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Best Alternative to Lat Pulldown: How to Strengthen Your Back at Home

Right now, many of us are avoiding the gym. We are being resourceful with our fitness endeavors and trying not to be too lazy! Sometimes it’s hard to mimic our favorite exercises when we don’t have the same equipment we’re used to. Because of this, we’ll show you the best alternative to lat pulldown exercises.

The main muscle worked with this movement it the latissimus dorsi, hence the name “lat” pulldown. The lat is the largest muscle in the back, and it’s responsible for many movements as well as good posture. More information can be found here. It’s certainly a muscle that shouldn’t be avoided when working out.

Muscles Worked:

  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Biceps
  • Forearms

The muscles worked list is not exhaustive, but these are the most taxed with lat pulldowns. Having a strong back, shoulders, and arms is important for health and fitness alike. Let’s see how we can emulate this without an expensive piece of equipment.

Alternative to Lat Pulldown – Pull ups

Muscles Worked:

Difficulty – Intermediate – Hard

Let’s face it, pull-ups are one of the best exercises you can do. Personally, I would choose this over lat pulldowns any day, any workout – unless I’m injured. Pull-ups will improve your overall fitness level, increase your grip strength, help your balance, and generally make you feel good about yourself. You know you’re in shape if you can do a few sets of pull-ups.

Pull ups – How to:

  • Find a Pull Up Bar or Alternative
  • Grab a Little Wider than Shoulder Width – Palms Away
  • Pull Up Slowly Until Your Entire Head is Above the Bar – Pause
  • Lower Your Body – Slowly
  • Important – Go Down the Whole Way – This Means Scapular Extension

Here is a great video guide:

Alternative to Lat Pulldown – Chin ups

Muscles Worked:

  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Biceps (Targeted More in Comparison to Pull Ups)
  • Chest
  • Abs

Difficulty – Intermediate – Hard

Most individuals find chin-ups a bit easier to perform than pull-ups. Either way, both are great exercises for your upper body. Chin-ups tend to build bigger biceps because they are used/engaged more with this exercise. This also means that, while the lat is still utilized with a chin-up, it’s used a little less than when doing pull-ups. Still, an awesome back exercise that will improve your overall strength, balance, posture, and fitness.

Chin ups – How to:

  • Find a Bar or Alternative (get creative if you have to)
  • Grab at Shoulder Width – Palms Facing You
  • Pull Up Slowly Until Your Head/Chin is Above the Bar – Pause
  • Lower Your Body – Slowly
  • Important – Go Down the Whole Way!

Here is a great video guide:

Lat Pulldown Alternative – Bent Over Dumbbell Rows (Single Arm)

Muscles Worked:

  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Biceps

Difficulty – Easy

Bent-over dumbbell rows are an awesome alternative to the lat pulldown because all you really need is one or two dumbbells. You can do this exercise standing and bent at a 45-degree angle, but I prefer to support myself with a bench or chair. Find what you like, and what’s best for your workout. If you find yourself unable to do many pull-ups and chin-ups or maybe you’re injured, the bent-over row will help keep your back and arms strong. You can isolate a single arm and side of the back with this variation, so you will be able to improve your focus here. Pick a weight that’s right for you and get started!

As stated, there are a few ways to do this exercise, but I’ll review the bent over single arm row (with a bench)

Bent Over Row – How to:

  • Find a Bench or Chair
  • Use a Dumbbell or Adjustable Dumbbell
  • Put Your Left Knee and Left Arm on the Bench
  • Lean Over While Keeping Your Back Straight
  • Balance Yourself with Your Right Leg
  • Grab the Dumbbell – Palm Towards You
  • Lift Slowly Until Your Elbow is Pointing Towards the Ceiling
  • Slowly Go Back to the Starting Position
  • Repeat with Other Side and Arm (after reps)

Here is a great video guide:

Rowing Machine

Muscles Worked:

  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Abs
  • Chest
  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves

Difficulty – Easy to Hard

If you don’t already have a rowing machine at home, you’ll have to shell out some money for this exercise. In my opinion, it is well worth it because of the many benefits of rowing machines. This really is a full-body workout. Not only will this alternative strengthen the same muscles as lat pulldowns, but it will also work many additional, including the lower body. You will enhance your cardiovascular capabilities, initiate fast weight loss, improve your posture, and more with this awesome exercise.

Rowing Machine – How to:

  • Find a Rowing Machine
  • Sit Down with Knees Bent
  • Strap Your Feet in
  • Grap Handle – Palms Down
  • Extend/Drive with Your Legs the Whole Way
  • Bend Your Back Slightly Backwards While Pulling the Handle
  • Take Your Elbows Past Your Back
  • Extend Arms and Retract Legs to Starting Position
  • Repeat

Here is a great video guide:

Lat Pulldown Alternative – Kroc Rows

Muscles Worked:

  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Biceps
  • Forearms
  • Obliques

Difficulty – Hard

Kroc rows are not for the faint of heart and probably not the best exercise for beginners. You’ll see massive gains in back, bicep, and forearm strength with this alternative, but you’re going to have to go HEAVY. This row is designed to get you past some plateaus in grip strength, deadlift maximum, and various other exercises. While the proper and best form is not the most important aspect of the Kroc row, be sure to take precautions so you aren’t getting hurt. Get stronger than you’ve ever been by adding this exercise to your routine.  

Kroc Rows – How to:

  • Find a Bench or something to lean on for support
  • Set-Up Like a Bent Over Row – Back Slightly Bent Up and Straight (15 degrees or so)
  • Put Your Left Knee and Left Arm on the Bench
  • Lean Over While Keeping Your Back Straight
  • Balance Yourself with Your Right Leg
  • Grab the Dumbbell – Palm Towards You
  • Go Heavy on Weight
  • Pull Using Your Arm and Back – Explosively
  • Lower the Whole Way and Repeat (20 – 45 reps)
  • Switch Sides

Here is a great video guide:

Seated Resistance Row

Muscles Worked:

  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Biceps

Difficulty – Easy

Since home workouts are gaining popularity, resistance bands are not to be ignored. You can find great and inexpensive stackable bands online. While using resistance bands is not as intense as the explosive Kroc row, they are still a great alternative to a lat pull down. You’ll strengthen your back, shoulders, arms, and more with a set of bands. What’s nice about resistance bands is that they are highly portable. You can take them anywhere and get an awesome workout in on the go. Take your lunch break to the next level!

Chin ups – How to:

  • Find a Set of Bands
  • Sit Upright on the Ground/Floor – Legs Extended
  • Place the Bands Around Your Feet
  • Grab the Handles and Perform a Row Towards Your Body
  • Pull – Bending at the Elbow – Until Your Hands Reach Your Chest
  • Repeat

Here is a great video guide:

 Final Remarks:

So, are you tired of not having a great way to work your back because you’re avoiding the gym? Whether you are a beginner or an avid fitness aficionado, you can find something from this list that will work for YOU. Save money and stay in shape by using your home for workouts. You can work out on your own time, avoid the gym crowd, and save major bucks by changing a few things in your routine! Thanks for reading and good luck.

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