Your lat muscles are the widest, most powerful muscles in your back. A workout that includes lat exercises at home will not only strengthen these muscles, but also make it easy to stay on track with your fitness goals. All you need are a few pieces of equipment and a small workout area.
Why Lat Workouts at Home?
Your lats, or latissimus dorsi, are two large, flat, triangular muscles in your back. The lats work primarily to support movements of the upper extremities, including your arms, abdominals and pectoral muscles. They come into play anytime you perform pulling or rowing motions, such as pull-ups — or even opening a door. These muscles also assist in proper breathing by raising up the lower ribs.
Aim to strength-train your lats and all other major muscle groups at least two days a week, per the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The Guidelines also suggest getting at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, such as walking or cycling.
Using dumbbells and resistance bands, you can create effective lat workouts at home to satisfy your activity requirements. With a home routine, you'll be less likely to skip a workout for lack of time or desire to hit the gym.
Choose five to seven exercises from the suggestions here and perform three to five sets of each exercise, with about 10 to 16 repetitions each. You can gradually increase the weight on each set and move up in weights as you get stronger, one session at a time.
1. Lat Exercises With Dumbbells
Dumbbells allow you to work each of your lats individually for focused muscle engagement and strengthening. They also provide both mechanic and metabolic overload, according to the American Council on Exercise. Mechanic overload results from the damage caused by muscle contractions, while metabolic overload results from working the muscle to fatigue.
Whereas heavier dumbbells combined with fewer exercise repetitions are associated with mechanic overload, lighter dumbbells combined with more reps are associated with metabolic overload. Both types of exercises help stimulate muscle growth. Examples of dumbbell lat exercises at home can include:
- Start in a plank position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and heels over toes.
- Hold one dumbbell in each hand, and make sure your knuckles are flush with the floor to keep your wrists straight.
- Bend your elbows into a push-up position. Push yourself up and down and alternate rowing the dumbbells on the right and left, bending your elbows and squeezing your lats as you row up.
Move 2: Balancing Rows
- Perform the same rowing action as the renegade row, but stand up and balance on one foot at a time.
- As you work out, make sure your torso is parallel with the floor, your back is flat and your core is engaged.
- Gaze down to keep your head in line with your heels.
Move 3: Standing Dumbbell Rows
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and parallel with a slight bend in your knees. Hinge forward from your hips with a flat back.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and straighten out your arms with your palms facing each other.
- Bend your elbows to row the weights up and down, pausing at torso level each time. You can also alternate rows to focus on one lat at a time.
2. Resistance-Band Lat Exercises
Resistance bands come in various resistance strengths, so you can choose a lighter resistance as you get started and go heavier as you gain strength. These accessories provide resistance throughout the exercise and cause your muscle fibers to fire differently, providing a different challenge for your lats.
Move 1: Pull-Downs
- Hold a resistance band overhead between your hands.
- Squeeze your lats as you bend your elbows down into your sides.
The closer your hands are together, the harder the exercise. Take a wider grip for less of a challenge. This exercise mimics the lat-pull machine at the gym.
Move 2: Seated or Standing Rows
- Wrap a band around a sturdy pole or piece of furniture that won't move as you work.
- Hold the band in each hand, and step back to add adequate tension.
- From a seated or standing position with your feet hip-width apart and parallel and a slight bend in your knees, squeeze your lats and bend your elbows in to your sides.
Move 3: Bent-Over Rows
- Stand on the band with your feet hip-width apart and parallel, and bend your knees slightly.
- Grab the band in each hand closer to your feet to ensure you have enough tension.
- Row the band up and down, as with standing dumbbell rows.
Move 4: Compound Rows
- Again, wrap a band around a sturdy object.
- Grab the band in each hand and step back to add tension.
- Hinge forward from your hips with your feet hip-width apart and parallel, and knees bent.
- Straighten your arms, and then stand up and simultaneously bend your elbows in to your sides and squeeze your lats.
This exercise works not only your lats, but also your lower back, glutes and hamstrings.
Move 5: Band and Dumbbell Combo Row
- Perform the three types of banded exercises described, but add dumbbells.
- Simply tie each end of the resistance band around a dumbbell and row on.
You might want to use lighter weights when combining bands and dumbbells.
Additional Lat Exercises at Home
If your home is equipped with a pull-up bar, traditional pull-ups will work your lats too. Pull-ups require you to lift your entire body up and down from the ground, making them one of the most challenging lat exercises, whether at home or at the gym.
You can modify this movement by looping a heavy resistance band around the pull-up bar. Pull one end through to make a big circle, and place one knee in the loop that's dangling down. As you pull up, the band will give you a lift to assist.
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"
- American Council on Exercise: "5 Benefits of Dumbbell Training"
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: "How to Do Proper Push-Ups and Pull-Ups"
- ExRx.net: "Barbell Underhand Bent-Over Row"
- ExRx.net: "Barbell Close Grip Bent-Over Row"
- American Council on Exercise: "Renegade Row"
- UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services: "How to Get Started - Resistance Bands"
- Piedmont Healthcare: "Stay Injury-Free: The Lat Pulldown"
- ExRx.net: "Latissimus Dorsi"
- HelpGuide.org: "How to Exercise if You Have Limited Mobility"