Are you a beginner who finds Barbell Row difficult? Are you afraid you’re gonna hurt your lower back doing the Barbell Row? Or are you simply looking for a good mixture of upper back exercises?
Look no more. Here are the 10 best Barbell Row alternatives that are sure to help you hit your upper back muscles.
1. Classic Pull-up
The Classic Pull-up is an all-time favorite workout because of how it targets your upper body muscles in a way only it can.
At the same time, the pull-up is also great at hitting your upper back muscles and may even be more effective at that when compared to the Barbell Row.
To perform the Classic Pull-up:
- Find a bar situated high above you that you have to fully extend your arms or jump high to reach.
- Grab the bar using an overhand grip (palms facing away from your body). Keep your hands about shoulder-width apart and make sure that your body is fully extended or maybe even hanging from the bar.
- Allow your body to hang while using your upper body muscles and your core to stabilize your lower body so that you won’t end up swinging.
- Push your chest out and pull your body up to the bar by bending your elbow down towards your body. Keep your core engaged the entire time, and do not flare your elbows out during the pull.
- Keep on pulling until you are no longer capable of doing so or when your chin is at the level of the bar.
- Return to your starting position steadily and make sure that your arms are once again fully extended. Repeat the same movement as need.
The Chin-up is also called the Reverse Pull-up. It also works your upper back muscles well enough, but it incorporates more of your bicep muscles compared to that of the regular pull-up.
That’s why the Chin-up is regarded as an easier workout compared to the challenging Classic Pull-up, which not all people are capable of doing.
To perform the Chin-up:
- Follow the same starting procedure as the Classic Pull-up but reverse your grip such that your hands are under the bar and your palms are facing your body.
- Do the same thing as you would with a Classic Pull-up but keep in mind that you will be using more of your arm muscles in this workout.
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3. Lat Pulldown
For those who are not yet strong enough to do either the Classic Pull-up or the Chin-up because such exercises are indeed difficult, the Lat Pulldown can be a good alternative to the Barbell Row.
You would need to be in a gym with a Lat Pulldown machine to perform this workout, or you can acquire your own machine and workout in the comfort of your home.
To perform the Lat Pulldown:
- Sit and position yourself on the Lat Pulldown machine.
- Adjust the weight to your desired level. This feature is what makes it easier than the Classic Pull-up which heavily relies on your own bodyweight.
- Extend your arms up and grab the handles. Use whatever grip you prefer. You can use a classic pull-up grip or a reverse grip, depending on your preferences.
- Tighten your core and keep your upper body upright while pushing your chest forward to isolate those back muscles.
- Begin pulling the handle towards your body until it hits the top of your chest area. Slowly return to the starting position until your arms are once again fully extended. Repeat the same workout as needed.
It is important to avoid common mistakes in doing the Lat Pulldown to prevent injuries. Also, make sure that the workout hits the target muscle.
4. Seated Row
Like the Lat Pulldown, the Seated Row requires you to use a machine. In most gyms, the Lat Pulldown and the seated row can be done in the same machine.
The good part about the Seated Row is that it also targets the same muscle groups that a normal Barbell Row does.
You no longer have to bend downwards to perform this workout. Instead, you can do it from a seated position that takes the pressure off of your lower back.
To perform the Seated Row:
- Sit on the seated row machine and make sure that you position yourself so that your feet are locked in on the footpads. Some seated row machines may have pads where you can rest your entire torso on.
- Adjust the weight to your desired level.
- Keep your back straight and your body upright. Make sure that your spine is neutral and your core is engaged.
- Grab the handles in front of you and begin pulling towards your body until your lats are fully squeezed, and your elbows could no longer bend.
- Return to your original position in a slow manner and repeat the movement as necessary.
5. Prone Bench Row
The Prone Bench Row is a workout that follows the basics of the Barbell Row. However, you won’t be putting a lot of pressure on your back because you will be resting your entire body on an incline bench.
To perform the Prone Bench Row Row:
- Use an incline bench that is often used for bench and chest presses.
- Place the dumbbells of your desired weight right under the head portion of the incline bench.
- Mount the incline bench while facing towards it instead of lying on it. Your chin should be rested on the top portion of the incline bench and your body must be fully rested on the bench.
- From that position, extend your arms down to reach the dumbbells. Pull them towards your body in a row-like manner.
- Return to your starting position until your arms are fully extended. Repeat the same movement to reach your desired reps.
6. Flat Bench Dumbbell Row
The Flat Bench Dumbbell Row is similar to the Dumbbell Bench Row, but you are now using a flat bench, and that you will be doing this workout one side at a time. Because your weight will be rested on the bench, your lower back won’t be suffering.
To perform the Flat Bench Dumbbell Row:
- Use a sturdy flat bench that can handle your weight.
- Place a dumbbell right beside the head portion of the flat bench.
- Mount the bench with one side by keeping your left knee planted on the lower part of the bench and your left hand on the top portion. You should be facing the bench while your right leg is planted firmly on the floor.
- Keep your spine neutral and your core engaged.
- Reach down with your right hand to grab the dumbbell and then pull it towards your body in a row-like manner.
- Return to the original position slowly and repeat the workout as necessary. After doing this with your right side, do the same process with your left side.
7. Inverted Row
The Inverted Row is like an easier version of the Pull-up and an inverted version of the Barbell Row. It targets the same muscles but uses your bodyweight primarily.
To perform the Inverted Row:
- Find a bar that can be adjusted to the height of your hips. You can do this preferably on a Smith Machine or a barbell rack.
- Grab the bar using an overhand grip and keep your hands about shoulder-width apart.
- Slide your body under the bar while keeping your grip tight. Keep on sliding until the bar is right above lower your chest with your body fully extended and your heels supporting the weight of your body.
- From there, keep your spine neutral and your core engaged as you pull your body towards the bar without bending your hips or your knees. Keep on pulling until the bar is just about to hit your chest.
- Slowly return to your starting position in a controlled manner until your arms are once again fully extended. Repeat the same movement as needed.
8. Cable Pulldowns
The Cable Pulldown is similar to your Lat Pulldown, but you are not isolating each side because they are not pulling the same weights. You are also using a cable machine to perform this workout.
To perform Cable Pulldowns:
- Adjust the height of the handles of a cable machine just somewhere above your head. Adjust the weights to your desired levels as well.
- Grab each handle on each side of the cable machine individually and sit down on the floor while fully extending your arms. Make sure that you sit down about a foot away from the machine.
- Keep your core engaged while seated to make sure that the weight of the cable machine doesn’t pull you up.
- Pull each cable over to your body until your lats are fully squeezed.
- Return to the starting position and repeat the same movement as needed.
9. Cable Row
The Cable Row is similar to the Seated Row, except that you can do it while standing and that you are now using a cable instead of a seated row machine.
To perform the Cable Row:
- Adjust the height of the handle of one side of the cable machine to the level of your upper abdomen. Use any kind of handle type as long as it can support both of your hands.
- Choose your desired resistance level on the cable machine.
- Grab the handle and then pull it back with your body until the plates on the cable machine are just about floating.
- With your arms fully extended, your back straight and upright, and your knees slightly bent, pull the handle towards your body until your upper back muscles are fully squeezed.
- Return to your starting position but make sure that the plates on the cable machine don’t hit each other while you are doing so. Repeat the same movement as needed.
10. Smith Machine Row
The Smith Machine Row is oddly similar to the Barbell Row in terms of execution. However, it easier on your lower back because the Smith machine will be doing most of the heavy lifting. All you have to do is to row.
To perform the Smith Machine Row:
- Adjust the bar on the Smith machine such that the bar is somewhere at the level of your shins. The stopper on the machine should also be adjusted accordingly.
- Place your desired weights on the bar.
- Bend your body at the hip without bending your back. Keep your spine neutral. Only the knees and the hips should be bending. The bar should be right in front of your shins.
- Grab the bar using a grip that is slightly wider than shoulder-width.
- From there, pull the bar up towards your body in a similar way as you would with a barbell row.
- Return to the starting position until the bar is just about to hit the stopper. Repeat the same movement as needed.
I hope you like the Barbell Row alternatives that I listed here. Go ahead and try these alternatives, and decide which works best for you.
I personally consider Barbell Row as one of the most effective workouts for the upper back. Therefore, I think you should still do it with extra caution to avoid injuries.
Stay fit and enjoy your upper back workouts more!
Last update on 2021-04-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API