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The lat pulldown is one of the most popular and best exercises that target and work your back muscles.
But, you will need a workstation or a lat pulldown machine with adjustable resistance for the exercise. That could be challenging if you don’t have access to a lat pulldown machine. But no need to panic.
Lat pulldown alternative exercises can help you target and build your back muscles without a lat pulldown machine.
The lat pulldown exercise
Lat pulldown is one of the main exercises for those trying to build back muscle mass. It is one of the go-to exercises for a V-shaped upper body.
You perform the exercise by pulling and releasing a hanging bar attached to a cable machine.
Benefits of the lat pulldown
The latissimus dorsi or the lats is a large, flat muscle on your back. It connects the bone of your upper arm to your spine and hip.
- You use the muscle in many exercises, including chin-ups, pull-ups, and swimming. And it performs many different functions, all of which involve the movements of the arms. Thus the stronger your lats are, the better you can perform those functions.
- If you want a broader back for aesthetic reasons, or the much sort-after V-shaped upper body, exercises that target your lats must be high on your training schedule.
- Lat pulldown is a compound exercise that can target quite a few muscles and joints at the same time. Aside from your back, lat pulldown can also target and work your
- It is also a good substitute for pull-ups and chin-ups, especially for those who struggle to do these exercises.
- Sitting down when doing the movement allows you to activate your abdominal and hip flexors much more than in pull-ups and push-ups.
- Exercises like the lats pulldown that target your lats can help improve your posture.
- It can help improve your pulling and pushing capabilities.
- Strong lats can help relieve back pain
Best lat pulldown alternative exercises exercises for building your back muscles
Here are some of the best lat pulldown alternatives that can help you build strong back and upper body muscles.
Resistance Band Lat Pulldown
The resistance band lat pulldown is a resistance band and calisthenics exercise that your lats. It also targets your shoulders, middle back, and biceps, though not as much.
It is one of the best lat pulldown alternative exercises as the two virtually work and target the same muscles. The main difference is that you use a resistance band instead of a lat pulldown machine. for the exercise.
Equipment Required: Resistance bands
Steps to follow
- Anchor the resistance band with handles on a secure point above your head
- With your palms facing downwards, grab the resistance band, adjust your position, and get down on one knee directly opposite the anchor point, ensuring there is no slack in the resistance band. But take care not to overstretch the band.
- Then pull the handles towards your shoulders till your arms stop.
- Return the handles to your starting position.
Pull Ups & Chin Ups
Pull-ups and chin-ups are two of the most widely used bodyweight exercises for strengthening upper body muscles. They are also some of the best lat pulldown alternative exercises for working your back muscles.
You perform both exercises by hanging yourself onto an overhead horizontal bar or a pull-up bar. You then pull yourself up until your chest reaches the height of the bar before lowering your body to your starting position.
The main difference between the two lat pulldown alternatives is how you hold the bar during the exercises.
Your palms face away from your body when doing pull-ups. That is, you use a pronated grip with pull-ups.
But you do the opposite with chin-ups. That is, your palms face you. In other words, you do a supinated grip with chin-ups.
Another difference is the gap between your grips. You perform chin-ups with your grips less than shoulder-width apart. But you keep your grips wider than shoulder width when doing pull-ups.
While the change in grip widths helps you to emphasize different muscles, the two exercises broadly target the same muscles in your body. Thus, it doesn’t matter which of them you opt for
Both chin-ups and pull-ups can help you target and grow your back muscles.
Thus, we suggest pull-ups should be a priority if your main goal is to build your back and shoulder muscles, as it will be a better lat pulldown alternative.
You will need a pull-up bar or a power tower for either of the exercises. Check here for our recommended power towers if you are yet to install one in your home gym.
Alternatively, you can go for the Perfect Fitness Multi-Gym Doorway Pull Up Bar. It is easy to install and will suit those with limited space.
Bent over Row
Bent over row is another exercise that can help you to increase the strength of the pulling muscles in your back, making it another good lat pulldown alternative exercise.
You need good form to perform the exercise to avoid injury. Get the technique right, and you will realize the bent over rows are one of the best lat pulldowns at home alternative exercises for building your back to help you get trunk stability and better posture.
You will need a straight barbell for the exercise. But you can also use a pair of dumbbells if you prefer or don’t have access to a barbell.
Dumbbells are a must-have home gym equipment. Check out the Bowflex adjustable dumbbells if you are considering one. Your purchase will give you most of the different weights you will need and will serve you well for a long time.
The procedure for performing the bent over row exercise is the same, irrespective of the gym equipment you use
Incline Dumbbell Row
The two-arm dumbbell row on an incline bench is another lat pulldown alternative exercise for working and building your back muscles.
By supporting your chest on an incline bench during the movement, you remove the pressure from your lower back and the instability associated with the classic dumbbell row. That makes it possible for you to target your back muscles much better.
Incline dumbbell row should receive serious consideration if you are looking for a lat pulldown alternative at home to strengthen your back.
You will need a pair of dumbbells and an adjustable weight bench for the exercise.
Steps to follow
- Set the bench at 45 degrees incline and lie face down on it. Adjust the weight bench to ensure the dumbbells don’t hit the floor when you extend your hands.
- Position your chest at the top of the bench. Your feet can be on the floor, or you can place your knees on the weight bench if you prefer.
- With a pronated grip, grab a dumbbell in each hand. Your thumbs must face each other. Let the dumbbells hang straight down.
- Pull the dumbbells to your sides until your upper arm is above the height of your back.
- Lower the dumbbells to your starting position, that is, until you fully extend your arms
- Repeat for the desired number of reps
The dumbbell pullover is a strength and resistance training exercise for building your middle-to-lower back and chest muscles.
It is another lat pulldown alternative exercise that should find a place in your upper body training regimen.
Dumbbell pullovers primarily target and strengthen your chest muscles. But the movement also activates your latissimus dorsi, triceps, and core muscles.
It is a postural exercise that can help open and increase the flexibility of your upper body and chest.
Using an overhead reach for the pullover movement stretches your muscles under load, making it possible to increase your muscle gain.
In addition, the various movements can help engage and strengthen other associated muscles, such as your triceps and deltoids, much more than in other related exercises, like the bench press (1).
Also, the exercise continuously moves the arm in the shoulder joint, helping to improve mobility in that area.
Adding the dumbbell pullover lat pulldown alternative exercise to your resistance training regimen can also help improve your cardiopulmonary function (2).
Steps to follow
- To do the movement, grasp a dumbbell with both hands
- Support your upper back on a weight bench and plant your feet firmly on the floor with your knees and thighs at 90 degrees. Ensure you hold dumbbells with palms facing each other.
- Bend your elbows slightly, and extend your arm over your chest and toward the ceiling.
- Breathe in, and with a strong core and back, pull the weight backward and over your head. Keep your arms straight as you do this.
- Keep pulling until your arms are virtually parallel to the floor. Ensure your arms don’t go below your head
- Breathe in and return the dumbbell to your starting position. Ensure you keep your arms straight but not locked throughout the movement.
- Repeat for 8-10 reps to complete a set and 2-3 sets per session
The Kroc row is a unilateral exercise that develops strength and mass on both sides of your body. The movement targets your lats, traps, rhomboids, and biceps.
You will need to support your body on a bench for the movements. Thus it requires more core stability than a classic single-arm bench row exercise.
Kroc row can increase your upper body and grip strength. It also works on your forearms and can add width and thickness to your upper back. It is another lat pulldown alternative exercise worth considering for your upper back training regimen.
If you want to build back strength to help you to carry heavy loads and objects, then Kroc row won’t disappoint.
You will need a dumbbell, preferably with a high weight, and a weight bench for the Kroc row.
Steps to follow
- With a dumbbell in one hand, hinge forward and place your free hand and the knee on the same side of the free hand on the weight bench.
- Extend your arms and allow the dumbbell to hang straight down.
- Activate your core, and with your spine in neutral, chest up, and shoulders down, start rowing the dumbbell in a straight line by moving your elbows up and backward.
- Then, in a controlled manner, lower the dumbbell until you fully extend your arm.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps
Kroc row is high weight and high reps movement. Ensure your form and energy levels are good enough for the movement before attempting the Kroc row
The T-bar row is a classic movement for targeting and building your lats, delts, traps, spinal erector, and biceps. Thus, it is another good lat pulldown alternative exercise for your fitness regimen.
Using both hands when doing T-bar rows allows you to load more weight, giving it an edge over dumbbell rows.
And holding the bar with hands facing down, that is, using a neutral grip to grasp the bar puts you in the best position to pull from biomechanically.
You will need a T-bar and plates for the movement. Thus you may have to do this in a gym. But, you can also consider one of these T-bar row alternative exercises, if you prefer.
The renegade row, just like the dumbbell row, targets your upper back muscles. But you do the movement in a plank pose. That allows you to target your core muscles as well. The exercise can also help improve your balance and coordination capabilities.
You need a strong core for the movement. Thus, beginners may have to master the plank pose and develop the ability to hold the plank position for about a minute before attempting the renegade row.
The renegade row works the muscles in your upper back, shoulders, forearms, triceps, quadriceps, abdominals, and spinal erectors. Thus, it is another good lat pulldown alternative with dumbbells to consider.
You will need a pair of dumbbells for the exercise. Start with a lighter weight if it is your first time.
Equipment Required: Dumbbells
- You will need a set of dumbbells, preferably one with flat sides, and an optional exercise mat for the movement.
- Grab a dumbbell in each hand and get into a plank position, using the dumbbells and your toes for support.
- Your body, from head to toes, must be in a straight line
- Place your feet about a hip-width apart. That will give you a better balance for the exercise.
- Engage your core, inhale, and, with one hand supporting your body, raise the dumbbell in the other arm. Ensure you do not sway or twist your body as you do this. Very important! Your shoulders and hips must be square to the floor. Breathe out as you do this
- Continue with the upward row of the dumbbell until your upper arm goes past your torso. Your elbow should point up and towards the back of the room at this point.
- Then slowly return the weight to the floor.
- Repeat the process with the other arm, by shifting your weight onto the other side of your body
- That should complete a rep
- Repeat for the desired number of reps
- Once completed, lower your knees onto the floor and let go of the dumbbells.
TRX Inverted Row
If you want to increase the strength in your arm, shoulder, and back muscles but don’t want to lift weights or do pull-ups, then the TRX inverted row could be a bodyweight lat pulldown alternative at home exercise to consider.
The inverted row puts your body in an inverted position, making it easy to perform.
The Inverted row primarily targets and builds your back muscles. It is a good calisthenics alternative to lat pulldown.
It can also help improve scapular retraction to prepare you for vertical pull-ups. That is because the movement works on your rhomboid muscles. Thus it can help strengthen and stabilize your shoulder joints.
Scapular retraction is your ability to rotate your arms toward your spine.
The following are some of the many muscles the inverted row targets.
- latissimus dorsi,
- teres minor,
- posterior deltoids,
- hamstrings, and
Inverted rows activate the muscles in your forearms to help to improve your grip strength, as well.
You will need TRX Suspension or similar for the exercise
Steps to follow
- Hang the TRX on an anchor point above your head
- Grab the handles, palms facing inwards, and take a few steps forward.
- Lean back to extend your arms and the TRX fully. Your body should be using your heels and the TRX for balance at this point
- Pull your body up until the handles are just below your chest.
- Lower your body back down
- Repeat for your desired number of reps
Final words from LiveLIfe
Lat pulldowns are great for building muscles and strength, and anyone, irrespective of their fitness levels, will find them beneficial.
Unfortunately, not everyone has access to a lat pulldown machine at home.
But you can still target similar muscles with lat pulldown alternative exercises.
It may not be possible with just one exercise. But combining a few of the lat pulldown alternatives discussed here should help you achieve your upper bodybuilding goals. You will have variety and the chance to learn new moves with these exercises.
Add a few of these lat pulldown alternative exercises to your upper body and strength training regime to help you achieve your fitness goals.
- Holly Edelburg, John P. Porcari, et al. 2018. ACE-SPONSORED RESEARCH: What Is the Best Back Exercise? American Council on Exercise (ACE).
- Paul T. Cowan, Andrew Mudreac, Matthew Varacallo. 2021. Anatomy, Back, Scapula National Library of Medicine
- Janyacharoen T, Thayon M, Bushong W, Jaikla N, Sawanyawisuth K. Effects of resistance exercise on cardiopulmonary factors in sedentary individuals. J Phys Ther Sci. 2016;28(1):213–217. doi:10.1589/jpts.28.213
- Snarr, Ronald; Eckert, Ryan; Abbott, Patricia. A Comparative Analysis and Technique of the Lat Pull-down. Strength and Conditioning Journal: October 2015 – Volume 37 – Issue 5 – p 21-25. doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000173
- Ronai, Peter; The Lat Pulldown. CSM’s Health & Fitness Journal: 3/4 2019 – Volume 23 – Issue 2 – p 24-30. doi: 10.1249/FIT.0000000000000469