is that it helps to activate the stabilizing muscles where the lats and shoulders meet.

It offers a unique contraction angle of the muscles, adding variety to the lat workout.

Equipment needed for dumbbell pullovers:

  • Bench
  • Dumbbell

SMRFT Nüobell 80LB Adjustable Dumbbells

SMRFT Nüobell 80LB Classic
Read our best adjustable dumbbell guide here

These are the dumbbells we recommend for ‘most people’.

We have spent over 50 hours of research and compared over 100 dumbbells. Adjustable dumbbells make sense for most home gyms as they save space.

The Nüobell dumbbells go all the way to 80lbs per hand. This means they are much more versatile than most 50lbs adjustable dumbbells. You can use these for heavy shrugs, squats and bench press etc.

The main reason they are the top pick is because of their shape. They actually feel like real dumbbells and are not awkward to lift like some others.

How to do dumbbell pullovers:

  • Lie on bench so your arms are able to reach behind you in an overhead position
  • Take a dumbbell and hold in both hands, with your arms fully extended directly in front of your head
  • Maintaining straight arms throughout, extend the dumbbell overhead and behind you, towards the floor
  • Keep going until you feel a stretch in the lats, but no further – if your lower back starts to arch, you’ve gone too far
  • At maximum stretch, hold for a second and return the dumbbell over your face to the start position
  • Repeat as necessary

These lat exercises cover a range of movement patterns, rep ranges and intensities. By following the program properly you’ll give your lats a great workout and see the result quickly.

Note: If you’re enjoying developing your lats by using dumbbells, be sure to check out our dumbbell lat exercises as well.

The latissimus dorsi in more detail…

Of all the muscles in the back, the latissimus dorsi is the largest. It covers a huge surface area, spreading from the pelvis at the bottom to the thorax (upper-mid back) at the top. It also attaches to the ribs.

Lat muscle depiction

The lats have various responsibilities in the body, so rather than go into detail, I’ll bullet point them…


  • Abduct and adduct the arms (move them towards and away from the body, like a wing flapping motion)
  • Medially rotate the arms (bring them in towards the center of the body)
  • Externally rotate the arms (move them away from the center of the body, like spreading your wings)
  • Extend the arms overhead (putting your hands in the air)

Accessory responsibilities

  • Help the ribcage expand and contract during breathing
  • Stabilize the back – either when under heavy load (such as lifting a weight) or when moving side to side
  • Moving the trunk forward during overhead movements

How does research say we should train them?

It has long been my anecdotal observation that we overemphasize the importance of grip width and hand position during exercises, expecting dramatic changes by moving hands a few inches wider apart.

I’ve seen people adjust grip by small amounts, claiming they ‘feel’ the difference – I’ve never believed them. 

This observation has been proven in the research. Lehman et al in their 2004 study on ‘Variations in muscle activation levels during traditional latissimus dorsi weight training exercises’ concluded…

‘There appears to be very little difference in muscle activity between the wide grip lat pulldown and the supinated grip lat pulldown for the biceps and latissimus dorsi muscles.’

Taking this as a start point means we shouldn’t worry too much about precise variations in grip width and angles. Instead, the focus should be on variety and quality of movements.

Further latissimus dorsi EMG research shows that the most activation comes from pull ups and chin ups. This isn’t a huge surprise – when you consider the movements the lats are responsible for (in the section above), these two lat exercises work them across the full spectrum.

For this reason, we’re using these exercises as our big volume plays in the program, performing both of these exercises to failure for multiple sets. 

Our emphasis here is to ensure we have plenty of training variety in terms of direction and type of muscle contraction. We’ve also got variations in grip width and position – the thinking here is to maximize muscle stimulation variety.

A person performing chest supported rows

The workout is a medium-high volume, medium-heavy load approach designed to maximize muscle size and quality. The movements include overhead pulls from an extended position, horizontal and vertical pulls and single arm movements.

Lat exercises: The bottom line

Across this program, I’ve explained what the lats are, how they work and how to train them. The focus is on effective lat exercises performed with a high-quality movement pattern. You don’t need to waste time worrying about precise grip widths etc – the research shows it’s not a huge deal.

Simple movements, done well and done often are all you need.

Follow this lat workout for 8 weeks and watch your back strength improve, building you a broader, more triangular physique and improved athleticism. You’ll help to wave bye bye to back and shoulder injuries too – and who doesn’t want that?

Check out our quad exercises workout or our dumbbell ab workout to complement this one.

Photo of author
Hi! My name is Steve Hoyles. I’m a personal trainer, gym owner and fitness copywriter. Since graduating with my Sports Science degree in 2004 I’ve worked in the fitness industry, helping thousands of people reach their health and fitness goals. My writing has been read by millions of people in over 200 countries.

Leave a Comment