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7 Seated Cable Row Alternatives You Can Do at Home

The seated cable row exercise is one of the most commonly programmed back and lat exercises seen in gyms. It’s popular among bodybuilders, powerlifters and general fitness enthusiasts due to its ability to produce a fantastic lat and mid-trap stretch. 

If you’re working out in your home gym, however, you probably won’t have access to a low-cable machine to do the exercise on.

What you need is a selection of alternative exercises that provide a similar level of back, trap and bicep stimulation as the seated cable row. 

As a personal trainer, I’ve trained dozens of people in their home gyms. I’ve personally used every one of the seated cable row alternatives in this article with these clients to provide the same muscle building and strengthening effects of the cable version with the gear at hand. 

The eight seated cable row alternatives that I’ve put together on this list produce a similar movement to the seated cable row using nothing but barbells, dumbbells, a bench and training bands.


Why the Seated Cable Row Isn’t for Everybody

The seated cable row provides a great stretch for the lats and trapezius and also allows you to use some pretty heavy weight. However, it also places a lot of force on your lumbar spine. With repeated, heavy use this could contribute to deterioration of your spinal discs and, eventually herniation at the sacral level. 

If you are a person who already suffers from lower back pain, this is not an ideal exercise for you. The spinal position is just too compromising. 

People who are taller than usual, such as basketball players, will also find that the seated cable row places a lot of stress on their lumbar spine. That’s because they have a greater range of motion to move through. Most seated cable row machines are also not built for taller people. As a result, they end up having to bend the knees too much, which interferes with the cable movement during the rowing action.

The positioning of the seated cable row also has you in a state of hip flexion throughout the exercise. A lot of people already have hip flexors that are too tight, and this exercise may contribute to that problem.

If you want to do a cable row exercise that achieves the same horizontal range of motion as the seated cable row, simply stand up and do the exercise in that position. Changing from a seated to a standing position dramatically reduces the load on the lumbar spine. The change in position also takes you out of flexion and places you and a more functional athletic stance.

Rowing in a standing position also brings in the element of balance and core activation. You will probably find that you can’t use quite as much weight in a standing position, but you will eliminate many of the potential downsides of the seated cable row.


Seated Cable Row Alternatives: Key Considerations

Check out the majority of alternative seated cable row articles and you will find a mish mash of exercises for the back, most of which do not actually replicate the movement pattern or focus on the same muscles as the original exercise.

A seated cable row activates the lats more than other movements like the upright row.

Seated cable row muscles worked

At Strong Home Gym, we value your time and intelligence more than that. That’s why we take the time to select our alternative exercises carefully to make sure they do the same thing as the original move.

When it comes to seated cable row alternatives, I’ve used the following selection criteria:

  1. The alternative exercise must target the latissimus dorsi and middle trapezius in a horizontal rowing motion.
  2. The exercise needs to be a bilateral movement that works both sides of the body at the same time.
  3. The exercise allows for a peak contraction at the top of the movement.
  4. The exercise can be done with minimal equipment in a home gym setting.

Seated Cable Row Alternative Exercises

These exercises will work the latissimus dorsi and middle trapezius muscles in a similar way to the seated cable row. They all allow for a full stretch, horizontal pull and peak contraction of the lats. 

This makes them all excellent options for developing thickness through the ‘V’ portion of the back that runs from the armpit down to the hips.

Seated cable row alternative infographic

1. Incline Prone Dumbbell Row

The incline prone dumbbell row is my favorite home gym exercise to develop back thickness. It provides a high level of lumbar spine support, while also eliminating momentum through hip thrust and allowing for a full range of motion in the stretch and contraction.

I recommend beginning with the bench set at a 45-degree angle. Then you can experiment to target different muscles. The lower the angle, the more you will work the lats, with a higher angle preferentially targeting the mid trapezius.

Equipment needed for the incline prone dumbbell row:

REP AB-3000 Bench

REP AB-3000 Weight Bench
Read our best weight bench guide here

This is the weight bench we recommend for ‘most people’.

We compared over 70 benches against 12 criteria. This is our highest-ranked flat, incline & decline (FID) bench.

Some adjustable benches can be a bit wobbly when on the incline. But the AB-3000 is very sturdy.

With a height 18mm it’s comparable to benches that cost twice as much.

How to do the incline prone dumbbell row:

  1. Place a pair of dumbbells at the head end of the bench. Set the bench angle to 45°.
  2. Position yourself on the bench face down with your chest leaning against it. Place your feet firmly on the floor.
  3. Reach down to grab the dumbbells in a neutral grip ( palms facing each other).
  4. With your shoulders down and lats flared, pull the dumbbells from a fully extended arm position up to the level of your rib cage. Squeeze your shoulder blades together in the top position.
  5. Lower the dumbbells under control.
  6. Repeat for the required rep count.

Incline prone dumbbell row muscles worked:

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Biceps
  • Rear deltoids

2. Underhand Barbell Row

The underhand barbell row is a variation of the standard barbell row that allows for a slightly greater range of motion when the palms are facing forward. This exercise requires the core, glutes and legs to stabilize the body as you are lifting.

Equipment needed for the underhand barbell row:

Rogue Ohio Cerakote Bar

Rogue Ohio Bar Cerakote
Read our best Olympic barbell guide here

This is the bar that we recommend for ‘most people’.

We have spent over 120 hours of research and tested over 100 barbells.

It is affordable but comes with some high specs. The Rogue Work Hardening and 190k PSI tensile strength mean the bar will last a lifetime in a home gym.

It is a multi-purpose bar with a 28.5mm diameter shaft and composite bushings in the sleeves. This means it’s balanced for heavy slow bench presses but you can also perform snatches and fast overhead lifts.

How to do the underhand barbell row:

  1. Place a loaded barbell on the floor and stand behind it.
  2. Hinge at the hips to go down to grab the bar with an underhand grip at shoulder width.
  3. Come up until the torso is angled at around 45° and your knees are slightly bent. The bar should be directly over your midfoot.
  4. Maintaining a natural arch in your lower back, pull the bar from an extended arm position up towards your belly button. Allow the arms to extend back behind your body. Squeeze the shoulder blades together in the top contracted position. Avoid using momentum from the lower body to pull the bar. 
  5. Lower the bar to the starting position under control.
  6. Eight for the required rep count.

Underhand barbell row muscles worked:

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Biceps
  • Rear deltoids

3. Bent Over Dumbbell Row

The bent over dumbbell row is a barbell row variation that, although being a bilateral move, forces each side of the body to carry its own load. This overcomes a common problem when rowing with a barbell of the strongest side taking the majority of the load. Using dumbbells on exercises like this helps in achieving balanced strength and muscular development.

Equipment needed for the bent over dumbbell row:

SMRFT Nüobell 80LB Adjustable Dumbbells

SMRFT Nüobell 80LB Classic
Read our best adjustable dumbbell guide here

These are the dumbbells we recommend for ‘most people’.

We have spent over 50 hours of research and compared over 100 dumbbells. Adjustable dumbbells make sense for most home gyms as they save space.

The Nüobell dumbbells go all the way to 80lbs per hand. This means they are much more versatile than most 50lbs adjustable dumbbells. You can use these for heavy shrugs, squats and bench press etc.

The main reason they are the top pick is because of their shape. They actually feel like real dumbbells and are not awkward to lift like some others.

How to do the bent over dumbbell row:

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides in a neutral position ( palms facing each other).
  2. Hinge at the hips to go down to a 45° torso angle.
  3. Maintaining a flat back, flare your lats and depress your shoulders.
  4. Row the dumbbells from a full arm extension position up to your rib cage, allowing the elbows to track behind your body.
  5. Return to the starting position under control.
  6. Repeat for the required repeat count.

Bent over dumbbell row muscles worked:

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Biceps
  • Rear deltoids

4. Barbell Seal Row

The barbell seal row makes use of an extended height bench to allow you to row in a prone, or lying, position. This allows for a full expansion and contraction while also protecting the lower back. 

There are specialized benches in many gyms for  doing this exercise but you can easily improvize at home by placing some 45-pound weight plates or pieces of timber under the bench to elevate it. Just make sure that the bench is solid and secure before you get on it.

Equipment needed for the barbell seal row:

  • Flat bench
  • Weight plates or timber to elevate the bench
  • Barbell

Rogue Fleck Bumper Plates

Rogue Fleck Bumper Plate
Read our best bumper plates guide here

Bumper plates are ideal for a home gym.

They can last a lifetime and allow you to do additional lifts which require you to drop the bar.

Our team has compared over 100 types and the Rogue Fleck plates came out on top.

They are great value, use color allowing you to quickly see how much you’re lifting and the pattern will give your home gym a unique look.

How to do the barbell seal row:

  1. Elevate a flat bench by around 6 inches by placing weight plates or timber under it.
  2. Position the barbell under the bench where your arms would be when lying face down on it.
  3. Lie face down on the bench and reach down to grab the bar with a just  slightly wider than shoulder width overhand grip.
  4. Push your hips and core into the bench  as you row the bar up towards your mid torso. Keep your forearms in a vertical position throughout.
  5. Squeeze the shoulder blades together in the top position then slowly lower under control back to the dead hang start position.
  6. Repeat for the required rep count.

Barbell seal row muscles worked:

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Biceps
  • Rear deltoids

5. Dumbbell Seal Row

The dumbbell seal row is similar to the barbell version of the exercise, except that you are able to work each side of the lats and traps separately from the other. This stops the weaker side from taking over and the bar from coming up in an uneven manner. The dumbbell version also allows you to more closely replicate the hand positioning of the cable seated row exercise.

Equipment needed for the dumbbell seal row:

  • Flat bench
  • Weight plates or timber to elevate the bench
  • Dumbbells

How to do the dumbbell seal row:

  1. Elevate a flat bench by around 6 inches by placing weight plates or timber under it.
  2. Position the dumbbells under the bench where your arms would be when lying face down on it.
  3. Lie face down on the bench and reach down to grab dumbbells with a neutral (palms-facing) grip. 
  4. Push your hips and core into the bench as you row the dumbbells up towards your mid-torso. Keep your forearms in a vertical position throughout.
  5. Squeeze the shoulder blades together in the top position then slowly lower under control back to the dead hang start position.
  6. Repeat for the required rep count.

Dumbbell seal row muscles worked:

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Biceps
  • Rear deltoids

6. Seated Band Row

The seated band row makes use of a resistance loop band to simulate the seated cable row. The variable resistance of the band makes this a late phase loaded exercise, where it gets harder as you pull. This allows for a very forceful contraction at the end of the rowing in motion.

Equipment needed for the seated band row:

  • Resistance loop band

How to do the seated band row:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs outstretched and feet together. Place a loop band around your mid feet and hold the other end in both hands with an overhead grip.
  2. Adjust your hand position on the band so that your arms are fully extended. In this position your body should be leaning forward at about a 45° angle.
  3. Pull the band in toward your belly button, keeping your elbows close to your sides.
  4. In the fully contracted position, squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  5. Slowly return to the start position under control.
  6. Repeat for the required rep count

Seated band row muscles worked:

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Biceps
  • Rear deltoids

7. TRX Row

TRX is a popular brand of suspension trainer. This exercise makes use of the TRX to provide an effective body weight move that has you working against the force of gravity. It requires an anchor point above your head that you can attach the suspension band to.

This exercise can be done with any brand of suspension trainer.

Equipment needed for the TRX row:

How to do the TRX row:

  1. Securely attach the suspension trainer to an anchor point above your head. Adjust the suspension straps so that when you are holding them at full arm extension your body is at about a 45° angle.
  2. Stand about 6 feet back from the anchor point and grab the handles, holding them at full arm extension. Allow your body to lean back into the 45° angle starting position.
  3. Maintaining a neutral spine and with your knees slightly bent, pull your body to touch your chest to the suspension trainer handles.
  4. Lower under control back to the start position.
  5. Repeated for the required rep count.

TRX row muscles worked:

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Biceps
  • Rear deltoids

7. Pendlay Row

The Pendlay Row is a variation of the bent over barbell row that makes use of a more horizontal torso position to focus more on the lats and less on the trapezius.

Equipment needed for the Pendlay row:

How to do the Pendlay row:

  1. Place a loaded barbell on the floor.
  2. Stand behind the barbell with your midfoot directly under it.
  3. Hinge at the hips and bend your knees to go down to grab the bar with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder width. Bend your torso so that it is parallel to the floor.
  4. From this starting position, explosively pull the bar up towards your sternum. Do not allow your torso to lift as you pull.
  5. Lower under control to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for the required rep count.

Pendlay row muscles worked:

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Biceps
  • Rear deltoids

Seated Cable Row Alternatives – the Bottom Line

The seated cable row is an effective exercise for building a lat and mid trap thickness. However, it does have its drawbacks. It can be very hard on the lumbar spine and is not an exercise designed for tall people. It’s also pretty unlikely that home ‘gymers’ will have a cable machine sitting around that they can do this exercise on.

The eight seated cable row alternative exercises have provided you with a lot of options to get the same benefits of the seated cable row in your home gym with nothing but barbells, dumbbells and bands. These exercises will allow you to build back thickness without having to spend hundreds of dollars on expensive equipment.

If you’re wondering how to fit these seated cable row alternatives into a complete, well-rounded routine to build lean muscle, check out our beginner weightlifting routine.

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Hi, I'm Steve. I'm a personal trainer, current home gym owner, former gym owner, and copywriter. I joined my first gym at age 15 and, five years later, I was managing my own studio. In 1987, I became the first personal fitness trainer in New Zealand. My work has been featured on Muscle and Brawn, Gymaholic, Fitness Volt, and many other places.

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