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The seated cable row is a classic exercise that works your upper back, mid-back, and biceps. However, there are many rowing exercise alternatives that are just as effective and work the same muscles out.

These alternatives target muscles that minimize back pain as it strengthens the muscles responsible for proper posture.

It can be difficult knowing what is best in terms of building muscle, as well as increasing strength and size, but you don’t need to worry – we have got you covered!

Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows

This is a simple alternative that requires very little in terms of equipment and is a great option for beginners.

All you need is a bench for stability and support, as well as a dumbbell of an appropriate weight.

Never do an exercise with a weight that is way too heavy for you as it can cause a significant injury or terrible strain.


  1. Make sure your bench is placed in an appropriate position where you won’t get caught on anything.
  2. Place your dumbbell directly next to the bench on the left-hand side.
  3. Stand beside the bench and place your right knee on it.
  4. Lean forward so your back is horizontal and support yourself with your right arm on the bench.
  5. With your left hand, you are going to hold the dumbbell.
  6. Now slowly row the dumbbell towards your ribs. Your elbows should just skim over your sides. Your shoulder blades should be squeezed together when you reach the top.
  7. Hold for a couple of seconds.
  8. Then slowly proceed to extend your arm to the starting position.
  9. Complete 3 sets of 10-12 reps each side.


When it comes to the single-arm dumbbell row it is a good idea to start with your weaker arm.

This allows you to correctly gauge the number of reps you should do on each arm to build strength and mass equally on each side.

Your spine and neck should be neutral during the whole exercise.

This means that there should be no additional strain and should follow their natural curve (your neck shouldn’t be too far down or up). 

Incline Dumbbell Rows

This is as close as you could possibly get to a seated cable row. Instead of being seated, your body weight is supported by a bench.

This is especially important as it allows you to effectively isolate your upper back and minimize the load on your core. This alternative requires a bench and two dumbbells of the same weight.


  1. Place the bench in an area that has sufficient space around it, so you won’t be getting caught up or banging elbows.
  2. Position your dumbbells slightly under each side of the bench.
  3. Lay down on the elevated bench – face down. Ideally, you want your legs to be straight and your toes resting on the ground, not just dangling.
  4. Grab ahold of each dumbbell and ensure you have a firm grip.
  5. Pull the weight up to you in a straight line. Your shoulder blades should be squeezed together when you get the top and your hands should be positioned just below your ribs.
  6. Hold for a few seconds and then slowly extend your arms.
  7. Repeat this 10-12 times – try to pump out 3 sets


When it comes to setting the incline of your bench, the best area is your hip bone. This allows you to have good inclines that aren’t too dramatic making things more difficult. 

The simple change of your grip can alter which muscles you target in your back.

T-Bar Rows

T-Bar Row is an extremely effective strength exercise. However, this one is aimed at those with a little more experience under their belt otherwise you risk injuring yourself.

You need a narrow grip (or the use of a v-grip), weight plates and preferably a landmine attachment (if you don’t have the attachment don’t worry, you can just use a corner.


  1. Connect the landmine attachment and Olympic barbell (or place the end of a barbell into a corner).
  2. At the opposite end load an appropriate amount of weight on.
  3. Hook the v-grip handle under the collar of the barbell.
  4. Straddle the bar behind the weights and grip the v-grip or the bar.
  5. Bend your knees slightly.
  6. Bend forward at the hips until your body is at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
  7. Begin with your arms fully extended and row the bar towards you.
  8. At the apex of the movement, the weight plates should be at your chest and your shoulder blades squeezed together.
  9. Slowly lower the bar back until your arms are fully extended again.
  10. Do 5 reps of 5 sets to maximize your gains.


This is not for those new to weightlifting. It requires a lot of core and lower body strength. You could injure yourself if you are not concentrating on proper technique. 


The Inverted Row, also known as the Australian Pull Up is another great alternative to ensure your muscles are worked.

Check out our in-depth guide on how to master the Australian Pull Up and a variety of alternatives to change up your routine! 


So, there you have it 3 seated cable row alternatives that target the muscles in your upper back, biceps, and mid-back without a row machine.

Incredibly easy to do and just as effective, you can successfully build strength and mass in your back with these rowing exercises.