You may have seen famous bodybuilders like Jay and Ronnie smashing the seated row machine muscles worked with heavyweights. Seated cable row is one of the popular old-school exercises to increase the size and thickness of a back.
But what if we can find some seated cable row alternatives which target the same muscles, which have the same movement pattern, and gives you the same results!
Yes, there are various alternatives to seated cable rows. So if you are at home without equipment or the gym is crowded and you can’t use the seated row machine muscles worked, or if you want to add some different exercises to target the same muscles, then read this complete blog to find the best alternatives.
Also don’t miss the last exercise on this list, which you can do at home without any equipments. But before talking about the exercises, let’s first look t the muscles which are used during seated cable row.
Muscles Worked During Seated Cable Row
When we choose an alternative exercise, we must know which muscles are used during the movement so that we can choose the best and most effective alternatives.
Some of the major muscles which are involved when performing seated cable rows are latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, teres major, and trapezius muscles. Along with that, the secondary muscles like the biceps and forearm are also involved to assist during the exercise.
Primary Muscles- latissimus dorsi( lats), teres major, and rhomboids. These are the major muscles used during the seated row machine muscles worked. All these muscles’ main function is internal rotation, an extension of the scapula, and adduction.
Assisting Muscles- bicep brachii, forearms and trapezius muscle. These muscles work as a secondary muscle which is involved to assist and help the primary muscles during the movement.
For example, mid and lower traps are used for retraction whereas biceps and forearms are worked during a pulling movement fora strong grip.
So by taking into consideration of the above muscles involved and movement analysis, I have selected some of the best seated cable row alternative exercises for you! Let’s find that below.
Alternatives to Seated Cable Row
Best seated cable row alternatives are bent over row, T-bar row, one-arm row, and dumbbell rows. Let’s discuss each of them along with some other cable row alternatives here.
1. Bent Over Row
If you want a perfect alternative to the seated cable row, then this exercise is an excellent choice. As it is done with a barbell, it will work your back even more than the seated cable row which is done on a machine.
Equipments- Barbell and bumper plates
Targeted muscles- latissimus dorsi, traps, rhomboids
How to do
1. Place your feet under the barbell. Bend down and hold the barbell with your hands. Your back should be straight. As you bend, take your hips back.
2. Start deadlifting by lifting the barbell up with your hands while keeping your back straight. You can use both pronated and supinated grip.
3. Now bend again by taking your hips back and stop when the barbell reaches the knee.
4. From there, start pulling the weights up towards your stomach. Your lower back should not round during the movement.
5. Get barbell back to the knee position and repeat the exercise.
The overhand or pronated grip is good for lifting heavier weights. The underhand grip or supinated grip will put more tension on the inner part of your back.
2. T Bar Row
This is a compound movement that will increase the strength and will give you thickness and size to your back. If you look at the joint movement and your hand positioning during the T bar rows, it looks similar to the seated row. So you can definitely add this as an alternative to the seated row machine muscles worked!
Equipments- Barbell, bumper plates, and v- handle
Targeted muscles- Latissimus dorsi, traps, trees major
How to do
1. Take one barbell and place the one end of it at the corner of the floor or fix it inside a landmine base. Add the weights on the other side of the barbell.
2. Stand at a shoulder-width stance and grab the barbell. You can also use close grip bars which is used to perform seated cable rows. This will increase the range of motion.
3. With your shoulders back, start lifting the barbell and take it to your waist. Don’t bend your lower back during the movement.
4. Return back to the starting position slowly and then repeat the movement.
Go heavy on this. Make sure to keep your back straight during each rep. You can do this exercise at the beginning stage of your workout as it is a heavy compound exercise.
3. Incline Dumbbell Row
Another great alternative to a seated row machine muscles worked. The movement pattern is almost similar to the seated cable row. Here, you cannot use too much momentum, which will put all the tension on your lats.
Equipments- bench and dumbbells
Targeted muscles- latissimus dorsi, traps, rhomboids, teres major, erector spinae.
How to do
1. Grab two pairs of dumbbells on both hands. Lay down on an incline bench with both feet supported down the bench.
2. From this position, roll your shoulders back and start lifting the dumbbells up towards your mid stomach. Your elbows should be in to focus more on lat muscles.
3. Maintain a 90° angle between the elbow. Otherwise your biceps will start dominating the exercise.
4. Pause at the top and then go down slow and stretch your back at the bottom.
5. Your shoulders should go back before you move the weights up. This is key to target your back.
If you can’t focus on your lats during any back workout, then try this! As you cannot use too much momentum here, you will be able to focus on your lats even more.
You can also do the same exercise with a barbell. Chest supported barbell row. Your range of motion will be reduced when performing with a barbell instead of dumbbells as the bar will touch the bench at the end.
But you should add some variations and changes to your workout program to get continuous results. So this exercise can also be used as an alternative to seated cable row.
Form- The form and technique of the barbell chest supported row are similar to the incline dumbbell row. Just remember to hold the bar with a shoulder width grip and everything else is the same.
4. Landmine Row
This exercise is great not only for the back but also for the core. This will be an awesome alternative to the seated cable rows.
One of the best things about single-joint exercises like landmine row is that you can target each side of the back separately. So if your left side is weak, then do this one-arm exercise and completely focus on the muscle you want to hit. This will slowly increase the strength of your left side and make your back look symmetrical.
Equipments- Barbell, bumper plates, and landmine base
Targeted muscles– Lats, rhomboids, traps, teres major
how to do
1. Set a barbell in the same position as if you are doing a T bar row. But here rather than standing in between the bar, you will stand at the side end of the bar.
2. Now bend down by taking your hips back and grab at the end part of a barbell from one hand. Your hips should be back and your chest should be up. This will be your starting position.
3. Start lifting the barbell up by flexing your lats. Your elbow should be in to make it an exact alternative for T bar rows. You can also do it with your elbows out as shown in the video.
4. Return to the starting position and do subsequent reps in a controlled way.
In order to make a workout effective, it’s very important to train the muscles at different angles and positions. Exercises like landmine rows allow you to target the lats at a different angle and helps you to avoid a plateau.
5. Dumbbell One Arm Row
Here you can concentrate on each side of your back separately. You can use heavy dumbbells on this but your back should be flat all the time. It’s a great strength builder and good for athletes.
Equipments- bench and dumbbells
Targeted muscles- Lats, traps, teres major
How to do
1. Hold a dumbbell on one hand and place the other hand on the bench. Place one foot on your bench and the other at the side.
2. Start lifting the dumbbell up by rolling your shoulders back. Take dumbbells to the side of the waist.
3. Make sure to maintain a 90° angle at the elbow. Your elbows should be tucked in. Make sure to keep your core tight during the movement.
4. Come down and fully stretch your back at the bottom. Always breathe out when you lift up and breathe in on the way down.
You can also do this at home without a bench. Just hold a bed or the edge of the table and perform the same movement discussed above.
Note: You can use heavy dumbbells on this but make sure that you don’t round your back during the movement.
6. Wide-grip Chest supported Cable Rows
If there is a rush in the gym you can find cable machine is free, then instead of waiting for your turn for the seated cable row, do this exercise instead. This is a great variation which you must try.
Equipments- bench and neutral grip bar
Targeted muscles- latissimus dorsi, teres major, rhomboids ( mostly upper back)
How to do
1. Place an incline bench in front of a cable machine and attach a wide bar at the cable machine.
2. Lie prone on an incline bench. Bar placement should be down so that you can pull it up toward your abdomen.
3. Hold the bar with a grip than shoulder and bring the bar towards the abdomen.
4. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat the movement.
You don’t have to go heavy on this. It’s very important to have a good mind and muscle connection during these kinds of exercises. Otherwise, you will not get the best results.
7. Standing One-Arm Cable Row
This is a perfect isolation exercise for your lats. You can use this as an alternative to the seated cable row because it mimics the same movement. Here you can focus on each side separately as it is one arm row.
Equipments– handle, and cable machine
Targeted muscles– lats, teres major, and rhomboids
How to do
1. Attach a cable down at the bottom and hold it with one arm.
2. Bend your back slightly forward. Pull the weights from one hand and place the other hand on your thighs for balance.
3. Make sure that your elbows are in line with your lower back while you pull towards your waist.
4. Pause for a second and then return back slowly.
The positioning of a body and movement makes it more athletic. Your core will involve a lot to stabilize the body which makes it more functional. So all you athletes should try this!
8. Cable Bent-Over Row
It’s a variation of the basic bent-over row exercise usually done with a barbell. Doing it with cables will create less tension on your lower back and is a great alternative to a seated cable row.
Equipments– bar, and cable machine
Targeted muscles– latissimus dorsi, teres major, traps
How to do
1. Attach a bar at the bottom of a cable machine. Hold the bar and stand at 2 feet away from the cable machine.
2. Bend your knees slightly and lean forward without rounding your back. The neck and spine should stay neutral.
3. Pull the bar towards your upper abdominal region and squeeze your lats harder at the very end.
4. Return back to the starting position and repeat the movement.
You don’t have to go too heavy on this, otherwise, the weight will take you forward and you will lose form. This exercise should be done with the proper mind and muscle connection to get the most out of it.
9. Reverse-Grip Cable Row
This exercise is done with a supinated grip. You can feel a much better contraction on your lats with this exercise, especially the inner part of your back. So if you want to add some variations then consider this exercise.
Equipments– lat pulldown bar and cable machine
Targeted muscles– lats, teres major and minor, traps (mid)
How to do
1. Sit on a seated cable row machine and hold the bar with a reverse grip. Both hands should be shoulder-width apart.
2. Now start pulling the bar towards your belly button. Keep your chest up and neck tucked in. Your elbow should be in.
3. Pause when the bar is touching your abdomen and then return back to the starting position. Keep your lower back straight during each rep.
With the reverse grip, your shoulder will be in a better position from the very beginning. If you hurt your shoulders during any back exercises, then this will be a better option for you.
10. Towel rows
This exercise is good for people who want to work out at home. The difficulty level of this exercise is low so the beginner can also try this. Here, the body position and the angle somewhat look similar to the seated cable row.
Targeted muscles- lats, rhomboids (upper back)
How to do
1. Take a long towel and roll it up around a pillar. Hold it with your hands and take your steps back.
2. Bend your knees slightly and keep your hands straight. Your shoulder should be back and chest forward. This will be your starting position.
3. Now start reaching forward by flexing your elbows and squeeze your back as you move. Your elbow should be in as you move forward.
4. Pause at the top and then slowly return to the starting position.
You should do this exercise slowly to get the most out of it. Always breathe out as you pull the weights and breathe in on the way forward. This applies to all back exercises you do.
So there you go! There are so many alternatives to seated cable rows. You can add any one of these exercises to your back routine. Make sure that you do each exercise with a proper form and technique.
And remember, always try to change your workout programs by adding different exercises or changing the angle and body positioning so that your body does not hit a plateau. Variation in an exercise program is crucial for consistency and longevity.
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