11 Best Seated Cable Row Alternative Exercises To Build Upper-Body Strength

Seated cable rows target your back muscles for upper body strength . But you need an expensive cable machine for the exercise. This article discusses the best seated cable row alternative exercises at home with little or no gym equipment

seated cable row

Seated cable rows develop upper body strength and work out your back muscles. But unfortunately, you can only perform this exercise on a cable machine.

Not only do most people not have a cable machine at home, but it’s also less effective. Research suggests that free weight row exercises are more effective than machine row exercises (1)

This article discusses some of the best seated cable row alternative exercises that you can do at home, or you can do if you don’t have access to a cable machine.

The exercises we have selected can help you build upper body strength without the need for an expensive gym membership. You need very minimal or no gym equipment for the seated cable row alternatives we have selected.

What Is Seated Cable Row Exercise for?

man doing the seated cable row exercise

This compound exercise works out your back and arms muscles. It requires a weighted cable machine for the exercise.

Key Benefits:

  • Works out multiple muscle groups at the same time.
  • Engages the middle back, spinal erector, and upper back muscles.
  • It also targets the lower back.
  • Uses triceps and biceps for stabilization.
  • Low-impact exercise.
  • Good for people with joint pain.
  • It helps in maintaining a good posture.

Muscles Worked:

  • Latissimus dorsi.
  • Erector spinae.
  • Rhomboids.
  • Lower trapezius.
  • Biceps.
  • Triceps.


You can only perform this exercise with a cable machine. Hence, you cannot do it at home.

The good news is there are several seated cable row alternatives that will not require the use of an expensive machine. These exercises can help you target and build your back and forearm muscles.

Top seated cable row alternative exercises for a stronger back

Below are some of the best seated cable row alternative exercises that can help you target your back muscles. Incorporate these into your training for a stronger back

Seated Band Rows

seated cable row alternative exercise with a resistance band

The seated band row is an ideal alternative to a cable seated row. It works out the same muscles and develops a range of motion. But you must have a resistance band for this. The reason is that you cannot perform the seated row without any sort of resistance.

Level: Beginner.
Equipment Required: resistance band, anchor point for resistance band.

Steps to follow:

  • Start this seated cable row alternative exercise by finding an anchor point for your resistance band. It can be a pole or a hook. Sit down on the floor and pick an anchor point so that it’s right below your chest level. You can also thread the resistance band around your feet.
  • Secure the strap on the anchor and sit down a few feet away from it with extended legs in front of you.
  • Keep your back straight and grab the resistance band.
  • Pull the band toward yourself by pulling your elbows in so that they’re tucked against your body. Do not move your body back and forth.
  • Extend your arms and repeat for 10-15 reps.

Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows

seated cable row alternative exercise - single arm dumbbell row

This seated cable row alternative exercise offers more weight and hence more strength development in the back. But unlike the seated cable rows, they don’t require a heavy cable machine.

Level: Beginner.
Equipment Required: Dumbbell.

Steps to follow:

  • Grab a dumbbell in your right hand.
  • Find a bench or somewhere to place the left hand that is approximately at waist height.
  • Keep your feet under your hips and lean forward so that your torso becomes in line with the ground.
  • Extend your right hand toward the floor.
  • Then, pull the dumbbell up by lifting your elbow so that it’s parallel to the ground. Be sure to keep your shoulders steady as you want to focus more on your back muscles.
  • Bring the dumbbell back to the starting position and repeat for 10-15 reps.
  • Switch to the other hand and repeat.

Seal Rows

The seal row is a good alternative exercise to the seated cable row. It doesn’t rely on momentum. But, it’s sheer strength that gets you through the exercise. This way, you develop more muscles and reach your goals faster.

Level: Intermediate.
Equipment Required: Flat workout bench or another elevated flat surface, pair of dumbbells.

Steps to follow:

  • Get a flat workout bench lifted off from the floor a couple of feet.
  • Place your dumbbells on either side of the bench and lie face-down. Your body should be straight, at least up till your knees.
  • Grab the dumbbells and lift them from the floor by bending your elbows. Bring your elbows up until they are parallel to the floor and tucked against your side.
  • Bring the dumbbells back down until your arms are fully extended.
  • Repeat for 10-15 reps.

Inverted TRX Rows

inverted trx seated cable row alternative exercise

For the inverted TRX rows, you’ll be needing a TRX suspension Trainer or any other resistance band. This exercise primarily targets the back, biceps, shoulders, and core.

Level: Intermediate.
Equipment Required: TRX Suspension Trainer, or any resistance band, or gymnastics rings, anchor for holding the band or rings.

Steps to follow:

  • Start inverted TRX seated cable row alternative exercise by finding an anchor at a sufficient height for the band. Ideally, the anchor should be on the ceiling. But you can choose a door too.
  • Adjust the TRX band so that it’s at about waist height and anchor it to the ceiling or door.
  • Sit down below the straps and grab the handles.
  • Place your feet on the floor and raise your hips. Your knees, shoulders, and hips should be straight and in line in this position.
  • Now, bend your elbows and pull yourself up into the handles. Remember to keep the elbows tucked close to your side.
  • Lower yourself by extending the arms and repeat for 10-15 reps.

Quadruped Dumbbell Rows

quadruped dumbbell rows

These are ideal at-home alternatives to seated cable rows due to their minimum range of motion. They are a good exercise for beginners.

Level: Beginner.
Equipment Required: Exercise mat (optional), dumbbell.

Steps to follow:

  • Get down on your knees and hands and make sure your back is perfectly straight. Keep your palms on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Your knees should be below your hips.
  • Now, pick up a dumbbell in your right hand.
  • Lift the dumbbell so that your elbow is parallel to the ground.
  • Gradually place the dumbbell back down but stop before it hits the ground.
  • Repeat for 10-15 reps and then switch to the other arm.

Towel Rows

The towel row is a DIY seated cable row alternative that requires only two things: a pole and a towel. It works out the same muscles as the seated cable row

Level: Beginner.
Equipment Required: Towel, pole.

Steps to follow:

  • Wrap your towel around the pole and hold each end of the towel.
  • Now, anchor your feet to the base of the pole.
  • Lean back so much so that your arms are fully extended, and your elbows are perfectly straight.
  • Pull yourself into the pole, keeping your shoulders, back, hips, and legs all straight.
  • Gradually push yourself back down and extend your arms again.
  • Repeat for 10-12 reps.

Band Lateral Raise

lateral raise with resistance band seated cable row alternative exercise

The band lateral raise is another seated cable row alternative worth considering, especially if you have resistance bands at home or have access to some. This exercise works on the lateral deltoids and is ideal for developing shoulder strength. But it doesn’t work out the other deltoids.

Level: Beginner.
Equipment Required: Resistance band.

Steps to follow:

  • Grab a resistance band and place it under your foot.
  • Grab the other end in one hand and stand up straight with it.
  • Keeping your back straight, lift the band to your side to fully extend your arm. Your elbow should remain straight throughout. Try your best to lift the band out to your side instead of in front of you.
  • Bring the resistance band to a halt as you reach your shoulder height.
  • Then, bring it back down and repeat for 10-15 reps.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

lateral raise with dumbbells

The dumbbell lateral raise is another great seated cable row alternative exercise. It targets the side deltoids.

Level: Intermediate.
Equipment Required: Pair of Dumbbells.

Steps to follow:

  • Stand up straight and grab two dumbbells and keep them by your side.
  • Lift the dumbbells keeping your arms and elbows straight.
  • Keep lifting them until they’re at about shoulder height.
  • Lower your dumbbells gradually and repeat for 10-15 reps.

Incline Dumbbell Rows

incline dumbbell lateral row

The incline bench dumbbell rows require an incline bench or any inclined surface. Due to the incline, you target a different part of your back and hence develop some variety in your exercises.

Level: Intermediate.
Equipment Required: Incline bench, pair of dumbbells.

Steps to follow:

  • Set your incline bench to a 60 to 80-degree angle.
  • Lie face-down on it so that your knees, hips, and back are all in a straight line.
  • Grab a dumbbell in both hands and lift your dumbbells.
  • Keep lifting until your elbows are parallel with the floor.
  • Hold the pose for a few seconds and repeat for 10-12 reps.

Dumbbell YTW Raises

The dumbbell YTW raise is another effective seated cable row alternative. It works the rear deltoids and your traps. But, this exercise isn’t a full shoulder workout as it doesn’t target the lateral deltoids.

Level: Intermediate.
Equipment Required: Incline bench, dumbbells.

Steps to follow:

  • Find an incline bench or other surface inclined at a 45-degree angle.
  • Pick up a pair of dumbbells and lie on the bench face-down. Your chin should be resting on top of the edge of the bench.
  • Extend your arms toward the floor and let them hang.
  • Then, lift them and push them outwards so that your arms are making a “Y” shape. Make sure to keep the elbows straight at all times.
  • Bring your arms back down.
  • Now, lift them out to the sides, making a “T” shape in the process. Again, keep the elbows straight.
  • Bring the dumbbells back down to their starting positions.
  • Next, face your arms upwards to form a “W’ shape.
  • Bring them back down. You just completed one rep of the Dumbbell YTW.
  • Repeat for 8-10 reps.

TRX YTW Raises

TRX suspension trainers

You can also do the YTW seated cable row alternative exercise with TRX suspension trainers. You can make this more challenging by bringing yourself forward so that your body is as parallel to the ground as possible.

Level: Intermediate.
Equipment Required: TRX band, anchor for TRX strap.

Steps to follow:

  • First, find an anchor point. It should be a high point that you can tie your TRX band from.
  • Next, hold the handles in your hands and keep your arms straight.
  • Try to lean back slightly.
  • Raise the handles of the TRX to strap up and out such that they form a “Y” shape.
  • Bring the arms back to their starting position.
  • Next, raise the handles to your side so that the TRX strap forms a “T” shape.
  • Bring the handles back to where they were before.
  • Now, raise the elbows and bend them so that your arms are forming a 90-degree angle. And rotate your arms so that they form an upward-facing “W” shape.
  • Relax and bring the arms back down.
  • Repeat 8-10 times.


What exercise can I perform as a replacement for the seated cable row?

The best exercise to do in place of a seated cable row is the seated resistance band row. It mimics the same muscle movements as the seated cable row. And it engages more muscles by allowing more distributed resistance.

How do you do a seated row without a machine?

The easiest way to do a seated cable row without a machine is to use dumbbells. You can either do the single-arm dumbbell row or an incline dumbbell row. Each exercise works out a different muscle group and in a different way.

How can I do a seated cable row at home?

At home, without any equipment whatsoever, the best way to do a seated cable row is to use a towel. Wrap the towel around a pole and anchor your feet at the base of the pole. Then, lean back until your arms are in full extension and slowly pull yourself into and out of the pole.

Final Words from Livelife

Nothing develops back and shoulder strength like a seated cable row. But much like other back exercises, the exercise requires you to use an expensive and bulky equipment.

But, there are many seated cable row alternative exercises that you can perform without any equipment to target and train the same muscles.

Of these seated cable row alternatives, a few stand out.

The resistance band seated rows mimic the seated cable rows very closely. But any of the exercises listed here are all effective seated cable row alternative exercises and can help you achieve your fitness goals. And you don’t need expensive gym equipment for any of them.

Lorenzetti S, Dayer R, Pl├╝ss M, List R. Pulling Exercises for Strength Training and Rehabilitation: Movements and Loading Conditions. J Funct Morphol Kinesiol. 2017;2(3):33. doi:10.3390/jfmk2030033

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