5 Lat Workouts You Can Do at Home for a Stronger Back and Arms

Photo: Getty Images/martin-dm
Unlike your arms, legs, or even glutes, your lats generally don’t get their own "day" in a training cycle. But it’s totally worth carving out some time to focus on strengthening these muscles, which run down the sides of your back, starting just below your armpits, because they are involved in so many exercises.

"Even if the lat isn’t the primary mover, almost all upper-body movements require lat mobility, stability, or strength," explains Brooke Van Paris, a personal trainer at Life Time with programs on Life Time Digital, who recommends doing lat workouts at home. (You'll love these lat pulldown alternatives you can do at home, too.)

Experts In This Article

What’s more, you utilize your lats all the time performing everyday tasks like opening and closing doors, carrying bags of groceries, pushing strollers, lifting pretty much anything over your head. So strengthening them will make these types of day-to-day physical activities easier, too.

And the good news is that you can accomplish this in just a few moves—Van Paris is sharing a handful of her fav lat workouts below. As an added bonus, they’ll also help you build a stronger back and arms in the process.

What are the lats?

Lats is short for latissimus dorsi, and they are one of the largest muscles in the body, covering a large portion of the back. You have two—one on the right side and one on the left, and they are primarily focused on stabilization of your shoulder during arm and back exercises.

“[The lats] serve a large role in maintaining good posture and the functional movement of the shoulder and arm complexes,” explains Van Paris. “Without strong lats, we tend to see posture compensations in day-to-day life, as well as major form breakdown inside of the gym. These compensations are imperative to avoid in order to keep our body healthy and prevent injury.”

5 at-home lat workouts to try

1. Pull-ups

What you’ll need: Pull-up bar and a stable door frame or cross beams in a garage

How to do it:

  1. Start with your hands on the bar spaced slightly wider than shoulder-width apart so your arms form a “Y” when fully extended, palms facing away from you.
  2. Engage the lats by pulling the shoulders away from the ears and down the back. Imagine that you have a pencil squeezed in between the shoulder blades and you are trying not to drop it.
  3. From this position, pull your chest up to the bar by squeezing the core and glutes, while bringing the elbows down and back as if you were trying to put them into your pockets.
  4. Once completed, slowly lower yourself back to the starting position and repeat for a total of 6 reps.

Modification: For those who cannot complete a full pull-up (which is totally normal, this is a tough move!), looping a long resistance band around your bar and placing one foot into it for added support—the heavier the band, the more help it’ll offer—can offset some of your bodyweight and make it easier to perform pull-ups until you get stronger.

2. Single-arm dumbbell row

What you’ll need: dumbbell, water bottle, milk jug, or resistance band

How to do it:

  1. Start in a lunge with right knee bent and left leg extended straight back, heel high, holding weight in left hand, arm straight at side. (If using a resistance band, place middle of it under right foot and hold one end in each hand so it’s taut.
  2. Hinge at the hips so torso tilts forward at a 45-degree angle over right knee, and left arm is extended toward floor, wrist in line with shoulder.
  3. From here, engage the lat by pulling the shoulder back away from the ears and down, with shoulder blades pinched together
  4. Bend at the elbow and pull weight up and back toward hip (as if you were pulling the start cord on a lawn mower or pulling a lever).
  5. Return to start and repeat for a total of 12 reps, then switch sides.

3. Banded Seated Row

What you’ll need: resistance band

How to do it:

  1. Start seated with feet flexed, heels dug into floor and the resistance band around arches, holding one end in each hand. Focus on good posture with the head and neck in line with the spine, core and lats engaged.
  2. Simultaneously bend arms and drive both elbows backward, keeping them close to the torso and squeezing the shoulder blades together as tightly as possible.
  3. Return to start and repeat for a total of 12 reps.

4. Lying Dumbbell Pullover

What you’ll need: dumbbell, water bottle, or milk jug

How to do it:

  1. Start lying flat on your back with core engaged (as if you are driving your navel through the ground), knees bent, and feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart.
  2. Grab weight by both hands and extends arms to straight above the center of chest.
  3. Engage the lats and let the arms and dumbbell slowly lower back overhead until the stretch of the chest is felt. Make sure the arms stay fairly straight to keep this work in your lats and not your triceps (i.e. back of your arms).
  4. Reverse the motion to return to start and repeat for a total of 12 reps.

Farmers Carry

What you’ll need: two dumbbells or comparable household objects of similar weight

How to do it:

  1. Start standing up straight with one weight in each hand, core engaged, and shoulder blades back away from the ears and drawn down.
  2. From here, walk for time (30–60 seconds or more), while maintaining this posture. Watch out for slouching and rounded shoulders, the tell-tale signs that our lats are not engaged.

To keep building a stronger back and arms at home, try this 25-minute workout: 

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