16 Best Latissimus Dorsi Exercises

Work your back muscles with these moves

Your back includes some of the largest muscles in the anatomy, muscles that are used every day to support your spine and body. These muscles also comprise some of the core muscles, particularly the lats.

Developing these muscles will not only give your body great proportion but also help you have a strong, sturdy base for all kinds of daily activities. The lats, aka the latissimus dorsi, are the large muscles of the back. These muscles are located on either side of the back and travel from the back of the shoulder down to the hips.

The lat muscles are involved in pulling motions, like pulling open a door or, in exercise, doing a pull-up.

Because of that movement, typical lat exercises involve a pulling or rowing motion. The following exercises show various ways to work the lat muscles using dumbbells and resistance bands. Remember that these are large muscles, so you can typically use a heavier weight, depending on the exercise.

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Creating Your Lat Workout

Put together your own lat workout using the suggestions below:


Choose 1-2 exercises and perform 1-2 sets of 12-16 reps. A good choice would be one arm dumbbell rows and seated rows using a resistance band. These exercises will target the muscles just a bit differently so you can challenge your body in a different way.

Intermediate or Advanced

Choose 2-4 different exercises. For example, a dumbbell row followed by a barbell row and a straight arm pull. Try a variety of moves with different types of equipment to work your muscles in a different way. Go for 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps, resting between sets.

  • Make a complete back workout by including exercises for your upper back and lower back.
  • Use enough weight or resistance that you can complete the desired number of reps.

Safety and Precautions

Don't perform any back exercises that aggravate your back in any way that causes unusual pain or discomfort beyond that expected from working your targeted muscles in a challenging way. If you do not know how to maintain correct form with these exercises, don't perform them until you've received guidance from a personal trainer.


It is a misconception that there are exercises you can do to target your upper, mid, or lower lats. The latissimus dorsi are a pair of large muscles, one on either side of your middle to lower back. They work as a unit, so any movement you perform that relies on your lats will use the entire muscle. In other words, it's impossible to isolate your upper, lower, or mid lats, only the whole muscle.

Latissimus Dorsi Exercises

Below you will find descriptions and instructions for the following exercises:

  1. One arm row on one leg
  2. Lat pulls with bands
  3. Barbell rows
  4. Dumbbell pullovers
  5. Renegade row
  6. Pull-ups
  7. Dumbbell rows
  8. One-arm rows
  9. Seated rows with resistance bands
  10. Bent over row with bands
  11. Power plank with rows
  12. Dumbbell rows with bands
  13. Alternating dumbbell rows
  14. Straight arm pulls
  15. Barbell pullovers
  16. Compound row

One Arm Row on One Leg

Exercise class balancing with dumbbells in gym studio
Caiaimage/Trevor Adeline / Getty Images

Doing a row on one leg adds a balance challenge, so you'll probably use a lighter weight. To start, shift the weight to the right leg and tip from the hips, taking the torso parallel to the floor as you lift the left leg straight up. Your body should be in a straight line from head to heel.

Hold onto a wall for balance if you need to. From this position, pull the elbow up into a row and slowly lower down.

If you feel shaky, take the leg down and rest lightly on the toes, keeping most of the weight in the front leg. Repeat for 12-16 reps on each side.


Lat Pulls With Bands

Ponytailed woman training using a resistance band sitting on a fitness ball
Wavebreakmedia Ltd / Getty Images

The lat pull with bands resembles the lat pull machine at the gym. If you want to make this exercise more challenging, you can use a door holder for your band and secure it in a doorway above you.

Otherwise, hold the band overhead and squeeze the back to pull the elbows down towards the rib cage. To make it harder, hold the band with the hands closer together. You can also do this exercise one arm at a time for a more targeted move. Repeat for 12-16 reps.


Barbell Rows

Rowing Barbell
Bojan656 / Getty Images

While dumbbells allow you to work each side individually, a barbell allows you to lift a heavier weight than you would with separate weights. To start, hold the barbell with the palms facing your body and tip from the hips until your torso is at about a 45-degree angle. You don't want to lower the torso too far because that can strain your back, especially if your weight is heavy.

Keeping the knees bent to protect the back, take the bar straight out and then squeeze the back to pull the barbell in towards your belly button. Repeat for 12-16 reps. You can also do this move with the palms out, as in a biceps curl.


Dumbbell Pullovers

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Pullovers are a great exercise because they work multiple muscle groups simultaneously—the lats, the chest, and the triceps. If you do them on the ball, you also engage your lower body and core.

To start, get into a bridge position holding a weight straight up overhead. If you're new to this move, start with a lighter weight. Keeping the arms straight, elbows slightly bent, lower the weight behind you to about head-level or as far as you feel comfortable. Squeeze the back and slowly pull the weight back to start, repeating for 12-16 reps.


Renegade Row

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The renegade row involves quite a bit of core, as well as the lower body, increasing muscular coordination and dynamic flexibility. To start, get into a plank position on the hands and toes or knees. Hold onto two dumbbells with the palms facing each other. If this bothers your hands, try just one at a time.

Holding the plank position, alternate rowing each weight up and down for 12-16 reps. If this is too tough, do this move on your knees, keeping the knees directly under the hips and the hands under the shoulders.


Pull Ups

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

No list of back exercises would be complete without mentioning pull-ups. These are probably the toughest of all back exercises because you're lifting your body weight very far off the ground. If you're new to pull-ups, there are ways to modify to move and slowly build the strength to lift your entire body.

Start by putting a chair or sturdy stool under the pull-up bar. With hands wider than shoulders, prop one foot (or both feet if needed) on the chair and use that leverage to pull your body up.

Lower and repeat for 8 or more reps. Over time, you can try using less from your lower body and more from your upper body.

Try This Variation

Use a chair to pull yourself up into position and then slowly lower yourself down without the chair. These are called negatives, which are a great way to build upper body strength.


Dumbbell Rows

For this move, hinge from the hips, keeping the back flat and the abs engaged. The weights (which should be on the heavy side) hang down, and you squeeze the back to pull the elbows up to the torso level.

You don't want to yank the weights up, but really use those back muscles to regulate the movement. The elbows should stop just above the torso level. Because you're bent over with weights hanging down, your lower back works hard to keep your body in position.

Bend the knees if you feel a strain in the lower back and keep your abs engaged.


One Arm Row

You can often go even heavier for the one-arm row because you're supporting your lower back with one hand on the other leg, unlike the double-arm rows. For this exercise, engage the lat as you pull the elbow up to the torso level. At the top, squeeze the shoulder blades together to get more muscles involved. Lower the weight and repeat for 12-16 reps per side.


Seated Rows With Resistance Bands

Resistance bands can change the entire rowing exercise. The resistance band gives you resistance throughout the movement, so your muscle fibers will fire a little differently.

For this move, you can do it standing or sitting. Wrap a band around a sturdy object in front of you and hold the handles in each hand. Move back far enough that you have a challenging tension in the band.

Keeping the shoulder down, squeeze the back to row the elbows in, stopping at torso level. Release and repeat for 12-16 reps.


Bent Over Row With Bands

For this move, loop the band under both feet and grab onto the band closer to the feet. This will let you get more tension in the band than holding the handles. With the back flat and parallel to the floor (or as close as you can get), pull the elbows up into a row, stopping at the torso level.

This move is a great compliment to dumbbell rows, adding a different type of intensity to the exercise.

Repeat for 12-16 reps. This move is also great with tempo changes. For example, start with 8 rows and then, keeping the elbows at the top of the movement, do 8 small and slow pulses to increase your time under tension.


Power Plank With Rows

This advanced exercise hits two birds with one stone. The plank activates the abs, lower back, and lower body. Adding a row means you work the core even more since you're balancing the body on one hand and you're also working the lats.

Start with a plank position on the hands and toes with wide feet. For a modification, do this move on the knees. Hold a kettlebell or a dumbbell and pull the elbow up into a row. Lower and repeat for 12-16 reps while holding the plank the entire time. Take a break and then switch sides.


Dumbbell Rows With Bands

One great way to add even more intensity to your lat work is to combine weights with resistance bands. To start, loop the band under your feet and then wrap each side of the band around a set of dumbbells. Make sure you can safely hold each weight without dropping them.

You may want to go lighter on the weights with the addition of the band.

Tip from the hips and keep the back flat and abs in as you row the weights up and down for 12-16 reps.


Alternating Dumbbell Rows

One way to change traditional dumbbell rows is to alternate them from right to left. This activates a bit more core and allows you to concentrate on one arm at a time.

To start, tip from the hips and keep the back flat. Slowly bend the right elbow, pulling it up to the torso level. Lower and now lift the left elbow into a row. Alternate, taking your time with each rep for 12-16 reps.


Straight Arm Pulls

This exercise targets the back, but it also targets the triceps as well. Balancing on the ball means your lower back and legs work to stabilize your body.

To do this, anchor a band around a sturdy object in front of you and then position yourself with the ball under the torso. Make sure you're far enough away from the anchor to have tension on the band.

Start with the arms straight out in front of you and, keeping them straight, pull them down and back behind you, squeezing the back. Repeat for 12-16 reps.


Barbell Pullovers

Using a barbell increases the intensity of this exercise quite a bit. Unlike dumbbell pullovers, you'll want to keep your elbows bent the entire time, so you don't go too far and end up dropping the weight.

Start on a bench holding the barbell with hands close together just over the ribcage. Keeping the elbows bent, lift the weight and take the arms back behind the head. Squeeze the back to pull the barbell back to start, and repeat for 12-16 reps.


Compound Row

This dynamic move works the lats and the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. Wrap a band around a sturdy object in front of you and step back until you feel the tension in the band. Tip from the hips, knees slightly bent, and abs in, keeping the arms straight. Stand up and, at the same time, pull the elbows to torso level in a rowing motion. Release and repeat for 12-16 reps.

You might choose a heavier band for this exercise to get the most out of the move.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."