A seated cable row is indispensable in almost every back workout program. It’s perfect for increasing the mass and building strength in the back and chest. Unfortunately, people a hooked by this popular workout that other excellent back exercises are overshadowed. Plus, what if you don’t have a Rowing Machine at your disposal? What then?

All hope is not lost if you don’t have a seated cable row machine at home or in your local gym. Instead, you can do these 10 seated cable row alternatives that are as exhausting and back-building as a seated cable row!

To ensure that the alternatives you’re doing are as effective as the exercise you’re substituting them with, they must target the same muscle groups. For a seated cable row, the primary muscles that it goes after are the lats, scapular retractors, biceps, and grip. So, if not all, at least some must be present in the exercise that you’ll be doing.

In addition, there are two types of movements that you need to focus on if you want a massive and defined back: rowing and pulling. Pulling exercises like lateral pulldowns and straight-arm pulldowns will help fortify your back’s width. On the other hand, rowing exercises like a barbell and dumbbell row will help build the thickness and girth of your back.

Now that you know all of these, it’s time to start working out with these 10 seated cable row alternatives!

1. Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows

It’s hard to recruit all the muscle fibers in the lats because, unlike the biceps and pecs, it’s hard to develop a mind-muscle connection in the back. You can’t see anything in the mirror while training, so you have no idea what’s going on! 

In addition, range of motion is another issue. Many are struggling with form when doing compound back training lifts. Because of this, they cannot execute the correct full range of motion. With Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows, you’re in the perfect spot to maximize your back training since you’re lifting with one hand and supporting your body with the other.

How to do it

  • Get into position by grabbing a dumbbell in your right hand.
  • Bend over and put your left hand on an incline bench which is approximately waist height or on the same level as the dumbbell rack.
  • Ensure that your back is closely aligned with the floor throughout the exercise. Your feet should be under your hips directly.
  • Slowly raise the dumbbell by pulling your right elbow upwards.
  • Make sure that you’re not moving your right shoulder too much. It will take away the tension from your lats.
  • At the bottom of the motion, your dumbbell should be a couple of centimiters off the floor only. 
  • Repeat the recommended number of reps, then switch to the other side with the same quantity. 

2. Seal Rows

Most do their back workouts by using the momentum of swinging back and forth. It’s particularly true for people who do super heavyweights on the seated cable row. In the seal row, you execute the barbell row while reclining on a flat bench. Doing this removes the probability of using momentum to finish the lift and activate your upper and middle back.

How to do it

  • Position a few aerobic steps under the flat bench at both ends to lift it off the floor.
  • Grab the barbell using a wider than shoulder-width grip.
  • Take a deep breath and haul the barbell towards your torso. 
  • Then lower the weight to the ground while breathing out.
  • Repeat as many as necessary.

3. Inverted TRX Rows

This next seated cable row alternative is a bodyweight lift exercise that works your shoulders, back, biceps and core. It may look easy when you see someone else doing inverted TRX rows. However, when it’s time to do it yourself, you’ll realize that this is not a smooth sailing exercise. You’ll really give your upper body a good burn!

If you don’t have a TRX at home or in your gym, you can do an inverted row using a smith machine or a squat rack with the bar placed in the abdomen area. 

How to do it

  • Adjust the TRX, so the hand grips are at the level of your torso. 
  • Hold the handles and let yourself hang backwards with extended arms.
  • To get into the starting position, walk on your feet until your body is horizontal.
  • Pull your upper body up as your torso glides past through your elbows.
  • Tighten your lats and shoulder blades at the top of the movement.
  • Carefully return to the starting position.
  • Repeat as many reps until your muscle can take no more.

4. Pendlay Rows

Another seated cable row alternative that can give your back a good workout is a pendlay row. This workout is becoming popular nowadays because Instagram fitness athletes use it as part of their training routine. You can consider the pendlay row as a cousin of deadlifts. 

This exercise targets your upper and lower back, requiring a full posterior chain engagement and core activation for stability. Pendlay rows are not meant for beginners. If you are new to this, it’s best to start practicing the basic versions of this exercise, like the underhand barbell rows.

How to do it

  • While doing the entire exercise, your body should not go higher than a 45-degree angle. 
  • Stand with a Barbell next to your shins and bend your knees slightly. 
  • Hold the bar with a wider than shoulder-width grip.
  • Keep your head and neck in a neutral position. Then flex through your elbows to pull the bar towards your abdomen. Do it as quickly as possible. 
  • Tighten your lats and shoulder blades at the top of the movement. After, return to the start position.
  • Put the weight to a dead stop on the ground before proceeding to the next rep.

5. Incline Bench Dumbbell Row

The incline dumbbell row is a variation of the bent-over dumbbell row, which helps strengthen and build the muscles on your back. By supporting your chest using an incline bench, you remove the pressure off your lower back and eliminate some stability needed to execute the row. Because of this, you can isolate your back better. 

Aside from that, the incline dumbbell row closely copies the same range of motion and benefits of the seated cable row. 

How to do it

  • Set your Incline Bench at a 60 – 80 degree angle.
  • Hold a dumbbell on each hand and put your chest on the pad.
  • Raise the dumbbell towards your sides by flexing your elbows.
  • Pause and tighten your lats at the top of the movement.
  • Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat as many as you can.

6. Seated Band Rows

You don’t need a seated cable row machine, dumbbells, or a barbell in this next exercise. All you need is a Resistance Band, and you’re all set! Seated band rows is a workout that strengthens the upper back muscles located between and around the shoulder blades. It’s a great alternative since your making the same motion and targeting the same muscles as seated cable rows.

How to do it

  • In a seated position with your back straight and legs extended in front of you, place one end of the resistance loop around your feet. Then grab the other with a neutral grip.
  • Wind the band around your feet in a way that you feel the tension while holding the bands at arm’s length.
  • While bending your elbows, pull your hands to your sides.
  • Pause and squeeze your lats at the top of the movement.
  • Make sure that you maintain a proper form while doing this workout.
  • Repeat as many as necessary.

7. Barbell Bent Over Row

This seated cable row alternative uses heavier weights but reduces the movement of shoulder stabilizers. In addition, it can increase your muscle mass, target the same muscle groups and nearly replicate seated cable rows. 

If you’re doing the correct form, Barbell Bent-Over Rows almost have the same movement as seated cable rows. Plus, it’s customizable since you can conveniently adjust the weight with the plates. 

How to do it

  • With a mid-grip, deadlift a barbell to a standing position. It’s about one thumb’s length into the knurling. 
  • Hinge at your hips, bend your knees and set the bar under your armpits with your back tight.
  • Momentarily stop in this bent-over position. Keep yourself stable with your hips and abs.
  • Row the barbell towards the end of your sternum. Focus on bringing your elbow to and behind your body.
  • Squeeze at the end of the movement. Pause for a while before going back to the starting position. 
  • Do as many reps as necessary.

8. One Arm Cable Row

This next seated cable row alternative allows you to reap the benefits of a seated cable row without the machine. Aside from that, it also initiates more shoulder stability training which can help reduce risks of a shoulder injury and reinforce your stabilizer muscles. 

One arm cable rows can provide constant tension, which is excellent for pilling the weight on your lats and traps through the whole motion. You can also do this alternative exercise while standing, making it more versatile and accessible than the seated version. This exercise is perfect for feeling the mind-muscle connection and creating better movement quality. 

How to do it

  • Grab a single hangle with one hand. You can stand straight with the Cable Machine or sit on a bench or box. Then bend your hips and knees slightly and keep your core tight.
  • Start with the handle at arm’s length. You’ll feel a mild stretch in your traps and lats.
  • Row the handle towards your chest by pulling your elbow behind your torso. After, squeeze your shoulder blade back and down.
  • Slowly go back to arm’s length by returning to the original stretched position and allowing your shoulder blade to move forward.
  • When your return back to arm’s length, the rep is complete. For better results, keep your upper back muscles active in this position.
  • Do as many reps as needed and repeat the same to the other side.

9. T-Bar Rows (Landmine Row)

Another excellent alternative for seated cable rows is T-bar rows. This exercise allows you to utilize a neutral grip (palms facing each other) which is technically the strongest position to pull from. Since you can use both hands when doing T-bar rows, you can add more weight, guaranteeing a good burn in your rear delts, middle back, and trapezius muscles. 

How to do it

  • Begin with an empty barbell on a landmine attachment. Then load the opposite end and straddle.
  • With your arms out, bend your hips and place your torso at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Hold the handles and pull the weight towards your upper abdominals by retracting your shoulders. Keep your arms bent as you do the movement.
  • Pause momentarily, then slowly lower the weights back down. Repeat as many reps as needed.

10. Inverted Rows (Bodyweight Row)

Inverted Rows are a compound exercise that targets your back, biceps, forearms, glutes, and hamstrings. It’s a pulling workout that uses your body weight to target those muscle groups and build your strength. When doing this seated row alternative, you can increase your muscles mass without adding any resistance in the execution. 

How to do it

  • Lie down and hold the bar with an overhand grip in a squat rack. If you want to target your upper back, align the bar above your mid-upper pectorals. On the other hand, align the bar over or just beneath your lower pectorals if you want to focus on your lats. The bar should be a bit out of reach when you’re lying down and reaching up.
  • Keep your core tight and back straight. Then, lift yourself off the floor and towards the bar until your chest is almost touching.
  • Slowly lower yourself down and repeat.


Seated cable rows are no doubt an excellent workout. However, you can have a solid back with all the free weights and bodyweight alternatives listed above. Although the ten alternative exercises are great, the two best seated cable row alternatives are inverted rows and one arm cable rows, as they produce the same results but with reduced stress on the back. 

Frequently Asked Questions

If you don’t want to do any machine exercises, you can substitute a seated cable row with a seated band row (resistance band)  or a single-arm dumbbell row (dumbbell). Although a resistance band won’t stimulate the correct weight, it’s best to do a dumbbell row.

Yes, seated cable rows are a compound exercise that uses a weighted horizontal machine to work the muscle groups in your arms and back. 

The seated cable row is a great exercise for increasing upper-body strength. It will target your back muscles ( latissimus dorsi in your middle back, the erector spinea muscles, the rhomboids in your upper back)  including those in the middle and lower regions of your spine as well arm trapezius groups to help you develop more muscle mass. 

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