Today, I want to show you some highly effective seated cable row alternatives you can use to build a bigger, more muscular back.
If you train at home, or your gym doesn’t have a seated cable row machine, these exercises use barbells, dumbbells, resistance bands or your own bodyweight to work the same muscles in your back, shoulders and arms.
Seated Cable Row: Muscles Worked
The seated cable row is a compound exercise, meaning it works a number of different muscle groups at the same time. The main ones are:
- Latissimus dorsi
- Posterior deltoids
- Elbow flexors (biceps, brachialis and brachioradialis)
Seated Cable Row: How It’s Done
There are several variations of the seated cable row, which include:
- V-Bar Neutral Grip
- Underhand Narrow Grip
- Overhand Wide Grip
- Neutral Wide Grip Seated Cable Row
Although the same muscles are being worked, changes in grip width and hand position shift the emphasis from one set of muscles to the other.
When the seated cable row is done with the elbows close to the body, and the handles/bar is pulled into the lower part of your stomach near the belly button, the lats are heavily involved in moving the weight from point A to point B.
The muscles in your upper back and shoulders, such as the traps, rhomboids and rear delts, have to work harder when you use a wider overhand grip and row the bar/handles higher up your stomach.
Seated Cable Row Alternatives
- Barbell Row
- Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
- Chest-Supported T-Bar Row
- Chest-Supported Bench Row
- TRX Inverted Row
- Meadows Row
- Resistance Band Seated Row
Probably the most obvious alternative to the seated cable row is the barbell row.
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The main benefit of the barbell row is that it doesn’t require a cable row machine. All you need is a barbell and some plates, making it perfect if you train at home with a limited amount of equipment.
Like the seated cable row, the barbell row works most of the muscles in your back, along with the elbow flexors (biceps, brachialis and brachioradialis).
If you want to focus more on the lats, use a relatively narrow grip, keep your elbows close to your side and pull the bar into the lower part of the stomach.
Taking a wider grip, on the other hand, flaring the elbows out to the side and pulling the bar closer to the chest more work from the muscles in the upper back and rear delts.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
One of the downsides of the barbell row is that the muscles in your lower back can end up getting fatigued, especially if you’ve done squats or deadlifts earlier in the workout.
The big advantage with the dumbbell row is that your weight is supported on the bench. As a result, you can focus on training the muscles in your back without fatigue in the spinal erectors forcing you to cut the set short.
Chest-Supported T-Bar Row
The chest-supported T-bar row offers similar benefits to the single-arm dumbbell row in the sense that lower back fatigue isn’t an issue.
Chest-Supported Bench Row
TRX Inverted Row
Another lower-back friendly alternative to the seated cable row is the inverted row, which you can do with any suspension trainer, be it a TRX, Jungle Gym or even a couple of gymnastic rings.
The inverted row has been shown to work many of the muscles in the back just as well as the barbell row, but with less load on the spine.
The inverted row can be made easier or more difficult by altering the position of your feet.
Moving your feet away from the anchor point so that your body is in a more upright position makes the exercise easier. To make the exercise harder, move under the anchor point so that your upper body is closer to the floor.
You can also add resistance by wearing a weighted vest, which increases the amount of weight you have to lift with each rep.
Named after bodybuilder John Meadows, who popularized the exercise, the Meadows row is a modified version of a single-arm dumbbell row, done with a barbell rather than a dumbbell.
It’s a highly effective way to work the muscles in your back and arms, making it a solid substitute for the seated cable row.
Resistance Band Seated Row
If you don’t have any dumbbells, and nowhere to anchor a suspension trainer, you can also do the seated row with resistance bands.
Seated rows done on a cable row machine and seated rows with resistance bands look almost identical. Both exercises work the same muscles in your back, shoulders and arms.
However, even though they might look the same, seated rows with a resistance band aren’t as good as seated rows done on a cable row machine.
When you do rows on a seated cable row machine, you’ve got a constant level of tension throughout the entire exercise. That matters, because one of the things that makes your muscles grow is challenging them with high levels of tension in a lengthened position.
But you don’t get that with the resistance band seated row. The band provides more resistance when it’s stretched and your arms are closer to your body, than it does when your arms are straight.
That doesn’t mean the resistance band seated row is a waste of time. It’s still a decent alternative to the seated cable row, especially if you’re training at home without dumbbells or a suspension trainer.
But it’s not quite as effective, and isn’t going to stimulate the same level of growth as the seated row done on a cable machine.
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