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Row a dumbbell up to your chest to work your lats.
The latissimus dorsi, or lats, are roughly triangular-shaped muscles in your back and sides, lying mostly below your shoulder blades. The lats are involved in a variety of shoulder and shoulder-blade movements - when you throw a ball or execute a serve in tennis, for example. Although the lat pulldown might come to mind first when you think about classic latissimus dorsi exercises, you can also strengthen the lats with dumbbells.
Bend Over and Row
Rowing exercises in general help strengthen your back. The dumbbell bent-over row in particular works your lats, traps and other upper-back, shoulder and arm muscles. Assuming the proper stance is important so you can maintain the correct form. To begin with the dumbbell in your left hand, place your right palm down on the far end of a bench and your right knee and shin on the bench's opposite end. Position your left foot flat on the floor. Bend from the hips so your torso is horizontal and hold the dumbbell with your left arm extended straight down and your palm facing the bench. Row the dumbbell up and back in a slight diagonal line to the left side of your lower chest. Return the weight slowly to the starting position. Do the exercise with both arms.
Do it Lying Down
If you're a bit short on time, work both of your lats simultaneously by doing dumbbell lying rows. Lie face down on the bench with your hips over the bench's edge and your toes on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms extended straight down and your palms facing each other. Row the dumbbells up in a diagonal line, as you did with the bent-over row, and then lower them under control to the starting position. Perform an alternative version by also resting your legs flat on the bench.
Add a Dumbbell
The dumbbell is designed as a hand weight, but that doesn't mean you can't improvise. Pullups and chinups, for example, target your lats and provide a wide range of benefits for your back, shoulders, arms and chest. Instead of simply pulling your chin up to the bar, ramp up the intensity by squeezing a dumbbell between your ankles at the same time.
Progress Safely and Stretch
See your physician before starting a new exercise program. For general strength gains, perform 12 repetitions per set of your desired latissimus dorsi exercise. If you can't maintain good form, use lighter dumbbells. If your final reps are easy, add more weight. Perform a static stretch after your workout to increase your lats' flexibility. Position your right forearm horizontally on top of your head, and then grasp your elbow or wrist with your left hand. Gently pull your arm to the left as you bend your torso in that direction. Stop when you feel the stretch in your back, and then hold the position for 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch to the opposite side.