You probably hated chin-ups and pull-ups in gym class and the idea of doing them again just for toned lats is likely unappealing at best. Luckily, there are plenty of other exercises for the lats that can be done with free weights such as dumbbells, barbells and resistance bands. Lats is short for latissimus dorsi, which are muscles of the middle back. Many lat exercises involve the arm muscles, so pay close attention when doing these exercises that you can feel your back working.
Seated Lat Row
The seated lat row may be done with a cable row machine or a resistance band. Either way, sit on the floor or a bench with your arms straight in front of you. Hold the handles of the band or the machine. Extend your legs straight in front of you if you are sitting on the floor or bend your knees and place your feet on the floor if you are sitting on a bench. A machine cable will be attached to the pulley in front of you at stomach level or a resistance band should be tied around a sturdy object at stomach level. Your palms may face down or inwards. Pull your arms toward you and bend your elbows, keeping the elbows close to your body. This will work your lat muscles. Straighten your arms to complete the exercise. A common error is leaning back as you pull the resistance toward your torso. Keep the torso upright or very nearly upright as you pull the resistance. It's okay to lean forward at the beginning and the end of each rep.
Bent-Over Dumbbell Row
The bent-over dumbbell row exercise uses two dumbbells. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your upper body bent over at a near 90-degree angle to your legs. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms extended toward the floor and your palms turned inwards. You will bend your elbows and lift them toward the ceiling and tight to your sides. This motion works your lats. The arms are then extended toward the floor again to finish the exercise.
Barbell Lat Pull-Over
Perform the barbell lat pull-over by lying on your back on an exercise bench and holding a barbell behind your head. The barbell is held toward the floor with your elbows bent and your palms facing the ceiling. Hold the barbell with your hands spaced shoulder-width apart. Your feet will be on the floor on each side of the bench and your back and head will be in contact with the bench the entire time. From this starting position, raise your arms and straighten them so that the barbell is brought up and over your head until your arms are pointing toward the ceiling. This motion will involve your lat muscles and your arms. You will bend your elbows and lower the barbell back behind your head and toward the floor again to complete the exercise.
- “A Guide to Personal Fitness Training"; Aerobics and Fitness Association of America; Mary Yoke, MA and Laura Gladwin, MS; 2003
- Exrx.net: Dumbbell Bent-Over Row