You know the benefits of seated cable rows, they're invaluable when building muscle strength in your back. However, cable machines are neither cheap nor compact—which means getting one into your home gym can be challenging.

So what should you do instead?

In this guide, you’ll discover the the best seated row alternatives that don’t require a machine, and how to do them.

While seated cable rows are typically done on a machine, there are plenty of alternatives that you can perform in your home or garage gym.

See the list below and get all of the same benefits of seated cable rows without a machine, while using much cheaper home gym equipment instead.

1. Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows (Seated Cable Row Alternative With No Machine)

Man Doing A Single-Arm Dumbbell Row Exercise In The Gym

To work out your back and arms in a similar way to the seated row, you can perform this single arm exercises

This substitute for seated row trains each arm individually, allowing you to iron out any muscular imbalances that can occur during regular training. 

I usually give this back exercise to clients who're weight lifting newbies. It's simple to learn and has a low risk factor. 

Another bonus of the single arm dumbbell row is the fact it doesn't require much equipment. If you have one dumbbell and a bench, you're good to go. You could even ditch the bench and lean on your front leg if needs be.


  • Builds upper back thickness.
  • Isolates your lats.
  • Great for beginners.

how to do it:

  1. Place your left knee and left hand on the bench, holding a dumbbell in your right hand while the corresponding leg is braced on the floor.
  2. Brace your abdominals and make sure your torso and spine are properly stabilized.
  3. Pull back your shoulder blades. Take care not to arch or curve your back.
  4. Let the dumbbell hang.
  5. Lift the dumbbell to your hip, squeezing your shoulder blades together. 
  6. Return to the starting position and repeat.
  7. Swap arms and finish your set.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Move your arm in an arching motion rather than just lifting the dumbbell by moving your elbow. Your elbow will bend, but your lats and shoulder blades should be moving too.  

2. Barbell Bent Over Rows (Cable Row Alternative For At Home)

Man Doing Barbell Bent Over Row Exercise

The bent over barbell row is one of my favorite compound exercises for training the upper back. I've always used this exercise to develop upper back thickness and it WORKS. 

It's classed as a horizontal pulling exercise (like the seated row), making it an excellent alternative which doesn't require expensive machinery. 

One of my favorite ways to train using the barbell row is to play around with grip positions. Two of my favorites are:

  • Overhand grip - Works your lats, rear delts, and biceps.
  • Underhand grip - Greater focus on the lats and biceps. 

With the barbell row you can use a lot of weight to overload the lats. Try it out during your next workout, you'll love it.


  • Overloads your lats. 
  • Develops upper back thickness.
  • Compound exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Stand in front of your barbell, keeping feet shoulder-width apart, and a slight bend your knees.
  2. Keep your back straight while hinging from the hips.
  3. Grab the barbell with your palms facing up (underhand grip).
  4. Lift and let the barbell hang with your arms kept straight, then brace your abdominals.
  5. Stay in the bent over position (with a neutral spine).
  6. Row the weight towards your stomach slowly, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  7. Lower the barbell back to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Want an extra challenge? Lift the weight to your stomach explosively, then lower it as slowly as possible (4+ seconds minimum). This added time under tension will have your lats screaming for help.  

3. Inverted Rows

Man Doing Inverted Row Exercise In The Gym

Inverted rows are an excellent body weight rowing exercise that's a brilliant alternative for the seated row. 

While it might look completely different, it works your lats, biceps, rear delts, core, and even your glutes. It's pretty much a full body movement.

If you can master this seated row alternative, you'll have some serious upper body strength. 

If you don't have the equipment for inverted rows in your home gym, or you're seeking some variety in your routine you can give inverted row alternative exercises a try.

I often program the inverted row into my clients workouts to build strength for pull ups. 

Try it out and see what all the fuss is about. 


  • Develops upper body strength.
  • Suitable for all abilities.
  • Uses body weight.

How to do it:

  1. Set a squat rack into a below chest height position.
  2. Lie down and grab the bar in an overhand grip.
  3. Keep your body straight and core engaged.
  4. Lift yourself off the ground and towards the bar until your chest almost touches it.
  5. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  6. Slowly lower yourself to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • You can adjust the difficulty of this exercise by changing your positioning. The more upright you are the easier the inverted row is, and the closer to the floor your body is the more difficult it is. 

4. T-Bar Rows (Landmine)

Man Doing T-Bar Row Landmine Exercise in the Gym

If you want to overload your lats with a ton of weight that'll give you a super-thick upper back, the T-bar row is one of the best seated cable row alternatives around. 

This seated cable row alternative was one of the first back exercises I remember doing, and it was TOUGH. But, the T-Bar Row helped develop my lats and biceps during the early years of working out.

My only issue with this exercise is that you'll need somewhere to anchor the barbell, and pushing a barbell into the corner of your home gym and hoping for the best won't cut it.

You'll have to buy a floor anchor or landmine attachment.


  • Great for overloading the lats. 
  • Good range of motion.

How to do it:

  1. Place an empty barbell in a landmine attachment, then load the opposite end and straddle.
  2. Keep your feet at hip width and slightly bend your knees. 
  3. With arms out, bend at the hips and put your torso at a 45-degree angle to the floor, keeping a neutral spine. 
  4. Grab the handles, then pull the weight toward your upper abdominals by retracting your shoulders, with arms bent at your elbows.
  5. Pause for a moment, then slowly lower the barbell to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • If you're struggling to achieve a wide range of motion due to the weighted plates getting in the way, try using smaller plates. For example, rather than putting a 45lb plate on the barbell, use two 22.5lb weighted plates (which are usually half the size). 

5. Incline Dumbbell Row

Man Doing Incline Rear Delt Dumbbell Rows In The Gym

The incline dumbbell row is a simple, yet effective substitute for seated cable row. It works all of the same muscles such as your lats, biceps, forearms, and rear delts. 

What I like about this alternative is that it supports your chest, removing the need to stabilize your body using your core. This is ideal for gym goers who struggle with core stability. 

As your chest is supported, it also prevents you from cheating they weight up, ensuring each rep uses your lats and biceps only. 

Give this movement a try, you'll love it. 


  • Uses a large range of motion.
  • Develops your lats.
  • Difficult to cheat on.

how to do it:

  1. Adjust your bench to a 45-degree angle from the floor. Lean against it with your chest and torso on the bench and your feet planted on the floor behind you.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and let your arms hang down on either side of the bench, with your palms facing inward.
  3. Bring the dumbbells up to the bench, aligned with your chest, bending your elbows and lifting them towards the ceiling.
  4. Keeping control, lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Superset this movement with spider curls (basically in the same position, except you perform dumbbell curls), it'll give your biceps a HUGE pump.

Suggested Equipment - Best Adjustable Weight Benches

6. Seated Resistance Band Rows (Seated Cable Row For At Home)

Woman Working Out With Resistance Bands

The seated resistance band row is a brilliant cable row alternative for in your home gym. In fact, you can perform this alternative pretty much anywhere as it doesn't require much space and uses minimal equipment. 

During the resistance band row, your lats, biceps, and rear delts work hard, giving you a good pump.

However, while it's great for upping the volume during your back workout, it won't be a major muscle mass developer. If you want a bigger back, I recommend using the bent over barbell row. 

Yet, if you're traveling it's an ideal alternative for seated cable rows.


  • You can do it anywhere.
  • Doesn't require expensive equipment.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor or a mat with your legs out in front of you.
  2. Loop a resistance band around your feet and firmly grip the ends.
  3. Keeping your back straight, squeeze your shoulders and pull the band towards your waist, with elbows bent and arms close to your sides. 
  4. Keeping control, reverse the motion and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • If you're struggling to achieve a decent range of motion, try attaching the resistance band around a solid anchor point (like a bed frame). Doing so will allow you to sit a little further away, giving you a larger range of motion. 

7. Inverted TRX Rows

Woman Doing Inverted TRX Rows In The Gym

The TRX inverted row is a brilliant body weight movement which is often used as a stepping stone to pull ups. 

This seated cable row alternative is excellent for developing upper back strength, especially if you're new to the gym. However, even seasoned lifters will find this movement a challenge.

One aspect of the TRX inverted row I love is that you can set it up pretty much anywhere. So long as you've got a decent anchor point (door frame, wall anchor, goal post, tree), you're good to go. 

If you don't have a TRX trainer, or it's a little too expensive, we have tested out the best TRX alternatives you can buy.


  • You can set it up almost anywhere.
  • Uses your body weight.
  • Suitable for all abilities.

How to do it:

  1. Suspend your TRX handles securely above.
  2.  Grip the handles and hang with your arms extended. Your abdominals should be engaged, with only your heels making contact with the floor.
  3. Pull your body up towards the hands, just below your chest, taking care to draw back the shoulders.
  4. Keeping form, slowly lower yourself back to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • You can adjust the difficulty of this exercise easily by doing the following: Lower your body to make it harder. Or make your body more upright to make the inverted row easier. 

What Exactly Is A Seated Cable Row, And How Do You Do It?

A seated cable row is what’s known as a compound exercise: a maneuver that works multiple groups of muscles simultaneously.

During a seated cable row, you sit on the bench of a weighted horizontal cable machine, keeping your knees bent. Grabbing the handle of the cable—it can be a triangle or bar—pull the cable down towards your lower abdomen, then return it to its previous position.[1]

Use caution to keep your back straight, and make sure your arms are moving rather than your torso. You also want to avoid letting the weights fall or crash when you return to the starting position.

What Muscles Does A Seated Cable Row & Its Alternatives Work?

Seated cable rows are a compound exercise that use many muscle groups in your upper body. Some of the primary muscles used are the following:

  • Back muscles
    These include the lower, middle, and upper groups. Most of the workout targets your trapezius muscles, rhomboids, and outer back muscles.
  • Shoulder muscles
    These include your posterior deltoids, which can provide a much more toned upper arm profile when strengthened.
  • Arms
    Your brachialis in your upper arm is responsible for flexing your elbow, while the brachioradialis does the same from the forearm. Seated cable rows are excellent at targeting these muscles, which can stabilize grip and add noticeable definition to your arms.
  • Chest
    The pectoralis major is very active during seated cable rows.[2]

In addition to these primary muscles, seated cable rows also work out your secondary muscles:

  • Biceps/triceps
    Your upper arms are not directly active during a seated cable row, but rather stabilize the shoulders while you do this exercise.
  • Hamstrings
    Because proper form is crucial, your hamstrings contract to keep your lower body stable.
  • Gluteus maximus
    Like hamstrings, these muscles and other lower body areas remain contracted and keep you stabilized.

Anyone looking to build strength or mass should implement seated cable rows or similar exercises, largely because it strengthens your back—and the stronger your back muscles, the more you can exercise and lift in the rest of your routine.

Common Questions About Seated Cable Row

Does a seated row work the chest?

No, not really. The seated row is primarily a back and biceps movement. If you want to work your chest, perform bench press. 

Do inverted rows build muscle?

Yes, inverted rows do build muscle in your back, rear delts, biceps, and forearms. Working these groups can build muscle, allowing you to have a better looking upper body with greater strength.

Where should you feel seated cable rows?

You should feel your upper and middle back muscles activated during the seated cable row. You shouldn't feel strain in your lower back if you’re doing a seated cable row correctly.

Is it better to use a close or wide grip for seated cable rows?

When looking at wide or close grip for seated cable rows, neither grip is better. Both are useful , if you  want to focus more on your upper back, keep a wider grip. Alternatively, for more activation in the middle back, keep your hands closer together.


Seated cable rows are an incredibly effective exercise to target the entire back, as well as your rear delts, biceps, and forearms.

With the alternatives on the list above you'll be able to increase strength, muscle mass, and definition without needing to do the seated cable row.

If you don’t have a cable machine in your home gym, choose one of the alternative exercises mentioned above and get the same benefits.




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.