Lat Exercises at Home – The Ultimate Guide

Lat exercises at home are an excellent way to improve your core fitness without having enough time or facilities. Home-based training is simple, with only yourself and some music! In this article, we’ll go over all the benefits of lat exercises so that you understand how they work – from what type is best suited depending on starting point for strength levels etc., as well as tips & techniques supporting overall physical performance.

Overview

The latissimus dorsi, or lats, are wing-shaped muscles that connect your arms to the side of your spine, i.e. shoulder blades. These muscles stabilize and are one of the largest muscles in your spine and give strength to the shoulders and back. They also aid in moving the shoulders and keeping a good posture. 

The good news is that working out your lats will significantly improve the strength of your upper body and give you a more muscular back. It will also give you a more comprehensive range of motion.

Unfortunately, most people don’t bat an eye for their lats, which may become a real issue when an injury occurs. For instance, a tiny tear in the lats leads to chronic shoulder and neck pain. More advanced cases may cause shoulder tendonitis (i.e., inflammation of the shoulder tendons). 

For this reason, you should keep your lats under enough stress to strengthen the muscle fibres and lower your risk of injury.

This in-depth article will offer you all you need to grasp the latissimus dorsi, including an array of lat exercises at home to reap the benefits of these fantastic muscles.

What is the location of the latissimus dorsi?

Back Muscles
Back Muscles you can see the latissimus dorsi. Illustration 72177958 © Viktoria Kabanova | Dreamstime.com

The latissimus dorsi is a broad, flat muscle covering most of your lower back. It ensures several upper body movements and serves as a respiratory accessory muscle. 

With the levator scapulae, rhomboid, and trapezius muscles, the latissimus dorsi sits on the superficial layer of the back muscles.

The latissimus dorsi works to perform actions of the upper extremity. Other muscles that serve similar functions include the teres major and the pectoralis major.

“What are these functions?” we hear you ask. Lat Dorsi enables you to bring your arm near your body and rotate it.

Latissimus dorsi, along with the teres major and the sternal head of the pectoralis major, is also active in the humerus extension. Moreover, this muscle aids with moving the trunk forward and upward. Activities that require this action include climbing and chin up.

Because the latissimus dorsi is primarily composed of type II muscle fibres (around 67%), researchers believe it’s meant for explosive movements, such as pulling and throwing. 

What the Lats Do?

Having solid lats allows you to pull your body weight up with good form, helping overall strength. Swimming, climbing, and chin-ups for those cross-fit or callisthenics people are prime examples of what you need your lats for.

These muscles also allow for breathing during times of physiological stress. This means that when you have an intense workout, your lats play a significant role intervene to help with breathing. The mechanism for this? Well, the lats expand the rib cage when you inhale. As a result, your lungs can bring in more volume of air. 

When you exhale, the lats decrease the trunk’s circumference, squeezing more air out of your lungs. 

Adduction, or bringing your arm closer to the body’s midline, is also part of your lats’ functions.

How to strengthen your lats?

How can you strengthen your lat muscles? The answer resides within the question.

The latissimus dorsi muscles grow and become more powerful like any other muscle group – With the help of strength training. Engaging these muscles in compound movements that lead to microscopic tears in the cells will lead to bigger, more muscular fibres. 

You can also use active and passive stretching to achieve this purpose. However, don’t force yourself; only stretch the muscles to a comfortable point.

 If you aim to achieve the utmost of yourself and work out, make sure that both blood and oxygen are flowing properly. The best way is by stretching before exercise or at least doing this first thing in order to acquire maximum benefit from each session! You would include lat stretching exercises at home at least 3 times a week.

Putting Together the Ultimate Lat Routine

Putting together the ultimate lat routine requires organization and discipline. However, it doesn’t have to be very complicated for lat workouts. Including one or two of the exercises listed below in your routine is a great way to get started.

 If you decide to push things a notch further, pick several exercises and create a one-day routine for the lats and heavier weight. These exercises will also engage other muscles, giving your entire body a workout.

We recommend doing 1–3 lat exercises per workout for beginners, starting with lighter weight. If things go smoothly, add a few more exercises to your routine.

Once you’re comfortable and your lats become more robust, you can dedicate one day per week just for your lats. Believe us, it will be very worth it!

Warming Up Is Crucial

For warmups, focus on low-impact exercises to increase your heart rate, breathing frequency, and blood flow. This will also allow the synovial fluid to circulate inside your joint capsules, preventing injuries during the game.

In recent guidelines about sports injuries, the best way to warm up for injury prevention is: 

  • Forward running (1-2 laps)
  • Forward run with zig-zag (1-2 laps)
  • One leg jump over a line
  • Jumps in place

Cooling down is as important as warming up. This phase aims to lower your heart rate, cardiac output, and muscle engagement. The duration of your cool-down should be around 5–10 minutes.

At-Home Lat Pulldown Alternatives

To isolate the lats and find an alternative to the pulldown, you can perform a variation of the dumbbell pullover. Put your upper back on the bench’s side instead of lying down in line with it. Use your lower body to maintain this position.

The correct position should leave a small portion of your back and feet in contact with the bench/floor. Create a right-angle between the bench and your spine.

Once ready, follow these steps:

  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand.
  • Place your arms above your chest.
  • Each palm should be looking at the other one.
  • Take a deep breath and bring the dumbbells back and over your head.
  • Aim for complete extension in a few seconds.
  • As you release oxygen, return your arms to their initial stance. 
  • Repeat this movement 8-12 times.

Weight-free Lat Exercises: How do you strengthen Lats without using weights?

Do you want to work on your lat muscles but don’t have the time or money to invest? We’ve got the solution!

 If you don’t want to use equipment, bodyweight workouts are the way to go. You can perform them in your own backyard, even if it is a little one! Of course, there is no need for heaps of junk that takes up space or produces noise while moving about at residence, so free weights like dumbbells or kettlebells are preferable.

Reverse snow angels

  • Place yourself on the floor in a facedown position. Put your arms on your sides with palms facing down. Lift your shoulders and hands a few centimetres off the ground. (You can do this by bringing your scapulae together)
  • Keep your head facing downward.
  • Take your arms up beyond your shoulders very slowly. Continue extending your arms until the thumbs come in contact above your head.
  • Bring your arms to the initial position.
  • Throughout the motion, hold your arms extended and your elbows locked. Repeat the exercise 5 times for around 3 to 4 sets. Rest for 30–60 seconds between sets.

Superman

For this exercise, the best part is that you don’t even need a bench. A simple yoga mat would do.

  • Lie face down on the floor. The ankles should be in contact.
  • Extend your arms forward and place the palms of your hands on the floor.
  • Lift yourself a few centimetres off the ground by engaging your shoulder, back, and glute muscles.
  • Keep your extremities contracted to keep them above the ground. This should recreate the classic fly posture of superman.

Good Mornings

  • Initiate the stance with your arms on your hips. Ensure your feet are somewhat broader than your waist.
  • Engage your core muscles and push your thorax down while pulling your shoulders backward. Keep your neck as neutral as possible.
  • Bend over to the waist level in a controlled manner. Your shoulders should remain aligned with your hips. Don’t forget to keep the glutes, hamstrings, and back muscles contracted.
  • Reach forward until your upper body is parallel with the floor.
  • Repeat this movement for 15 repetitions for a total of 3 sets.

Dolphin Kick

  • Use a bench and lie down with your body facing downward. (The beginning of your hips should be at the extremity of the bench, leaving most of your lower body hanging down and feet touching the ground.)
  • To stabilise your body, establish a tight grasp on the bench’s sides.
  • Extend your legs as you elevate them, activating your stomach, glute, and hip muscles.
  • Once your legs are in position, hold the position for 7 seconds by engaging the entirety of your muscular system.
  • Drop your feet below the bench and repeat the motion for 3-5 additional repetitions.
  • Do this exercise for 4 sets, with 25–45 seconds.

 Lats Exercises at Home with Weights

After giving you some ideas on doing lat exercise at home without equipment, it’s time to bring the big guns!

Here are a few of the best lat exercises that require weights:

Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

This exercise offers the best line of motion to stimulate the lat muscles with dumbbells.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Hold one dumbbell with one hand and use the opposite hand to support your body on a bench. Lean forward to make a horizontal line between your torso and the rack. Extend your arm below you while holding the dumbbell.
  • If you find it challenging to keep your body horizontal with the rack, try to adjust it slightly (10%–15%).
  • While keeping your torso in position, row the dumbbell toward your hip, aiming for your back pocket. Make sure to pull until your arm is in line with your torso.
  • Lay down the weight to the starting position, then repeat the exercise.
Bent Over Dumbbell Row
Bent-Over Dumbbell Row Photo 157528803 / Dumbbell Row © Martinmark | Dreamstime.com

Dumbbell Bent Over Row

Dumbbell workouts like bent-over rows or using a dumbbell to mimic the classic barbell row is a method of exercise that both beginners and advanced athletes include in their routines.

It is also a fantastic exercise to stimulate the lat muscles.

Here is how to do it:

  • Hold two dumbbells with each of your hands while ensuring that the palms are facing each other. Bend over slightly to parallel your torso with the floor (nearly). Keep your arms fully extended.
  • Drive your elbow towards your back pocket to pull the dumbbells backward.
  • As you bring the dumbbells backward, hold the position for a few seconds, then lower the dumbbells to the starting position
  • Allow your shoulders to protract, then repeat the exercise for 10 repetitions.

Even if you have a single dumbbell, you can conduct these movements just swap hands between reps.

Dumbbell Seal Row

This is another top exercise you can do at the gym or at home.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie down with your face down on a bench. Hold a dumbbell in each hand while fully extending your arms.
  • Row both dumbbells towards your body by driving the elbows back.
  • Pull up until both your arms are in line with the midline of your body.
  • Lower the load and repeat the exercise for 10 to 15 repetitions.

How Can I Mimic Lat Pull Down at Home?

Several exercises mimic the action of lat pulldown. The following list covers a few that you can do at home:

Inverted Rows

This is a movement that is reliant on your body weight. It is also an ideal base if you feel pull-ups are too challenging. Both pull-ups and inverted row activities target the same muscles.

To do inverted rows, you don’t need any fancy equipment. A barbell on a half rack can do the trick. If you don’t have that at home, you can fix some hooks on the wall.

Renegade Rows

Renegade rows are excellent lat pulldown alternatives. For this exercise, you only need dumbbells.

The compound movement generated by the renegade row allows you to target the upper back and core muscles. This exercise also targets the traps, shoulders, and obliques. All of this with just a pair of dumbbells!

Single-arm pulldown

This exercise is another easy way to replace a classic lat pulldown.

A single-arm cable pulldown forces you to pull vertically and stops you from cheating or shifting loads to the rest of your back. Therefore, the load remains in your lats, ideal for targeting them.

Here’s how to do this exercise:

  • Set one handle at the top of the cable machine.
  • Hold the handle and sit.
  • Keep your back to the machine.
  • Pull your elbow down and keep the arm near your side.
  • Release the load slowly until your arms get fully extended.
  • Alternate between your arms and repeat the exercise.

These alternatives will give you more choices to target the lat muscles without relying on the pulldown exercise.

If you suffer from any injuries at the moment, Speak with your primary care physician or orthopedic surgeon for tailored medical advice on which exercises are appropriate for you. 

Pull-ups, Bands, and Stretchers for the Lats 

Seated row exercise outdoor with a band
Seated row exercise outdoor with a band good for lats. Photo 218788568 / Exercise © Andrey Rykov | Dreamstime.com

Pull-ups are so effective at targeting the lats. Chin-ups rely on the biceps more, whereas pull-ups mainly target the lats. Optimally, you would do standard, wide, or narrow pull-ups to target your lats.

If you don’t have a pull-up bar at home, you can install one in your backyard or above a door frame.

An alternative to pull-ups is using a resistance band. This simple equipment allows you to do a myriad of lat exercises for an at-home workout. 

They barely take any space, so you can exercise in any corner of the house/backyard. Using resistance bands will allow you to get a full range of motion exercises to target the lats accurately and efficiently.

Alternatively, you can use resistance bands for other strength training exercises. 

Exercises for the Lats are clearly explained.

There are a plethora of movements that develop the lats. – either wholly or partially.

The following table will classify the exercises based on their difficulty and use of equipment: 

Exercise Beginner-friendly Intermediate Advanced Use of equipment
Reverse snow angels   No
Dolphin kick   No
Superman   No
Good mornings No
Single-arm dumbbell row Yes
Dumbbell bent-over row Yes
Dumbbell seal row   Yes
Inverted rows   Yes
Renegade row   Yes
Pullups   No
Resistance band exercises Yes

Takeaway message

Finding a way to perform lat exercises at home is even more fun! A useful tip for avoiding burnout? Mix things up and follow different routines so you don’t get bored with your workout.
The key, as always in life (and fitness), all comes down mostly from trial-and-error – but also maintaining some fresh ideas along the way too 🙂

What’s not to love? Lat exercises at home can give you a great workout!

Sources of Information

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Orozco-Levi, M., Gea, J., Sauleda, J., Corominas, J. M., Minguella, J., Aran, X., & Broquetas, J. M. (1995). Structure of the latissimus dorsi muscle and respiratory function. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md.: 1985)78(3), 1132–1139. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/abs/10.1152/jappl.1995.78.3.1132

Baker, S. J., & Hardy, L. (1989). Effects of high-intensity canoeing training on fibre area and fibre type in the latissimus dorsi muscle. British Journal of Sports Medicine23(1), 23-26.

Orozco-Levi, M., Gea, J., Monells, J., Aran, X., Aguar, M. C., & Broquetas, J. M. (1995). Activity of latissimus dorsi muscle during inspiratory threshold loads. The European respiratory journal8(3), 441–445. https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/8/3/441

Flann, K. L., LaStayo, P. C., McClain, D. A., Hazel, M., & Lindstedt, S. L. (2011). Muscle damage and muscle remodelling: no pain, no gain?. The Journal of experimental biology214(Pt 4), 674–679. https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.050112

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Grice, A., Kingsbury, S. R., & Conaghan, P. G. (2014). Nonelite exercise-related injuries: Participants reported frequency, management and perceptions of their consequences. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 24(2), e86–e92. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com

Snarr, R. L., Hallmark, A. V., Casey, J. C., & Esco, M. R. (2017). Electromyographical Comparison of a Traditional, Suspension Device, and Towel Pull-Up. Journal of human kinetics58, 5–13. https://www.sciendo.com/article/10.1515/hukin-2017-0068

Yeun Y. R. (2017). Effectiveness of resistance exercise using elastic bands on flexibility and balance among the elderly people living in the community: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of physical therapy science29(9), 1695–1699. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article

Lopes, J., Machado, A. F., Micheletti, J. K., de Almeida, A. C., Cavina, A. P., & Pastre, C. M. (2019). Effects of training with elastic resistance versus conventional resistance on muscular strength: A systematic review and meta-analysis. SAGE open medicine7https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2050312119831116

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