Lat Pulldown Alternatives

Lat Pulldown Alternatives To Widen Your Wingspan

by Jeremy Campbell - Last Updated June 12, 2019

Looking to build a thicker and wider back but don’t have access to a lat pulldown machine? No worries. There are plenty of lat pulldown alternatives you can add to your workouts!

If you’re looking for something new to throw into the mix to build up the strength and size of your back, consider giving some of the exercises below a try.

An image of a man doing a pull-up

Best Lat Pulldown Alternatives to Grow Your Back

Single Arm Bench Supported Row

The first lat pulldown alternative we have for you today is the single arm bench supported row, also known as a dumbbell row. These are a great unilateral back builder that allows you to really key in and focus on working your lats. Other muscles worked when doing these include the traps, rhomboids, and even your biceps.

How to Do Single Arm Bench Supported Rows

  1. Place a dumbbell to each side of a flat bench.
  2. Place your left leg on the top of the bench, bending your upper body forward from the waist until you are in line with the floor. Place your left hand on the bench in order to support your upper body.
  3. Using your right hand, pick the dumbbell off the floor and hold it, with your palm facing your torso and your back straight.
  4. Pull the weight up with your elbow, being sure to keep your arm up against of your body and your torso stationary.
  5. Slowly and under control, lower the weight back down to the starting position.
  6. Repeat the above for your chosen amount of reps.
  7. Switch to the opposite side and start again.

Tip: When doing these, try and focus on really squeezing your lats at the top. Try to minimize the muscle involvement of the arms as much as you can while doing this movement. Your upper body should not be moving at all while doing these. A great cue for doing any row is to pull the weight up with your elbows, not your hands.

Kroc Row

At first, you might think these are the same exercise as the dumbbell row, but there is one key difference. When doing these, you don’t fully support yourself with a bench, which means you have to work harder to keep your back stable. These work the same muscles as dumbbell rows, but additionally, work your core to a certain degree.

How to Do Kroc Rows

  1. Place a dumbbell to each side of a flat bench.
  2. Place your left leg on the top of the bench, bending your upper body forward from the waist until you are in line with the floor.
  3. Using your right hand, pick the dumbbell off the floor and hold it, with your palm facing your torso and your back straight.
  4. Pull the weight up with your elbow, being sure to keep your arm up against of your body and your torso stationary.
  5. Slowly and under control, lower the weight back down to the starting position.
  6. Repeat the above for your chosen amount of reps.
  7. Switch to the opposite side and start again.

Dumbbell Bent Over Row

If you’re short a bench, consider giving these a try. Dumbbell bent over rows are a great lat pulldown alternative that works your entire upper back at once. Besides just being an excellent lat workout, these also work your traps and rhomboids.

How to Do Dumbbell Bent Over Rows

  1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, lower your torso down by bending at the hips, with a slight bend in your knees. Be sure to keep your back straight.
  2. Pull the dumbbells up with your elbows, being sure to keep your arms up against of your body and your torso stationary.
  3. Slowly and under control, lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position.
  4. Repeat the above for your chosen amount of reps.

Reverse Grip Bent Over Rows

If you’ve tried lots of different row variations in the past but felt that you were working your arms more than anything, give these a try. I find that using a reverse grip helps to take the arms out of the equation, and really work the lats well. If your grip strength allows it, I suggest trying a thumbless grip as well, for the ultimate in back isolation!

How to Do Reverse Grip Bent Over Rows

  1. Position a weighted barbell out in front of you. Bend down and grab ahold of the bar with your hands at about shoulder width distance and your palms facing up. Stand up straight.
  2. Lower your torso down by bending at the hips, with a slight bend in your knees. Be sure to keep your back straight.
  3. Pull the barbell up with your elbows, being sure to keep your arms up against of your body and your torso stationary.
  4. Slowly and under control, lower the weight back down to the starting position.
  5. Repeat the above for your chosen amount of reps.

Band Pull-Aparts

At first glance, you might think these are a waste of time. With no added weight, they just don’t appear to be effective. Give these a try though, and you’ll be in for a surprise! These work your back in a different manner to most of the other exercises on this list.
These aren’t just great back-builders. They are one of the simplest and most accessible forms of prehab for your shoulders. I personally throw in 100 reps of these every workout and have noticed a huge difference in how my shoulders feel when I bench heavy.

How to Do Band Pull-Aparts

  1. Grab ahold of a resistance band with both hands and extend your arms out straight in front of you, roughly shoulder width apart.
  2. Keeping your arms straight, pull the band apart until your arms are extended straight out to your sides. Once the band hits your chest, hold it there and squeeze your shoulders and upper-back muscles.
  3. Slowly and in a controlled manner, bring your arms back straight out in front of you to the starting position.
  4. Repeat the above for your chosen amount of reps.

Incline Dumbbell Row

Also known as the chest-supported row, these are my personal favorite for isolating the upper back. Laying on a bench takes the rest of your body out of the equation, and allows you to really focus on the contraction of your lats at the top.

If you have trouble isolating and really feeling the lats when working out, consider giving these a try.

How to Do Incline Dumbbell Rows

  1. Place a dumbbell to each side of an incline bench.
  2. Sit on the bench and then lean into the inclined portion.
  3. Reach down and pick the dumbbells off the floor and hold them, with your palms facing your torso and your back straight.
  4. Pull the weights up with your elbow, being sure to keep your arm up against of your body.
  5. Slowly and under control, lower the weight back down to the starting position.
  6. Repeat the above for your chosen amount of reps.

 

Decline Dumbbell Pullovers

These are seen more as tricep and chest workers. When done right though, they are an excellent lat pulldown alternative to add to the mix.

Once you get the technique right on these, they are a versatile way to add some extra volume to your back workouts. You can do these on a flat bench, or even at an incline as well, to work your back in slightly different ways.

How to Do Decline Dumbbell Pullovers

  1. Place a dumbbell at the base of the declined portion of a declined bench.
  2. Lay down on a decline bench, ensuring your legs are secured.
  3. Reaching back behind your head with your palms facing out, grab ahold of the dumbbell and slowly lift it up until it is perpendicular to the floor.
  4. With your arms extended, lower the weight back down towards the floor, stopping when your arms are parallel with the floor.
  5. Lift the weight back up until it is again perpendicular to the floor. That is 1 rep.
  6. Repeat the above for your chosen amount of reps.
  7. Once complete, carefully lower the weight back down to the floor before letting go of it.

 

Band Assisted Pull-Ups

Don’t have access to a lat pulldown machine and can’t do pull-ups or chin-ups? Give band-assisted pull-ups a try!

Pull-ups are my personal favorite lat-building exercise. If you aren’t capable of doing these with your full bodyweight yet, consider using the assistance of a band to make them easier. You’ll still work all the muscles in your back, and over time will be able to build up the strength to knock out your first bodyweight set!

Once you get the hang of these, they’re great as you can do them virtually anywhere that you can hang over-head! You can also change up your grip on these to focus on different areas of your back.

How to Do Band Assisted Pull-Ups

  1. Wrap a heavy resistance band around a pull-up bar.
  2. Stretch the band down and then place your knee into the loop.
  3. Reach overhead and grab ahold of the pull-up bar.
  4. Using your lats, pull yourself up, bending your arms at the elbows as you rise up. Try to avoid swinging or “kipping” yourself up and stop once your chin has made it over the bar.
  5. Pause for a second or two at the top, and then slowly lower yourself back down in a controlled manner
  6. Repeat the above for your chosen amount of reps.

 

Seated Cable Row

The last lat pulldown alternative we have for you today is the seated cable row. These are a great horizontal pull that can be used to target the mid and upper back with great effect if you don’t let your ego take over.

Start light with these and focus on only using your back when pulling the weight towards you. It’s common to see people throwing themselves backwards while doing these. Adding their hips and even their legs into the equation takes the emphasis off the back.

When I do these I like to use a thumbless reverse grip in order to take my arms out of the equation. I find that doing this allows me to fully focus on pulling the weight back with only my back.

How to Do a Seated Cable Row

  1. Sit down in front of a cable machine with a v-bar attached to the low pulley.
  2. Place your feet on the foot brace or crossbar, ensuring there is a slight bend in your knees.
  3. Keeping your back straight, bend at the hips to reach for and grab ahold of the handles of the v-bar attachment.
  4. Keeping your arms extended out in front of you, bend your torso back at the hips until it is at a 90-degree angle with your legs.
  5. Keeping your upper body stationary at all times, pull the handles back towards your lower chest, with your elbows up against your sides. Be sure to squeeze your back muscles as hard as you can while completing and holding the movement.
  6. Slowly, and in a controlled manner, reverse the movement back to the starting position.
  7. Repeat the above for your chosen amount of reps.

 

Wrapping Up

If you were looking for some fresh ways to work your back, consider giving some of these great lat pulldown alternatives a try. Throwing a few sets of these in throughout the week will go far to widening your wingspan, making for a truly imposing silhouette.

With the back being one of the quickest areas of your body to recover, there’s no reason you can’t try a few of these, nearly every day of the week!

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