Looking for the best alternatives for lat pulldown? - If so, you're in the right place. 

The lat pulldown is one of the best exercises for building a strong, thick upper back. But, if you don't have access to the machine, it can leave you scratching your head trying to figure out alternatives. 

This article explores the BEST lat pulldown alternatives you can use to work out your back in the comfort of your home gym. 

The first alternatives will be for those that already have power or squat rack with a chin-up or pull-up bar attached. These are some of my favorite back exercises you can perform as alternatives to the lat pulldown. 

1. Pull-up (Best Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Alternative)

Man Doing Pull Ups Outside

The pull-up has similar mechanics to the traditional lat pulldown and works your lats nearly as hard. Most people are actually stronger in the pull-up too, and the whole exercise gives you a brutal burn in your lats, biceps, forearms, abs and core. 

By using a pull-up frame, you'll have the closest match to lat pulldowns in terms of effectiveness. 

The only problem with pull-ups and chin-ups (next on the list) is the fact that you will have to work with your body weight, making it a challenging exercise. If you struggle with this, you might want to invest in a good resistance band to help you out. 

You can even use resistance bands to perform resistance band lat pulldowns; they're incredible. 

Overall, the pull up is one of my favorite vertical pulls that you can perform for your lats as it works you through a full range of motion. It's why I place it above all of the other lat exercises on this list, it's one of the best lat pulldown alternatives. 

If you don't have a pull-up bar or want to switch things up, there are pull up alternatives that offer similar benefits.

Benefits

  • Builds insane grip strength. 
  • Perfect foundation exercise for a strong back. 
  • Massively overloads your latissimus dorsi, and biceps brachii.
  • Increases full-body coordination and mind-muscle connection. 

How To Do

  1. Stand under a pull up frame.
  2. Reach up and grab the bar using an overhand shoulder width grip.
  3. Let your body weight hang free, giving you a deep stretch in your lats. 
  4. Pull your body upward towards the bar. 
  5. Hold for a second and slowly return to the starting position. 
  6. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

When performing a pull up imagine pulling your elbows downward rather than pulling your body up to the bar. It may sound odd, but it helps to improve your form. Don't be afraid to use resistance bands to help you develop strength.

2. Chin-up (Best Close Grip Lat Pulldown Alternative)

Man Doing Chin Ups

The chin-up is one of those super exercises that works an incredible amount of different muscles (like lat pulldowns). You get a huge engagement in the spinal erectors and will put a massive pump on your lats, biceps, and core. 

Who doesn't love a good pump?

Chin-ups are generally EASIER to perform than pull-ups, so if you are struggling to complete the whole set of a pull-up workout, then you should consider trying chin-ups instead. 

They're a fantastic alternative to close grip lat pulldowns. AND, they're one of my favorite lat exercises to do during my workout.

Benefits

  • Easier than pull-ups but still very effective. 
  • Trains your spinal erectors and biceps. 

How to do it

  1. Stand under a chin-up bar. 
  2. Grab the bar using an underhand grip. 
  3. Let your body hang. 
  4. Pull your chest up to the bar and hold for a second. 
  5. Slowly lower and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you find that bodyweight pull-ups and chin-ups are no longer challenging enough to give you a solid workout, you might want to look at purchasing a good weighted belt


If you have a multi-grip pull up bar, feel free to use a neutral or underhand grip. Ensure you have straight arms at the bottom of the movement to get the most from this lat exercise.

What Are The Benefits Of A Weighted Belt? 

As you become more competent in a bodyweight exercise, your body adapts.

After a certain point, it no longer needs to as your body is capable of performing the movement with ease. This means that specific exercise will no longer cause enough stress to your muscles to cause muscle growth. 

The last thing you want is to be working out and NOT seeing any gains. 

By using a weight belt you add external weight to your body, allowing you to continue with the progressive overload necessary for rapid muscle growth. 

Did somebody say BIG lats? 

If you don't have a full power rack or squat rack or a pull-up bar, these next exercises can be completed with just a simple, high-quality bench and either a barbell or some dumbbells. 

Related Article - Best Leg Press Alternatives

3. Barbell Pull Over (Best Lat Pulldown Alternative For Home Gyms)

Man Doing A Barbell Pull Over Exercise

Looking for a simple alternative to lat pulldowns that's easy to perform at home? - The barbell lat pullover is the exercise for you. 

It primarily works your lats, but is also useful for developing your chest and shoulder stability; basically helping you develop a stronger upper body (sign me up). 

It's similar to the skull crusher, but you move your whole arm instead of flexing at the elbow, so you don't need much equipment or space for this movement. AND, it can be performed by most gym-goers. 

However, it might not be the best alternative for lat pulldowns if you have a shoulder injury. 

Benefits

  • Really good stretch achieved by the lats during the full range of motion. 
  • Allows you to utilize your lats in their strongest position, which is when they are fully stretched.
  • This allows you to put in more time under tension.
  • The triceps will support slightly but still leave the heavy lifting to the lats. 
  • Really easy exercise to achieve progressive overload with. 

how to do it

  1. Set a bench to a flat position. 
  2. Grab a barbell using a shoulder-width overhand grip. 
  3. Hold the barbell over chest height with your arms straight.
  4. Pull your shoulder blades into the bench.
  5. Slowly lower behind your head keeping your elbows locked. 
  6. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep your elbows slightly bent so all of the tension goes through your lats. This removes unnecessary forces from your elbow joint. Don't go too heavy straight away. This alternative to lat pulldowns doesn't require too much weight to begin with. If you have poor shoulder mobility, be cautious and focus on form over weight.

Related Article - Plyo Box Workout

4. Bent-Over Barbell Row (Lat Pulldown Alternative Without A Machine)

Woman Doing Bent Over Barbell Row Exercise

The bent-over barbell row is a firm favorite for many lifters who want to improve the size and strength of their upper backs. And it's an excellent substitute for lat pulldowns and works your back more than  the T bar row.

This compound exercise also one of the best movements you can use to strengthen your grip and upper arm strength. With an emphasis on your hip hinge, holding this position under tension gives you a huge burn in your upper and lower back and allows you to completely overload your lats. 

The benefits of this exercise carryover deadlifts, pull-ups, and squats.  

It's the ideal alternative for lat pulldowns if you don't have room for a machine in your home gym. Barbell rows are a favorite of mine. 

Benefits 

  • Perfect for building muscle mass on your upper back, upper arm, and spinal erectors (back muscles). 
  • Trains you in good hip-hinge technique, which is crucial for a strong deadlift. 
  • Massively improves posture when incorporated into a good routine. 
  • It's a compound exercise which works multiple muscles at once.

How to do it 

  1. Stand with a barbell in front of you with your toes under the bar. 
  2. Hinge from the hips and keep your back straight. 
  3. Grab the barbell with a shoulder width overhand grip (pronated grip). 
  4. Lift the bar from the floor and keep your back in a neutral (straight) position. 
  5. Draw the barbell to your stomach and squeeze your lats together. 
  6. Slowly lower and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Be sure to control the lowering phase of the movement so you don't miss out on a chance to stimulate your lats further. Adjust your grip wider for more rear deltoid engagement.


Struggling to stabilise your body? Place your upper body against a chest pad like a flat bench for support.

5. Seated Low Cable Row 

Man Doing Seated Low Cable Row Exercise

The seated low cable row is the perfect exercise to add to your routine if you want an exercise that works your entire back but also gives you an insane bicep pump at the same time.

I LOVE this exercises as you can overload your lats easily with a low risk of injury. It's similar to the bent over barbell row, but is less complex and better suited for beginners. It's one of the top lat pulldown alternatives around.

Although this alternative for lat pulldowns does require a machine, so it's NOT be suited for all home gym set ups. 

Benefits

  • Engages biceps heavily. 
  • Perfect for the end of a session. 
  • Works dynamic stabilizer muscles. 

how to do it 

  1. Sit on a seated row machine. 
  2. Place moderate weight on the weight stack.
  3. Grab the handle with both hands. 
  4. Adjust your legs so it creates tension in the cable (keep your knees slightly bent). 
  5. Keep your back straight and pull the handle to your chest. 
  6. Squeeze your lats and hold for 1-2 seconds.
  7. Slowly return to the starting position. 
  8. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Don't be afraid to stretch your back during the negative part of the movement, it'll give you greater stimulus which means BIGGER lats. 

6. Dumbbell Pull-Over 

Man Doing Dumbbell Pull-Over Exercise

If you struggle with shoulder mobility or only have dumbbells knocking around, you can also do a dumbbell pullover.

The dumbbell pullover is similar to the barbell pullover mentioned before, but uses a dumbbell instead (who'd have thought?). 

As an free weights alternative for lat pulldowns, the dumbbell pullover is one of the easiest to perform. You don't need much equipment, all you need is:

  • Bench Press
  • A Dumbbell

I love performing dumbbell pullovers at the end of my workouts as it stretches completely stretches my lats (large range of motion) while giving me one hell of a PUMP

Benefits

  • Really deep level of stretch with a lot of control over angles and time under tension. 
  • More flexibility and less difficulty on the shoulders than the barbell pullover. 
  • Allows you to utilize your lat muscles in their strongest position, which is when they are fully stretched.
  • This allows you to put in more time under tension.

How to do it

  1. Lie on a flat bench while holding a single dumbbell above your chest. 
  2. Retract your shoulder blades into the bench. 
  3. Keep your arms straight and lower the dumbbell over your head. 
  4. Slowly return to the start and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep a slight bend in your elbow to reduce the tension placed on your joints. This places more force through your lats, which means MORE muscle. 

7. Dumbbell Row (Lat Pulldown Dumbbell Alternative)

Man Doing Single-Arm Dumbbell Row In The Gym

The single arm dumbbell row is different from the other lifts so far in a fundamental way. This free weights exercise isn't as hard on the lats as the other exercises, but it still works well. 

The tricky thing with the dumbbell row is getting the right form. By driving our elbows further back than normal and using a low rowing motion, you can target your lats with pinpoint accuracy.

Who needs lat pulldowns, right? 

When building a HUGE upper back, the hardest thing is staying committed to the same old boring exercises. 

Doing pull-ups and pull-overs gets tiring for even the most experienced lifter, even if they do build your latissimus dorsi muscles. 

However, the dumbbell row is the perfect exercise to throw in when you want to add some variety to your workout routine. 

Alternatively you can perform the incline dumbbell row using a bench and dumbbells. 

Benefits

  • Builds a strong overall back. 
  • Perfect for developing the mind muscle connection.
  • Helps create a good level of balance. 
  • Works both sides individually. 

how to do it

  1. Set a bench flat and place a dumbbell to one side. 
  2. Place your left hand on the upper bench (in line with your shoulder).
  3. Put your left knee on the lower bench (in line with your hips). 
  4. Grab the dumbbell with your right hand. 
  5. Keep your back straight and pull the dumbbell to your hips. 
  6. Slowly return to the start and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

To get the most from single arm dumbbell rows focus on quality reps and build the weight up as you get stronger. Keep your upper body flat and don't rotate too much.


This improves the range of motion your lats work through during dumbbell rows. Retract your shoulder blades at the top of the movement and stretch them at the bottom.[1]

Related Article - T-Bar Row Vs Barbell Row

8. Super Man 

Woman Doing Superman Exercise

The Superman is one of the most effective bodyweight exercises for DESTROYING your lower and upper back without weights. It's a fairly simple alternative to lat pulldowns. 

You can perform this movement pretty much anywhere such as:

  • Home gyms
  • Kitchen
  • Living room
  • Bedroom
  • Office
  • Hotel
  • And more...

BEST OF ALL - You don't need any equipment. 

While it's not my favorite alternative lat pulldown exercise, it makes an excellent addition to any lat workout routine. 

Benefits

  • Easy to do anywhere.
  • Helps build coordination.
  • Great for warm-up on back day.

How to do it

  1. Lie on your stomach.
  2. Raise your hands above your head. 
  3. Lift your hands and feet off the floor and hold. 
  4. Slowly lower and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Don't do the reps too fast. Slow is MORE on this exercise. 

9. Plank Row 

Woman Doing Plank Row

The plank row is a great twist on the traditional plank. To do it correctly, you will need to start in the standard plank position. 

By holding the plank position, your lats are engaged (and pretty much your entire body) as they attempt to keep your stable. 

This is one of the BEST lat pulldown alternatives around if you don't have much equipment. Who needs a lat pulldown machine when you have this movement?

Benefits

  • You can easily add dumbbells for more resistance.
  • Helps build core strength.
  • Great for beginners.

How to do it

  1. Assume the press up position with a dumbbell in one hand. 
  2. Pull the dumbbell up to your hips, squeezing your lats together. 
  3. Lower slowly and complete your set.
  4. Switch arms and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep your body stable and try not to pivot too much at the top of each rep. You want your body to remain at flat as possible so you engage your latissimus dorsi fully.

Related Article - Best Chin Up Alternatives

10. Pushup 

Man Doing Push Ups Outside

"PUSH UPS FOR BACK???"

I know what you're thinking here, but hear me out. 

The OG of bodyweight exercises, pushups are incredible at building strength and mass in your triceps, shoulders, and upper back. 

Your lats act as an antagonist to your chest muscles, so while they aren't the primary muscle associated with pushups, they're still a great way to develop your upper back muscles. 

Overall, the push up is a good lat pulldown alternative. 

Benefits

  • Works chest and triceps.
  • Excellent for adding to the end of your chest workout.
  • Easy to modify.

how to do it

  1. Assume the plank position. 
  2. Ensure your hands are placed shoulder width apart and under your shoulders. 
  3. Keep your body straight with your core engaged. 
  4. Lower your body to the floor (without touching the floor). 
  5. Squeeze each shoulder blade together as you lower yourself.
  6. Pause at the bottom and push yourself back up. 
  7. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Struggling to perform a pushup? Try elevating your hands, this makes the movement easier. 


Still struggling? Place your knees on the floor to remove some weight from your upper body.

11. Resistance Band Row 

Woman Doing Resistance Band Row Exercise

The resistance band row is an excellent alternative to the lat pulldown exercise. 

The movement requires barely any room at all and can be performed pretty much anywhere. All you need is enough space for your body and a resistance band. 

As with the other rowing exercises, it works your lats, traps, rhomboids, rear delts, and biceps... Every area you need to develop for a strong upper back.

WARNING: Don't be fooled by the resistance band. It'll surprise you and will leave your lats with some serious DOMS. Trust me on this one. 

Benefits

  • Doesn't require a lot of room.
  • Great for all levels of experience.

how to do it

  1. Hold the upper half of the resistance band in both hands. 
  2. Place your feet inside the bottom half of the band. 
  3. Hip hinge forward and keep your back straight. 
  4. Pull the band up to your stomach/lower chest. 
  5. Squeeze your lats together. 
  6. Slowly lower and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Attach one end of the resistance band to an anchor point (such as bed frame) and perform a seated row.

Looking for alternative lat pulldown variations? Try the resistance band lat pulldown.

12. Inverted Row

Man Doing Inverted Row

The inverted row is one of the best lat pulldown alternatives you can perform. 

It works your lats, biceps, and forearms, and could be argued that it works pretty much all other areas of your body too for stability. 

You can perform this exercise with an underhand or overhand grip, making it highly versatile. 

I often use this exercise to train my clients when they can't perform pull ups; it's an excellent strength builder.

To perform this exercise you'll need a barbell and squat rack OR a suspension trainer. While it doesn't require a lot of equipment, it might not be suitable for all home gyms.

Benefits

  • Perfect for developing pull up strength.
  • You can regress and progress the movement. 

how to do it

  1. Using a barbell or suspension trainer, set them to chest height. 
  2. Use an overhand grip (shoulder width apart) and hold on the equipment. 
  3. Straighten your body and lower yourself closer to the floor (so your body is on an angle). 
  4. Pull your chest to the barbell or suspension trainer handles. 
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

You can increase or decrease difficulty by adjusting the angle of your body. The closer you are to the floor, the more bodyweight you'll be lifting and vice-versa. 

13. Straight Arm Pulldown

Man Doing Straight Arm Pulldown Demonstration

The straight arm pulldown primarily targets your lats while engaging secondary muscles such as your triceps, posterior deltoids, and core muscles. I like this exercise as it works your muscles through shoulder extension. 

It's an often overlooked exercise, but in my book the straight arm pulldown is a perfect alternative lat pulldown exercise. 

However, I must add that you'll need a cable machine to perform this lat pull down alternative. Although, you might be able to use a resistance band if you're savvy. 

This lat pulldown alternative provides a HUGE range of motion similar to the dumbbell pullovers. I'm a BIG fan of it. 

Benefits

  • Doesn't require a lot of weight. 
  • Uses a large range of motion. 

how to do it 

  1. Set a cable machine to the highest setting. 
  2. Place a rope handle or straight bar on to the cable. 
  3. Facing the handle, grab the rope with both hands and walk back a few paces. 
  4. Lean slightly forward, hinging from your hips and let your arms straighten above your head allowing a deep stretch in the lats.
  5. Slightly bend your elbows. 
  6. Pull the handles to your hips by pivoting from the shoulder (don't let your elbows move). 
  7. Squeeze your lats and reverse the movement. 
  8. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

You don't need a lot of weight on the cable. Focus on improving your form before you add more weight.

If you use a rope handle, you get enhanced shoulder extension at the bottom of the movement. 

You could also use your cable machine to perform a single arm cable pulldown.  

The Lat Pulldown: Broken Down

The lat pulldown has several variants.

Shoulder-width underhand gripThis engages all of the same muscles that a chin-up would such as your lats, biceps, and shoulders. This is used by lifters who want to max out their weight and utilize their biceps more. 

Overhand wide grip - This reduces the activation of your biceps, forcing your lats to take over. It will give your forearms, rear delts, and even your abs a solid workout too. This style is the king of the lat burnout and will lead to substantial size gains. 

Most lat pulldown variations we've shown you will target the same muscles as the lat pull down. You'll get the same muscle building benefits you'd get from a lat pulldown machine. 

Why It Is Important To Train Your Lats?

Training your lats is essential to give your body the coveted "V-Shape". Having an impressive set of lats not only makes you look better, but also improves your overall upper body strength. 

Your lats control how your arms rotate and extend. AND, help support your neck and head. Training them improves your posture, preventing you from slouching, while stopping you from looking like a hunchback after years of training. 

Nobody wants that, right?

The lats are fundamental in supporting your other lifts too. If you want to be a deadlift king or squat impressive weights, you'll need to make sure you don't neglect your lats. 

Cost-Effective Lat Training Equipment

If you have just started building your own home gym and are still deciding upon which pieces of equipment are the most cost-effective. 

A great place to start is a pull-up frame or bar. 

They're cheap, take up a minimal space, and give you access to one of the most effective exercises you can use to train your upper back... the pull-up. 

Buying a good barbell or a good set of dumbbells is the next step. These may cost a lot more than a pull-up bar, but you get a lot more versatility here as they can be used for many other muscle groups. With them you can perform exercises like bent over dumbbell rows.

On a budget? Purchase a resistance band, you'll be able to perform lat pulldown variations such as resistance band lat pull downs single arm pulldown, and resistance band rows. They're perfect alternatives for wide grip lat pulldowns.

Finally, if you have space and want the most effective lat building machine, you should consider purchasing an actual lat pull-down machine. It'll allow you to train using vertical pulling exercises like the lat pulldown.

Sure, they cost a fair amount for a single exercise machine. But, the weighted lat pulldown machine is the most effective way to work out your lats. 

Common Questions About Lat Pulldowns

What is the best wide grip lat pulldown alternative? 

The best alternative to the traditional wide grip lat pulldown is the pull up. Pull ups allow you to work your lats through a large range of motion, providing excellent stimulus for your lats. And the movement pattern is virtually the same. 

What is the best close grip lat pulldown alternative? 

The best alternative for a close grip lat pulldown is the chin up, as it works the most similar muscle groups such as your lats, biceps, rhomboids, and forearms. 

What is the best single-arm lat pulldown alternative? 

The best alternative to the single-arm lat pulldown is the one-arm dumbbell row. This is a great way to train isometrically and it works your shoulder blades in a similar fashion. 

What is the best reverse grip lat pulldown alternative? 

One of the best reverse grip lat pulldown alternatives is the bent over row. The bent over row places a large amount of strain on both your biceps and your lats, like the reverse grip lat pulldown. 

Conclusion

Now you're armed with the correct knowledge, there should be no reason to avoid training your lats (latissimus dorsi).[2

You DON'T need to rely on the lat pulldown machine anymore, and you've got 13 of the best alternatives for lat pulldowns to keep your upper back muscles growing. 

Whether you perform pull ups, dumbbell pullovers, barbell rows, resistance band lat pulldowns, or other, give your lats the time and attention they deserve; you won't regret it.

References:

1.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK448120/

2.https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/4-stretches-to-keep-your-shoulders-in-shape

Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.