Whether you’re trying to improve your Deadlifts, build muscles or lose fat, many coaches would advise you to include the Barbell Row Exercise into your program. Yes, there is no doubt that this workout will indeed bring out the results that you’re aiming for and sculpt your upper body, giving you a solid form. But what if you want to achieve those body goals without the barbell row?
Before answering that, let’s back up a bit and talk about barbell rows. What is it? The barbell row or bent-over barbell row is a resistant training workout where you bend over and raise the Barbell going towards your body. Although barbell rows have a simple movement, it offers many benefits!
Among the other advantages, barbell rows can strengthen your lower back, upper back, erector spinae, forearms, biceps, shoulder muscles, and core. Also, it can enhance your posture! So, going back, can you achieve your body goals without the barbell rows? While it’s hard to replicate all the benefits barbell rows can offer, you can with these 10 alternatives!
Barbell Row Alternatives (Our Recommendations)
Why are you looking for alternatives to a barbell row? Technically, barbell rows may not be for everyone, especially if your back is uncomfortable every time you do the movement.
So whether it’s for that reason or you simply want to change up your workout routine, here are ten barbell row alternatives that will activate your latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius, and rhomboids, posterior deltoids, biceps brachii, erector spinae, core, glutes, and hamstrings!
1. T-Bar Row
The T-bar row may be the best barbell row alternative that you can do. Similar to the barbell row, you can go heavy with this exercise and really activate your lats. Just make sure to use a
25-pound plate instead of a 45-pound plate so you can do a bigger range of motion.
In addition, ensure that you’re not arching your spine excessively. Engage your abdominals as you pull the bar back towards your body.
How to do it
- Stand upright with the bar position directly in between your legs.
- With a v-grip on the handle, put the bar right at the notch of the v.
- Hinge forward until your torso is almost in line with the floor. Begin by diving your elbows behind your body as you retract your shoulder blades.
- Pull the bar upwards to your body until it touches your chest. Slowly go back to the starting position and repeat.
- Do as many reps as you prefer.
2. Inverted Row
The Inverted Row is one of the best bodyweight alternative exercises for a barbell row. Although it looks easy, you should not underestimate this workout as it will give your lats a good burn. If you want to challenge yourself more, you can put a weight or dumbbell on your chest. Also, ensure that when you’re executing an inverted row, keep your body straight throughout the entire movement.
How to do it
- Get a flat bench and position it lengthwise in front of the smith machine.
- Adjust the height of the machine bar to four feet off the floor.
- Keep your heels on the bench and your hands holding the smith machine bar using a shoulder-width grip. Then, straighten your body.
- Pull your upper body upwards to the bar while ensuring that your body is straight.
- Stop momentarily and slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.
- Perform as many inverted rows as you can.
3. Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
The Single-Arm Dumbbell Row is another excellent bent over barbell row alternative. With this unilateral exercise, you can focus on training one side at a time, preventing you from engaging one side more than the other.
When doing a one-arm dumbbell row, ensure that you’re activating your abdominals as you pull the dumbbell towards your body to avoid arching your spine.
How to do it
- Stand straight and grab a dumbbell in one hand using a neutral grip.
- Carefully hinge forward until your torso is nearly in line with the ground.
- Dive your elbow behind your back. Ensure that you’re retracting your shoulder blades while performing the movement.
- Pull the dumbbell going to your body until your elbow is about your midline.
- Then, slowly bring the dumbbells down to the starting position.
- Do as many reps as you can and repeat the same number of single-arm dumbbell rows to your other arm.
4. Seated Cable Row
The seated cable row is a great bent over barbell row alternative because it sets you up for a proper row. Just make sure that when you’re doing this workout, keep a tight form to avoid getting injuries and engage your lats in the same manner as barbell rows. Also, feel free to add more weights and experiment with the bar for different grips!
How to do it
- Sit down on a bench with your knee slightly bent and not locked out.
- Stretch your arms out and keep your head straight and chest puffed out.
- Grab the handle with a neutral grip and carefully pull the cable towards your midsection. Ensure that you keep a firm stance throughout the movement and keep your elbows tucked in.
- Slowly go back to the start position.
- Do as many seated cable rows as necessary.
5. Band Bent Over Row
This alternative to barbell rows is one of the easiest workouts that you can do. Since the band bent-over row is a bit light on your muscles, you can do this as a warm-up before proceeding with your bicep workout program.
How to do it
- Put a Resistance Band on the ground. Then stand in the middle with your feet around hip-width apart.
- Using a neutral grip, grab each side of the resistance band. It’s not necessary for you to grasp the handles. Just hold the band directly since it can give you more resistance.
- Do a slight bend on your knees and keep your back straight so your body forms a neutral line from your head to your hips.
- Extend your arms as far as you can towards the floor.
- Pull the band towards your hips or rib cage while your elbows skim your sides.
- Once you’re at the top of the movement, pause and squeeze before going back to the start position.
- Do as many band bent over row as you can.
6. Chest Supported Machine Row
The chest supported row machine is a piece of equipment where you sit down and rest your chest against a support pad to brace your body for the resistance you will row. Some machines will enable you to load each of your arms differently. Because of this, you can avoid muscle imbalance, ensuring that each arm rows the same weight.
Thanks to the chest pad of the machine, you’ll be able to work your upper back muscles without worrying about your posture and how strong your core muscles are. The only downside to this barbell row alternative is you’re engaging your core and balancing muscles less.
How to do it
- Adjust the seat of the chest support row machine.
- Load your desired weight and sit down.
- Grab the handles, bend your elbows and bring them in towards your body and ensure that your upper back muscles support the movement. Also, keep your upper arms close towards your body.
- Return to the initial position and repeat.
- Row as many reps as you can.
7. Reverse Grip Row
This next barbell row alternative is a compound workout used to enhance the strength and size of the lower and upper back muscles. While Reverse Grip Row targets almost every muscle in your back, it mainly engages your lats rhomboids and lower back. Compared to overhand barbell rows, the reverse grip row can activate your biceps and lats a bit more directly.
When doing this workout, remember to use the proper form by keeping your core tight throughout the entire movement. This will prevent you from experiencing chronic neck or back pain or injuries.
How to do it
- With an underhand grip, hold the barbell and position yourself as if you’re going to do a traditional bent-over row.
- Make sure that your hands and feet are shoulder-width apart while you execute this exercise.
- Bend over until you reach a 45-degree angle with both of your arms hanging down.
- Carefully pull the bar up towards your midsection while ensuring that you’re activating your core muscles throughout the movement and keeping your back straight.
- Slowly bring the bar down.
- Perform three sets of eight to twelve reps.
8. Incline Bench Dumbbell Two Arm Dumbbell Row
The incline dumbbell row is another barbell bent-over row alternative that you should not miss out on. With this exercise, you can isolate your lats since your chest is resting on a bench. Also, make sure that you stop briefly at the top of the movement and contract your lats by squeezing your scapula together.
Similar to other workouts, make sure when you’re doing an incline dumbbell row, engage your abs to avoid rounding your back as it may hurt your spine.
How to do it
- Set up your Adjustable Bench at a 45-degree angle.
- With a pronated grip, hold a dumbbell in each hand.
- Start by driving your elbows behind your body, then retract your shoulder blades.
- Pull the dumbbells up towards your body until your elbow reaches your midline. After, slowly bring them back to the start position.
- Perform three to four sets of eight to twelve reps.
9. Pendlay Row
This bodybuilding exercise can activate different muscle groups, including your rhomboids, lats, biceps, glutes, rear deltoids, and hamstrings. When executing this barbell row alternative, some lifters end up standing more upright by the time they reach the fifth or sixth rep. It’s normal since some people end up using momentum to lift the weight.
However, you should not do it this way! Choose lighter weights instead and always keep your back parallel to the floor. If you perform pendlay rows this way, you’ll avoid getting injured and increase the engagement of the workout.
How to do it
- Stand around shoulder-width apart with the middle of your foot positioned directly under the bar. The initial stance is similar to a deadlift setup.
- Bend over, hold the bar using a medium grip and set your torso in line with the ground.
- Hinge your hips backwards, contract your back muscles during the movement, and raise the Barbell towards your chest.
- Hold for two seconds as you squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Bring the bar down to the ground and repeat.
- Perform as many reps as necessary.
10. Meadows Row
This barbell bent-over row alternative is a great exercise executed with a landmine setup, a staggered stance, and an overhand grip. Thanks to the modified hinge position of this workout, you activate both your upper and lower body.
If you happen to feel like your overusing your biceps while under activating your back, consider using a false grip while performing this unilateral row.
How to do it
- Position a barbell in a landmine attachment or wedge it into a wall’s corner.
- Hinge to the front with a staggered position. Then grab the barbell with a pronated grip.
- Begin by driving your elbow behind your body as you retract your shoulder blade.
- Pull the barbell up towards your hips until your elbow passes through your midline. Slowly bring the barbell back to the initial position.
- Perform as many reps as you prefer.
Barbell rows can give you exponential muscle growth when performed correctly. So, if you have no issues when doing this excellent exercise, then you should not remove it from your weekly training program!
However, if you really need to use a substitute because of an injury, then feel free to do these ten barbell row alternatives instead. Anyway, they can engage the same muscles and give you similar results. Out of the numerous exercises listed above, the top two best barbell row alternatives are T-bar rows and inverted rows!