Renegade rows will help you build a strong back and core, and all you need is a pair of dumbbells. However, you need a certain level of fitness to be able to perform them, and if you are still a beginner, then you might not be able to do a renegade row at all.
It can also be difficult for those with upper or lower body injuries to perform a renegade row. But don't worry, there are lots of other ways you can work the same parts of your body and get all the benefits, and in this guide, we’ll introduce some of the best renegade row alternatives to perform anywhere.
Table of Contents
- 10 Best Renegade Row Alternatives (Techniques For Challenging Movements)
- Muscles Worked With Renegade Row Substitutes
- Benefits Of Alternative Exercises Over Renegade Rows
- Common Renegade Row Questions Answered
10 Best Renegade Row Alternatives (Techniques For Challenging Movements)
Renegade rows involve lying in the plank position and pulling a dumbbell up towards you, one hand at a time. These can be difficult if you're a beginner with weaker back muscles or if you're recovering from an injury. If you can't complete a renegade row, then some alternatives mimic the movement and engage almost all the same muscle groups.
Here are 10 of the best to try:
1. One Arm Dumbbell Snatches
Snatches are a common movement in weightlifting and powerlifting that helps you build explosive power. The one-arm dumbbell snatch really works your back and engages your core to control the movement. In doing so, this movement gives you all the benefits of a renegade row. It's suitable for beginners, but you may need to start with a light weight at first.
Start by standing tall with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in one hand using an overhand grip. Squat down to the floor, and then in one explosive movement, raise back up and pull the dumbbell up to the ceiling.
As the dumbbell reaches the highest point, fully extend your arm to stabilize it, and hold for a few seconds. Then, lower your arm back down and return to the starting position. Aim for 8-10 reps, and make sure you alternate arms to work both sides of your body.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - This exercise can be challenging for beginners. I recommend using your own bodyweight to complete the first few sets, so you can fine-tune the movement before adding dumbbell weight.
Related Article - Single Dumbbell Exercises To Try At Home!
2. Dumbbell Bent-Over Rows
You’ll need some kind of weight for this alternative renegade row, but you can substitute the dumbbell for a kettlebell, resistance band, or cable machine if they’re available. This movement comes closest to the renegade row but is easier to perform and requires less core strength, making it perfect for beginners.
Start by standing tall with feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. Bend forward at the hips until your torso is parallel with the floor, and allow your hands to hang down in front of you.
Focusing the effort on your back, bend your elbows and pull the dumbbells up towards you in a rowing motion. Keep your back straight throughout the movement, pause at the top, and then slowly lower your arms back down to starting position to complete the rep.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - If you struggle to keep your balance in the hip-hinge position, you can use a weight bench to support yourself. You can also do these one at a time for a more isolateral exercise.
3. Half-Turkish Get Up
The half-Turkish get up is a full-body movement that will strengthen your core, back, and arms. It's not as focused as a renegade row, but it will improve your overall strength and flexibility.
Start by lying with your back on the ground and a dumbbell in your hand gripped tightly. Raise your arm, so it's fully outstretched with the dumbbell above you. Next, bend your knee and push your upper body upwards with your other arm. From there, sit upwards and raise yourself onto one knee.
Pause for a second and then return back to starting position. You should keep your arm extended with the dumbbell above you throughout the movement, watching it throughout the exercise.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - This is one of the best full-body exercises on my list. It engages the whole body and adds an element of cardio to your workout. This exercise is also an excellent alternative to burpees.
4. Bicycle Crunches
A bicycle crunch is a useful alternative renegade row exercise that requires no equipment, though you may benefit from a cushioned yoga mat to lie down on. This exercise is as much about stability and balance as it is about gaining strength, and it should be easier for beginners than renegade rows.
Start by lying on your back with your knees raised up at 90 degrees. Your hands should be touching the side of your head as if you’re about to perform a crunch. Raise your shoulders a few inches from the mat and rotate your upper body slightly to the side until your elbow meets the opposite knee and the other leg extends fully.
Raise your leg slowly back up to starting position and rotate your head and torso back to where they started just off the mat. Repeat the motion, but this time rotate to the other side of your body and extend the other leg.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - The more you rotate your elbows towards your knees, the more you'll hit your obliques.
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5. Pull Ups (Weighted or Unweighted)
Pull ups are difficult for beginners but are incredibly good for your body. They are a compound exercise, meaning they work many major muscle groups, but they don’t put any strain on your legs. This means you can get all the benefits of a renegade row even if you’re suffering from a lower-body injury.
Start by hanging on the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing away from you. Then, pull your body up slowly, focusing on engaging your back muscles as you move.
Keep going until your shoulders reach the bar, and then pause for a few seconds before lowering yourself back down. You can perform this exercise using your body weight, or you can attach some weights to your belt to really challenge yourself.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - Pull ups are a staple exercise in the lifting community. If you can't do a full rep yet, don't worry! There are plenty of variations you can do. You can add a resistance band to help lift you towards the top of the bar.
Further Reading - Lat Pulldown Vs Pull Ups: Which Are Better?
6. Dumbbell Pullovers
A dumbbell pullover really focuses the effort on your core and back, which can lead to solid gains in these areas. Your shoulders and arms are used to stabilize your body, but there's no reliance on your lower body, so it's a perfect alternative renegade row for those who might be carrying a leg injury.
For this exercise, you'll need a dumbbell in each hand and a bench. Start by lying down on the bench and raise your arms above you, holding the dumbbells until they are almost outstretched. In a controlled motion, move your arms back so that the weight drifts over your head. Pause for a second and then return back to starting position.
This should work your lats mostly, so if you are feeling it in your chest and arms, it might mean your form is off. Keep the weight low until you've mastered the movement.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - I like supersetting this exercise with other movements. Give it a try! You should feel an excellent stretch in your serratus muscles.
See Also - Best Dumbbell Pullover Alternatives
7. Hollow Hold Dumbbell Press
Hollow hold dumbbell presses give you all the benefits of a renegade row without any strain on your lower body. The angle of your body engages your core, and the weight of the dumbbells trains your back. You’ll also feel benefits in your arms and shoulders if you perform this correctly.
Start by lying on your back with a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your legs together and straight, and raise them in the air at a 45-degree angle. Next, lift your shoulders slightly off the ground, and press your arms up, lifting the dumbbells until your arms are almost fully extended. Pause for a second, and then lower the weights back to starting position to complete the movement.
You should feel this primarily in your back rather than your chest, so if you aren't, then you may need to check your form or ask a friend to check your positioning throughout the movement.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - Start slow with this movement. Holding your legs at a 45-degree angle can be difficult, but the static nature of this exercise yields fantastic results.
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8. Landmine Single Arm Row
The landmine single arm row helps you grow your back aggressively, but the stance allows you to stay in complete control throughout the movement and limit any issues for those with injuries. You'll need a barbell and weights to perform the exercise, so it's probably easier to do in the gym.
Start by standing over a barbell with both feet on one side of the bar. Bend your body at the hips so you’re at 90 degrees, and slightly bend your knees to reach down and grip the bar with one hand. Hold the bar near the end and pull it up towards yourself.
Engage your back and core throughout the movement, pause at the top, and lower it back down to starting position to complete the movement. Remember to switch arms and perform an equal number of sets on both sides.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - I have really grown to love the grip position for this exercise. The different grip position allows you to engage your forearms and it's always good to change it up.
9. Plank Shoulder Taps
Plank shoulder taps have a very similar movement to renegade rows, but with less resistance, so they are useful for beginners who don’t yet have the strength for the full exercise. They predominantly work your core, and you won’t feel as much benefit in your back muscles, but it will really help you improve your stability.
Start in the plank position on the floor with your weight spread evenly. Shift your weight slightly to one side and raise one hand up off the floor to tap the opposite shoulder. Lower it back down to the floor, and then repeat the movement on the other side. This exercise needs concentration and control but shouldn't take you long to master.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - This exercise is simple, but it allows you to work on your stability which will transfer to bigger lifts such as squats, barbell rows, and deadlifts.
Related Article - Best Side Plank Substitute Exercises
10. Seated Cable Rows
Cable machines are really useful for working all your major muscle groups, but you're unlikely to have one at home, so this exercise is probably only for in the gym.
This alternative doesn't engage your core as much as a renegade row, but it's great for building a broad and strong back. You can adjust the weight on the machine, too, and increase the resistance as you build up your strength.
To perform this exercise, start by sitting facing the machine with your feet on the pedals. Reach forward to grab the handles of the cable machine and pull towards your chest.
Pause, and then lower in a controlled way back to starting position. Make sure you keep your back straight throughout the movement and don't go too heavy until you're used to the exercise.
Aim for 8-10 reps at a time, and if you can do more than 12, you should up the weight on the machine.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - This is one of my all-time favorite back exercises. If you want to grow your back, this is a fantastic staple exercise. You can add lat pulldowns and pull ups to send your back into overdrive hypertrophy.
Related Article - Best Lat Pulldown Attachments For Cable Rows
Muscles Worked With Renegade Row Substitutes
Renegade rows are popular because they work your back and your core. This doesn’t just improve those areas; it also adds a lot of strength and versatility to your body which enables you to take on other exercises. It also helps you to build a functional physique which is beneficial to athletes.
Renegade row alternatives target the same areas, but some of the exercises also activate a wider range of muscle groups. This allows you to really push yourself and get more muscle gains.
For best results, it's a good idea to mix up the renegade row alternative exercises, so you’re challenging your body and getting the benefit across your whole upper body. These are the major muscle groups worked with renegade row substitutes:
Benefits Of Alternative Exercises Over Renegade Rows
To perform a renegade row, you start in the plank position with a dumbbell in each hand and alternate, pulling each dumbbell up towards you in a rowing motion. The movement relies on the strength of your back and your stability to do it well, which can make it difficult for beginners and unsuitable for anyone who can’t put weight on their lower body.
The renegade row alternative exercises allow you to target similar muscle groups without needing as much strength. Most of the moves are compound too, so they work multiple areas of your body at once so you can get more from your workout. This helps you to build a stronger body with greater muscle mass, and it helps you to become more functional so you can more easily take on other exercises.
Most of the renegade row substitutes on the list need very little equipment, so they can be performed at home or in the gym. By incorporating a few different movements, you can mix up your routine, and by shocking and challenging your body, you'll see greater muscle growth.
Common Renegade Row Questions Answered
How do you make Renegade rows easier?
Renegade rows are much easier if you start on a flat, stable surface and row backwards, not upwards. You can also lower the weight to a more manageable level if you’re struggling.
How much weight should I use for a renegade row?
As a general rule, beginners should use about 10% of their body weight, intermediates 20%, and advanced users 30%. This is a good starting point, but you should listen to your body and adapt as you go.
What is the best renegade row alternative exercise for beginners?
Some of the renegade row exercises, like pullups, are really challenging for beginners, and you'll probably struggle to complete one. The dumbbell bent-over rows are a good exercise for those starting out and should be possible for anyone to perform as long as they choose a light weight.
A renegade row is an effective exercise, but it won’t be suitable for everyone. These alternatives allow you to target the same areas, your back and core, and let you choose a movement that suits you. Hopefully you’ve found a few exercises here that you're able to try out at home or in the gym.
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