Working out your latissimus dorsi muscles might seem an expensive affair, as the most popular exercise, the lat pulldown can only be done at the gym clubs. The big-size lat pulldown machine cannot fit in your home gym.
Lat muscles define the shape of your shoulders and are the biggest cross muscles in your back. You cannot skip working out on them. But don’t worry, if you only have some weights and bars or even no pieces of equipment, there are few alternatives that are equally effective as lat pulldowns.
If you are wondering “what can I substitute for lat pulldown?”, we have an answer for you. No, no, we actually have ten answers for you. In this article, we have explained in detail the top ten alternative exercises for lat pulldown that can be done without machine.
If you are wondering what exercises can replace lat pulldown that can be done at home and be equally effective, here are few options.
What Will I Learn?
10 No-Equipment Lat Pulldown Alternatives & Substitutes [Without Machine]
There are many compound and isolated moves that can help you work on your traps. We have chosen these ten which are most effective and can be done without machine, with just some weights, or with no equipment at all.
You don’t need any special machine to perform chin-ups. Just a wall fitted or over-the-door pull-up bar is enough. The lats and biceps are the primary muscles worked in chin-ups which makes it a close grip front lat pulldown alternative at home.
Chin-ups, when done in the proper form, helps you in improving the strength and shape of the arms, shoulders, and posterior deltoids. Chin-ups are done with supinate grip, that places your shoulders in a more friendly position allowing you to work out more frequently, long-duration without risk of injury.
You will be using your body weight as resistance to movement while performing chin-ups. You will be pulling almost the entire body weight which more than what they can pull down on a machine, for most of the beginners and intermediate lifters.
Performing perfect chin-ups needs significant strength, you might need to develop the foundational strength by performing some variations of chin-ups. Here’s step-by-step information about how to perform chin-ups in the correct form.
- Stand below the pull-up/chin-up bar, use a step-up box if needed
- Reach the bar with palms facing you
- Grab the bar with both hands with supinated grip, hands shoulder-width apart, feet in the air.
- Engage the core, keep the spine longs, and chest out
- Lift the body up, bringing your chest closer to the bar
- Pause a moment and lower your body to starting position slowly in a controlled motion. This completes one rep.
The pull-ups mimic the lat pulldown exercise movement. Both pull-ups and lat pull-downs work on lats and scapula muscles.
The pull-ups also engage the core and stabilizing muscles in addition. The handgrips in pull-up exercise are wide, similar to the lat pulldown machine handle, making it a better wide grip lat pulldown home alternative.
The only limitation of pull-ups against the lat pulldown exercise is the ease of weight adjustability. To lower or add the weight to pull-ups you might need to get a bit creative with the resources.
You can tie weight around your waist or on ankles if you wish to pull up more than your body weight. And you can use resistance bands to support partial body weight if you are just beginning and can’t lift your whole body weight.
- Stand below the pull-up bar on the bench or step up
- Leap up and grab the bar with your palms facing away shoulder-width apart or wider if you are using it as a wide grip lat pulldown home alternative
- Engage the core
- Use shoulder, arms, and back muscles to slowly lift your body up
- Try to bring your chest towards the bar, and hold it for a fraction
- Move slowly down to your starting position
Inverted rows is another bodyweight alternative exercise to the lat pulldown. Also, if you find pull-ups too difficult to perform, you can do inverted rows to work similar muscles.
You don’t need any special equipment to perform this alternative exercise for lat pulldown. You can do it using a barbell and your half rack, or on a power rack, or just by fixing some hooks on the wall and attaching straps and rings to it.
You can set the difficulty level of the inverted row by adjusting the height of the bar or the rings you are using for performing the rows. Here is a step by step information about how to perform inverted rows.
- Fix the bar or rings at waist high. You can adjust the height as per your fitness level.
- Lie on the floor below the bar with face up. Position yourself such that you can grab the bar above your chest.
- Grab the bar a little wider than shoulder-width with a pronated grip
- Engage the core and contract the glute muscles to lift and keep your body in a straight line
- Pull your body up bring your chest to touch the bar
- Lower your body slowly, and you are done with one rep
The plank rows or renegade rows are lat pulldown alternatives with dumbbells. You just need dumbbells to perform them.
You can target your upper back and core with renegade rows. This compound move is a kind of pull-down without a machine that can work traps, shoulders, and obliques too, needing just dumbbells to perform.
This is one of the most inexpensive alternatives to lat pulldown exercise. You don’t need a piece of fancy equipment or even dedicated space. Just two dumbbells and some floor space, and you are good to go.
- Place the dumbbells around shoulder-width apart in front of you with their handles parallel to each other.
- Get on your hands and knees facing the dumbbells.
- Now stretch your legs and get into full plank position with both dumbbells within reach.
- Support your weight on one palm keep your shoulders and hips square to the floor and lift a dumbbell with your other hand
- Now pull the dumbbell towards the side of your chest while squeezing your shoulder blades.
- Lower the dumbbell slowly to starting position and keep that palm on the floor
- Shift the weight on that palm and perform the rep with the other arm
This is another lat pulldown alternative with dumbbells. You can perform these rows with or without a bench and dumbbells with appropriate weight.
You can perform dumbbell rows in different variations. Single-arm dumbbell rows, incline dumbbell rows, and free-standing dumbbell rows are some of the popular variations.
The dumbbell rows allow you to target back muscles one side at a time. You will be doing dumbbell rows with lighter weights than barbell rows, but that doesn’t mean you can take the form lightly. Let’s discuss the steps to perform single-arm dumbbell rows.
- Place the dumbbell right next to the bench
- Stand next to your garage gym bench
- Put one hand and the same knee on the bench keeping the back straight
- Your other foot is firm on the ground, and the dumbbell should be reachable with the freehand
- Pick the dumbbell and bring it to the side of your body just below the chest. Lead the row with your elbow and squeeze the shoulder blades.
- Lower the dumbbell slowly.
- Perform the set reps, then change the side
Exercises like dumbbell pullovers can also work on your lats, along with pecs and triceps.
A single dumbbell and bench or a stool in your basement gym is enough to perform this exercise.
You get into an awkward position and move in an unusual pattern to perform dumbbell pullovers. Thus, it is important if you are new to this, you should choose a lighter dumbbell.
Read all the steps given below, go through some videos explaining the move before trying it yourself.
- Keep the dumbbell standing on the bench off-center
- Rest your upper back on the bench keeping your body perpendicular to the bench.
- At this moment, your head hanging beyond the bench, and your lower body is also in the air, supported by feet firm on the floor
- Pick the dumbbell by the upper head with both hands and place it over your chest with arms extended.
- Now move the dumbbell beyond your head, keeping the arms straight
- Lower the dumbbell slowly till the dumbbell head in your hand reaches parallel to your head
- Bring the dumbbell to starting position to finish the rep
The barbell bent-over rows work on pulling muscles of the back, including traps, lats, and posterior delts. This big muscle move can be performed with or without the power rack.
Unlike dumbbell rows, you can perform barbell rows at a higher intensity. That helps you to improve the strength and definition of the muscles faster.
You stand in a bent-over position for performing barbell rows. How low you bend from the hips depending upon your fitness level and experience of performing the rows.
To avoid injuries and back pain, the rows are to performed in proper form as explained in the steps below.
- Stand with your feet a little over shoulder-width apart
- Place the bar over mid-foot
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip. Hands medium width apart
- Lift the bar keeping your back neutral and knees unlocked
- Pull the bar toward your torso
- Lower the weight slowly to complete one rep
This lat pulldown alternative can be performed using the barbell, weight plates, and a T-bar handle. It is safe to perform with a landmine unit that comes attached with most of the power racks.
You can still perform T-bar rows even if your basement gym rack has no landmine unit. You just need to place the empty end of the barbell at some strong corner. All other steps remain the same.
- Place weight plates at one end of the barbell and attach the T-bar handle
- Put the empty end in landmine unit or support it against a corner
- Stand over the bar with the loaded end in between the legs
- Bend over at hips and grab the handle
- Lift the bar till the weight touches the chest keeping your back neutral and squeezing the shoulder blades
- Lower the weight slowly.
The barbell pullovers involve the movement of arms similar to dumbbell pullovers. Just the equipment and the grip differ.
You can perform a barbell pullover lying flat on the bench or supporting just the upper back on the bench while the body is perpendicular to the bench.
- Take a lightly loaded barbell on your lap sitting on the bench
- Lie parallel or perpendicular on the bench. If you are lying perpendicular, your body weight will be supported by feet on the floor, knees bent, and upper back on the bench
- Hold the barbell shoulder-width apart and raise it above your chest with arms straight
- Move the barbell beyond your head and lower it parallel to the head. You can bend the arms at the elbows
- Lift the bar to starting position
Resistance Band Rows
Two resistance bands can be a substitute for lat pulldown machine if you use them correctly. The resistance band rows are the easiest and most inexpensive way to work on your back.
Resistance band rows are user-friendly and safe to perform for beginners.
Here are the steps to perform resistance band rows as an alternative to lat pulldowns.
- Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out.
- Wrap one end of each resistance band around either foot
- Hold the resistance bands corresponding hands with elbows fold
- At this point, the band should be stretched a little. If it is slack, make more loops around the foot.
- Sit upright and pull the bands till the hands are beside your torso and elbows behind.
- Slowly straighten the arms to starting position.
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Lat pulldowns are a great way to improve strength and the size of upper back muscles, and so are the alternatives mentioned in this article. These alternate exercises can be performed with no equipment or with the ones available in the home gym. So, now you know these alternative exercises, no access to a gym cannot be an excuse for not working out on your upper back.