Skip to content
Need Help Creating An Order? Speak To A Select Sales Rep Today!
Need Help Creating An Order? Speak To A Select Sales Rep Today!

Top Lat Pulldown Alternatives – Boost Your Back Day Lifts

Can you feel that pump from mastering the ultimate pull, where every stretch and contraction intensifies your back muscles?

But what about those times when a lat pulldown machine isn't available?

We've got you covered! We're here to jazz up your routine with top lat pulldown alternatives that hit those same muscle sweet spots. Whether you're swerving gym queues or just spicing up your workout repertoire, we've got your back (literally!).

We're all about safe muscular training, so we'll guide you through each move, ensuring you're doing it right and with a proper form.

Ready to challenge your muscles in new, exciting ways and forge ahead towards your fitness peak? Let's dive in!

Top Lat pulldown Variations

Table of Contents

What Are The Best Alternatives To Lat Pulldown Machines?

  1. Pull-Ups
  2. Bent-Over Barbell Rows
  3. Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows
  4. Seated Row Machine
  5. Straight-Arm Pulldowns
  6. Underhand Cable Row
  7. Chest-Supported T-Bar Row
  8. Lat-Biased Dumbbell Row
  9. Pull-Over Machine
  10. Kneeling Cable Pulldown - Single Arm

Top Lat Pulldown Machine Alternatives You Should Know

Below is our list of the top alternatives, a gold mine of exercises that promise to shake up your workout and keep those gains coming. No lat pulldown machine? No problem.

Each alternative is a valuable piece, ready to be pulled out. Let's transform your workout into an adventure that's as effective as it is delighting!

1. Pull-Ups

Pull-ups are the jack-of-all-trades of upper body conditioning—versatile, challenging, and effective. Pull-ups offer a more dynamic, compound exercise that engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

They target your lats, sure, but they also engage your biceps, trapezius, deltoids, and even your core, making for a more well rounded workout. Pull-ups are a true test of functional strength, requiring you to lift your entire body weight.

Pull-ups

When to Use Pull-Ups?

Pull-ups are your go-to move when you're looking to build up your bodyweight training, pining that full-body engagement, or when you simply don't have access to a lat pulldown machine. They're perfect for home and outdoor workouts, or when you're hopping from park to playground to keep your workouts fresh and energizing.

Mastering the Pull-ups

  1. First up, you need a sturdy pull-up bar

  2. Grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, palms facing away from you. This grip targets the lats maximally, but feel free to experiment with variety of grip width to challenge different muscle groups.

  3. Start by hanging from the bar with your arms fully extended, feet off the ground, and legs slightly bent to avoid swinging.

  4. Brace your core, squeeze those glutes, and pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar. The motion should be smooth and controlled—think of pulling your elbows down towards your hips.

  5. Lower yourself back down with equal control, keeping the movement fluid and avoiding any jerky motions.

  6. Aim for as many repetitions as you can manage with good form. Quality trumps quantity every time.

Remember, pull-ups are a journey. If you're not quite there yet, start with assisted pull-ups (focusing on the downward phase) to build your strength. Before you know it, you'll be repping out pull-ups like a pro, with a back to match!

Related: Lat Pulldown Vs. Pull Ups | Which Is Better For A Big Back?

2. Bent-Over Barbell Rows

Bent-over barbell rows stand as an excellent alternative to the lat pulldown machine, serving up a heavy dose of versatility and intensity in your back training.

It does more than just mimic the motion of a lat pulldown; they heighten it It's a full-on fiesta of muscle engagement, ensuring a complete back workout. Plus, the added challenge of maintaining form and stability during the row actively trains your core, making it a crafty abs workout as well.

Video Creator Credits: Peak Strength

When to Use Bent-Over Rows?

Bent-over barbell rows are your best bet when you're aiming to administer some serious strength and muscle-building into your routine. They're effective on back or pull days, coherent into routines that target compound movements.

These rows are also a smart choice when you're craving variety or don't have access to a lat pulldown machine. Whether you're in a minimalist gym, working out at home, or simply want to shake things up, barbell rows have got you covered.

Mastering the Bent-Over Barbell Rows

  1. Begin by standing tall, feet shoulder-width apart, with a barbell in front of you. Hinge at the hips and slightly bend your knees to lean forward. Your torso should be almost aligned to the floor, with the barbell hanging at arm's length.

  2. Grasp the barbell with an overhand grip, hands a tad wider than shoulder-width. This grip ensures optimal lat engagement.

  3. Keep your back straight and core engaged. Now, exhale as you lift the barbell towards your lower chest, driving the movement with your elbows. Imagine you're squeezing a pencil between your shoulder blades at the top of the movement.

  4. Inhale as you slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position, maintaining control and resisting the pull of gravity.

  5. Aim for reps with precision and control. Remember, it's not a race.

Keep your back flat and avoid rounding your spine to prevent injury. As you progress, you can increase the weight, but never at the expense of good form. Bent-over barbell rows are a testament to the philosophy that sometimes, the old ways are the best ways—especially when it comes to building a back.

3. Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows

Single-arm dumbbell rows offers a savory twist to the conventional lat pulldown machine. It stand out for their ability to isolate and target each side of your back independently, ensuring balanced strength and muscle development.

This unilateral exercise maximizing focus on the lats, while also engaging the traps, rhomboids, and biceps, ensuring an all-inclusive back workout.

Video Creator Credits: Marcus Filly

When to Use Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows?
Incorporate single-arm dumbbell rows into your routine f you want to address muscle imbalances or when you want to intensify your focus on the lats and mid-back.

These rows are handy if you’re working out at home, traveling, or when the gym is packed, and waiting for machines feels like a cardio session. All you need is a dumbbell and a bench (or any stable surface), making it a go-to move for those seeking efficiency and effectiveness.

Mastering the Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows

  1. Stand to the side of a flat bench. Place your nearest knee and the same-side hand on the bench, creating a strong, stable tripod between your hand, knee, and opposite foot on the floor. Your back should be flat, parallel to the ground, and your core braced.
  2. With your free hand, pick up a dumbbell off the floor, palm facing in. This is your initial position.
  3. Keeping your torso stable and your back straight, exhale as you row the dumbbell upwards, elbow skimming past your side, pulling towards your hip. Visualize pulling through your elbow, not just your hand, to fully engage those back muscles.
  4. Inhale as you slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position, maintaining control and resisting the temptation to let gravity do the work.
  5. After completing your set, switch sides to ensure even development and strength across your back.

4. Seated Row Machine

The Seated Row Machine is like the reliable sidekick to the lat pulldown machine, offering a harmonious yet definite approach to back workout.

It targets the muscles in your back from a different angle, emphasizing the mid to lower traps, rhomboids, and rear deltoids, alongside the lats. This seated, stable position allows for focused, intense muscle engagement without the need for the core stabilization required in standing or bent-over exercises. 

seated row machine

When to Use Seated Row Machine?

The Seated Row Machine is a great choice on back or upper body days, especially as part of a circuit targeting different muscle groups for a well-rounded workout. It's also best for beginners or those recovering from injury due to its supportive, fixed form, lessens the risk of strain from improper technique.

Mastering the Seated Row Machine

  1. Plant yourself on the machine, feet flat against the footrests, knees slightly bent. Grasp the handles with both hands – most machines offer a few grip options, so choose one that feels comfortable and aligns with your goals.

  2. Adjust the seat and chest pad so you can fully extend your arms without rounding your back. Sit tall, chest proud, shoulders down and back.

  3. With a braced core and neutral spine, drive your elbows straight back, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you pull the handles towards your torso. The movement should be smooth and controlled, coming from the back rather than the arms.

  4. Release the handles forward slowly and with control, allowing your arms to extend fully and your back to stretch slightly at the end of the movement.

  5. Aim for a set number of reps, maintaining form and focusing on the muscle contraction throughout the exercise.

Related: Lat Pulldown Vs. Cable Row | Comprehensive Comparison

5. Straight-Arm Pulldowns

Another great alternative to the lat pulldown is the straight-arm pulldown. This exercise can be performed on a cable machine, targeting the same muscles as the lat pulldown while also stabilizes the core.

Straight Arm Pulldowns

When to Use Straight Arm Pulldowns?

Straight-Arm Pulldowns are your go-to when you're aiming to isolate and ignite your lats, perfect for refining back detail or when you're looking to round off a back workout with some isolation work. They're also an excellent choice if you are seeking a low-impact alternative to more complex lifts, providing a safe option for those with shoulder or elbow concerns.

Mastering the Straight Arm Pulldowns

  1. Position a cable machine with a bar attachment at a high setting. Stand facing the machine, feet shoulder-width apart, and grab the bar with an overhand grip, hands spaced wider than shoulder width.

  2. With a slight bend in your knees and a braced core, lean forward slightly from the hips. This is your power position, ensuring stability and focus throughout the exercise.

  3. Keeping your arms straight and elbows locked, exhale as you drive the bar down towards your thighs in a wide arc. Imagine you're pushing against resistance, using your lats to fuel the movement rather than your arms.

  4. Inhale as you slowly allow the bar to return to the starting position with control, maintaining tension in the lats throughout the ascent.

  5. Aim for a target number of reps, keeping the focus on the quality of movement and lat engagement over sheer quantity.

Whether you're chasing that admirable back definition or simply looking for a new approach to lat training, this exercise delivers with style and substance, proving that sometimes, straight to the point is the way to go.

6. Underhand Cable Row

The Underhand Cable Row is like the cool cousin of the traditional lat pulldown machine. It brings a new flavor to back workouts by emphasizing the lower lats and biceps through the underhand (supinated) grip.

This twist in grip orientation shifts the focus slightly for a deeper engagement and stretch in the lower lat region, which is often challenging to target. The movement encourages a tight, controlled row, restoring muscle fibers across the back in a way that lat pulldown exercises can sometimes miss.

Video Creator Credits: ATHLETE.X

When to Use the Underhand Cable Row?

Incorporate Underhand Cable Rows when you're looking to spice up your back routine or when the best lat pulldown machine is overbooked and you're itching for a quality alternative. These rows are also a smart choice for those aiming to correct or prevent muscle imbalances, as the controlled movement and underhand grip provide a unique muscle activation pattern that complements traditional back exercises.

Mastering the Underhand Cable Row

  1. Attach a straight bar to the low pulley. Sit down, plant your feet firmly on the machine, and slightly bend your knees to maintain a stable base.

  2. Grasp the bar with an underhand grip, hands about shoulder-width apart. Sit up tall with your back straight, shoulders down, and chest out, ready to engage those lats.

  3. With your core engaged and back stable, pull the bar towards your lower stomach, leading with your elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together at the peak of the movement. The focus should be on moving the weight with your back muscles, not your arms.

  4. Slowly extend your arms back to the starting position, allowing your lats to fully stretch while maintaining tension. The movement should be smooth and controlled, without any jerky motions.

  5. Aim for a set number of reps, prioritizing proper form and muscle engagement over the temptation to lift heavier weights.

7. Chest-Supported T-Bar Row

Chest-Supported T-Bar Row machines provides a laser-focused engagement of the mid to upper back muscles, including the lats, rhomboids, and traps, while minimizing lower back strain. It stabilizes the torso, stopping any unnecessary swinging or momentum, ensuring that the back muscles do all the heavy lifting.

The fixed path of the T-bar also helps in maintaining proper form, making it an excellent choice for both advanced lifters and beginners.

Video Creator Credits: BENNY THE OX

When to Use the Chest-Supported T-Bar Row?

Chest-Supported T-Bar Rows are a perfect fit for back-focused workouts, especially when you're looking to give your lower back a break from free-weight rows or deadlifts. They're also ideal for supersets or drop sets, as the chest support and fixed motion path allow for quick and safe weight adjustments.

Consider using this exercise when targeting back hypertrophy or when you need a controlled movement to hone in on back muscle engagement and strength without the risk of form breakdown.

Mastering the Chest-Supported T-Bar Row

  1. Adjust the chest pad so that when you're leaning forward, it comfortably supports your chest without restricting the rowing motion. Get on the machine and plant your feet firmly.

  2. Grasp the handles. Ensure your grip is firm and your position is stable, with a slight bend in the knees for added support.

  3. With your chest firmly against the pad and your spine in a neutral position, pull the handles towards your lower chest or upper abdomen. Focus on driving the movement with your elbows, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.

  4. Slowly return the weight to the starting position, allowing your arms to fully extend and your back muscles to stretch, maintaining tension throughout the descent.

  5. Aim for a set number of reps, focusing on the quality of each pull and the engagement of your back muscles, rather than rushing through the set.

8. Lat-Biased Dumbbell Row

Lat-Biased Dumbbell Rows isolates the lats more directly than many standard row variations, thanks to the specific form and movement pattern. By maintaining your arm close to your body and focusing on the pull through your elbow, you emphasize lat engagement, simulating the pull-down motion but in a more functional, one-sided format.

This exercise not only targets the lats but also stabilizes the core and strength, lessen imbalances and increasing overall muscle coordination. It is also accessible  and versatile allowing for a range of motion and adjustment that machines sometimes can't offer.

Video Creator Credits: Train with INTENT

When to Use the Lat-Biased Dumbbell Row?

Incorporate the Lat-Biased Dumbbell Row into your workout when you're aiming to zone in on lat development, or if you're looking to improve width and V-taper shape. It's also best if you want to address any strength imbalances or to focus on core engagement within your back workout.

If you're aiming for hypertrophy and there's a lack of equipment, this exercise serves as an alternative that is as effective as using the lat pulldown machine, still delivering a powerful impact on the lats.

Mastering the Lat-Biased Dumbbell Row

  1. Start by standing next to a flat bench. Place one knee and the same-side hand on the bench for support, creating a stable, triangular base with your body. Your other foot should be placed firmly on the ground, providing balance.

  2. With your free hand, grab a dumbbell off the floor. Ensure your back is flat and parallel to the bench, with your core engaged to protect your spine.

  3. Keeping your arm close to your side, initiate the row by driving your elbow straight up towards the ceiling. Focus on pulling through your lat, imagining you're trying to tuck the dumbbell into your hip pocket. 

  4. Lower the dumbbell slowly and with control, fully extending your arm and stretching your lat at the bottom of the movement.

  5. Complete your set on one side before switching to the other, ensuring balanced development and strength across both sides of your back.

9.Pullover Machine

The Pullover Machine is highly praised for its ability to target the lats in a sweeping, arc-like motion that's hard to recreate with other exercises. This machine focuses on the lats' function of shoulder extension, providing a deep stretch and contraction that can enhance back width and thickness.

Additionally, because the movement isolates the lats without requiring a vast bicep engagement, it allows for focused muscle work without the arms fatiguing first. It also engages the serratus anterior, a vital muscle in the shoulder girdle's movement and stability.

Video Creator Credits: Forty Steps

When to Use the Pullover Machine?

The Pullover Machine is a great choice when you're aiming to isolate and target the lats without burdening the biceps. It's also an excellent option as a finisher to fully wear out the lats towards the end of your workout, ensuring profound muscle fatigue for growth stimulation.

This machine can be beneficial if you want to overcome plateaus in lat development or those recovering from arm injuries who need to lessen bicep strain while still engaging the back.

Mastering the Pullover Machine

  1. Adjust the seat make sure your arms are comfortable to reach the handles or bar above you. Ensure the pads are positioned to minimize strain on the elbows and shoulders.

  2. Grasp the machine's handles or bar with an overhand grip. Your hands should be spaced comfortably apart, allowing for a full range of motion without overextending.

  3. With a slight bend in your elbows, engage your core and begin to pull the bar down in a wide arc toward your hips. Focus on using your lats to drive the movement, minimizing the involvement of the chest and arms.

  4. As you pull the bar down, focus on the stretch and contraction of your lats. At the bottom of the movement, squeeze your back muscles strongly before slowly returning to the initial position.

  5. Aim for a set number of repetitions, maintaining a smooth and controlled tempo throughout. Ensure each rep maximizes the lats' engagement and stretch.

10.Kneeling Cable Pulldown - Single Arm

This exercise isolates each side of the back independently, fostering balanced muscle development and addressing any possible strength imbalances between the two sides. The one-sided focus sharpens the work on the lats, allowing for a deeper stretch and contraction, which is critical for muscle growth and definition.

The single-arm aspect also allows for a greater range of motion compared to compound exercises, ensuring that the lats are worked through their full extension and contraction capabilities. This can enhance flexibility and increase strength in the lats and surrounding muscles.

Video Creator Credits: Mike Campbell

When to Use the Kneeling Cable Pulldown?

This exercise is proper when you're looking to isolate and focus on the lats. It's also great for functional training sessions that improve unilateral strength and stability.

Consider incorporating kneeling single-arm cable pulldowns when you want to spice up your routine with exercises that defy your muscles in new ways or when addressing muscle imbalances. It's also an excellent option when space is limited, as it only requires a cable machine and a small area to kneel.

Mastering the Kneeling Cable Pulldown

  1. Attach a single handle attachment to a pulley cable machine. Kneel on the ground a comfortable distance from the machine, facing it, with one knee up (like a lunge position) for stability. This will be your starting position.

  2. Grasp the handle with one hand using an overhand grip, and ensure your torso is upright with your core engaged. This posture will help maintain balance and protect your spine throughout the exercise.

  3. Initiate the pulldown by driving your elbow towards your side, focusing on pulling through your lat rather than your arm. The movement should be controlled and deliberate, with the lat doing the bulk of the work.

  4. Pull the handle down until it's level with your chest, ensuring a full contraction of the lat at the bottom of the movement. Pause briefly to maximize the contraction.

  5. Slowly allow the handle to return to the initial position, maintaining tension in the lat throughout the return phase to maximize the stretch.

  6. Complete your set number of reps on one side before switching to the other arm to ensure balanced development.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many types of lat pulldown machines are there?

There are different types of lat pulldown machines, including standard, plate-loaded, and selectorized machines, each offering unique features and resistance options to cater to a wide range of workout preferences.

What are the benefits of the lat pull-up machine?

Lat pulldown benefits include strengthening the upper body, sculpting back muscles, better posture, and providing adjustable resistance to accommodate different training levels.

What is a good substitute for a lat pulldown?

A good substitute for a lat pulldown is the pull-up, effectively targeting similar muscle groups with added core engagement.

Conclusion

As we've journeyed through a landscape of lat pulldown alternatives, each offering its unique twist to sculpting that upper body masterpiece. Remember, the secret sauce of fitness success lies in tailoring your workout to fit your personal goals and tastes like a custom-made suit. 

Be it through the gravity-defying challenge of pull-ups or the new twists on free weights, there's an alternative to lat pulldown machine for everyone.

Keep pushing your boundaries, fuel your motivation, and step forward into your fitness journey with fresh insights and a revitalized spirit!

Previous article 13 Lat Pulldown Machine Exercises You Didn't Know About
Next article Top Lat Pulldown Variations For A Large Back

About The Author

Matt Gemkow, the author of this content section at Select Fitness USA, boasts more than 15 years of fitness experience. He started out in sports and athletic training for many years and has since 2014 transitioned into heavy-weight training and bodybuilding. As a result, he has become one of the most experienced fitness equipment experts out there, and a valuable source of information.