November 15

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Lat Pulldown Alternative with a Machine-Free Twist


Admit it; a perfectly toned back doesn’t cost you just time and effort; it costs you gym machines and quite a few bucks. So, if you don’t have a gym membership nor extra cash to spare, should you stop dreaming about those lats and abs. No way, every guy deserves a chance to up those badass muscles! That’s why we are putting our foot down and bringing lat pulldown alternatives for all and sundry.

Now, you can skip the gym and create your studio within your basement or living room and start prepping to get those sculpted shoulders in no time. Just remember that these alternative exercises are not meant to be perfect replacements. They are similar to the lat pulldown machine but not identical. They follow the same pattern of moments to work on those back muscles, but their timings and frequency vary according to their intensity.

However, before flooding you with hard-core exercises, let us briefly describe how exactly the lat pull down works and its benefits. It will help you understand the working and importance of each alternative given below, so don’t skip it!

How does lat pulldown alternative work, and is it worth it? 

As the name suggests, Lat pulldown works on your most significant upper body muscle known as latissimus dorsi (too long and hard to pronounce, so Lats it is). They are often overlooked, which is a mistake as they benefit more than you think (long list mentioned below). That is why lats are worth training with the same intensity as other muscle groups. They also help strengthen the surrounding muscles, including atissimus dorsi, deltoids, rhomboids, serratus anterior; we are not studying biology, so simply speaking, these are your upper arms and legs muscles. 

So after tirelessly working out on these difficult to pronounce areas, do you get only a good shape? No, there is much more to Lats than just muscle building. (It is a compound exercise; as a result, it has compound benefits) Not only do these workout movements sculpt your backside to give you a great posture, but they also lead to enhanced flexibility in elbows and shoulders. This, in turn, uplifts your ability to lift, catch, pull, swing, and throw in daily life. 

The exercises are definitely worth the effort as they can be used to target different muscles in the upper body, making them beneficial for boosting performance in any sport. Secondly, if the movements are performed at a steady pace and with the proper form, that case, they can help strengthen your torso, making it easy to perform other vital hard-core exercises such as deadlifts, back squats without injury. Lastly, apart from athletic benefits, lats exercises also have medical benefits of correcting poor posture, increasing metabolic rate, preventing bodybuilder hunch, and reducing risks of diseases.

So what are you waiting for?

Here are some proven alternatives that will get your lats ready and sweating:

Lat pulldown alternative by using a barbell 

Barbell pull-up 

Horizontal Barbell pull-up

Pull-ups are the highest standard when it comes to alternatives. They mimic the same pulling movement as the machine. Likewise, they also target the same muscle group. They are ideal for home workouts as no weights or machines are needed. Pull-ups can be challenging at first if you lack upper body strength, but if you do it once, you can easily do a few more (by few, we mean 3-5, don’t try to be macho on your first go). You will feel your forearms and grip strengthen within a few days. Be it biceps, lats, trapezius, or any other upper body muscle; pull-ups can build them up like a pro:

How to do it?

  1. Grab onto the bar with an overhand grip. Your elbows should face out. 
  2. Lift your body upwards by bending your elbows and retracting your back muscles 
  3. Lastly, lower yourself down to the original position
  4. Repeat.
  5. In addition, to increase the challenge, widen your hands and perform the reps slowly. Then, to add variety, substitute it with a chin-up or resistance band pull-up.

Requirements:

A pull-up bar (should be sturdy enough to hold your weight)

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    Recommended Sets: As needed 

    Recommended Reps: 100 

    Barbell Bent Over Rows 

    Barbell Bent Over Rows

    The bent-over barbell row is a great lat pulldown alternative as it works your lats effectively, just like while using the machine, but in reverse. It is best for the development of mind-muscle connection and strength-building. It is a compound exercise in which the whole back is engaged, and your glutes, hamstrings, and arms are also utilized. You will also be strengthening your core as a bonus. (there is another variation of this exercise, the single-arm bent-over rows which you can try to challenge yourself a bit more)

    How to do it:

    1. Stand up straight with feet under the shoulders.
    2. Grab a barbell in front of you with an overhand grip (start with lightweights)
    3. Hinge forward at the waist with your head up, back straight, and knees slightly bent for stability.
    4. Lower the barbell gradually until you reach full arm extension. 
    5. Pull it back up towards your chest, leading with the elbows. Remember to keep your arms close to your body and squeeze your shoulder to keep the lats engaged.
    6. Repeat with smooth motions

    Requirements: 

    Barbell 

    Weight plates

    Recommended Sets: 3-6 

    Recommended Reps: 6-12 

    Lat pulldown alternative by using a dumbbell 

    The decline dumbbell pullover

    decline dumbbell pullover

    Unlike pull-ups, this pullover is a simple and beginner-friendly alternative that works your lats by isolating your chest. You engage your back muscles by extending dumbbells over your head as you lie on a bench. Believe us, this exercise is amongst the most effective lat pulldown alternatives as it helps you gain muscle mass, improve scapula, and enhance shoulder mobility.

    How to do it?

    1. Lie on the adjustable bench with your feet placed at the upper end and your head on the lower end of the bench (a declining position)
    2. Hold a single dumbbell in each hand right above your chest.
    3. Keep your lower back down (to avoid arching) and gradually take your arms behind your head to fully stretch your lats.
    4. Raise your arms back up to bring dumbbells to the starting position 
    5. Repeat.

    Requirements:

    An adjustable bench 

    A few dumbbells

    Recommended Sets: 3 

    Recommended Reps: 8-20 

    The incline dumbbell row

    incline dumbbell row

    This dumbbell row is a lat pulldown alternative that is suitable for beginners. It adds variety to your posterior workouts and develops a mind-muscle connection. It mainly builds traps, biceps, brachii, and lats while taking away the stress off your back. Lastly, it allows you to accumulate strength for heavy weight lifting as well.

    How to do it?

    1. Incline the adjustable bench to around 45 degrees.
    2. Place yourself on the bench by putting abs and chest against it and allowing the head to hang off from the end.
    3. Hold a single dumbbell in each hand with an underhand grip and raise the weights to your chest’s height.
    4. Squeeze the shoulder blades to engage the lats as much as you can.
    5. Lower the dumbbells gradually and repeat.

    Requirements:

    An adjustable bench 

    A pair of dumbbells

    Recommended Sets: 3 

    Recommended Reps: 8-15 

    Single Dumbbell Bench Rows

    Let’s add one more row movement, which acts as a perfect substitute. You require a bench for this one, too, as it provides additional support for you to lift more weight. This single-arm row develops your lats by isolating them and without placing pressure on your lower back. As it is done with this one arm, it leaves the other arm free for supporting your upper body. Moreover, it also helps in improving stability and fixes imbalances in muscle strength.

    How to do it?

    1. Place one hand on the bench directly under your shoulder and let your one knee rest flat on a bench.
    2. Meanwhile, grasp a weight with your other hand and let it hang (your back should be flat)
    3. Raise the weight towards the chest without any torso rotation
    4. Keep your arm close to the body, and retract your scapula to let your lat muscles engage to the maximum 
    5. Lastly, lower the weight gradually to its starting position 
    6. Repeat with controlled movement and then switch sides.

    Requirements:

    A flat bench 

    A dumbbell

    Recommended Sets:

    Recommended Reps: 6-12 

    Bands pulldowns

    Bands pulldowns

    A trendy lat pulldown alternative that uses exercise bands to mimic different movements of a lat pulldown machine. The best thing about it is that it can be done by anyone anywhere as it doesn’t require a certain fitness level. You can narrow or widen the grip on your band to provide any amount of resistance your lats can bear. As you perform these reps regularly, eventually, your biceps, lats, and shoulders muscles will strengthen.

    How to do it?

    1. Take your band and secure it to the top of the door by using an anchor.
    2. Kneel while facing the door and holding handles of the band in each hand.
    3. Your arms should be extended up, and your chest should be up and out.
    4. Pull your hands back in a downward movement, with your elbows emphasizing the back muscles.
    5. After that, release the band gradually and repeat.
    6. However, ensure that there is even distribution on both sides so that one hand is not working harder than the other.  
    7. In addition, you can use a thicker and heavy band and hold a little longer when the band is fully extended to emphasize contracting muscles and increase the challenge.

    Requirements:

    An elastic resistance band 

    Recommended Sets: 3-4 

    Recommended Reps: 10-15 

    Kroc Rows

    Kroc Rows

    It is one of the most challenging alternatives of a lap down. It is an advanced version of bent-over dumbbell rows, conducted with heavier weights, but it’s less technical. In short, it’s evident that Kroc rows require plenty of strength and are not for beginners. Instead, this exercise is for those who wish to push muscles past their limits and get tons of volume for their entire back musculature. A plus for this substitute is that it is heavy-duty yet it doesn’t require any machine except for some sturdy dumbells. All in all, Kroc Rows are highly beneficial when it comes to building muscles mass and improving grip strength.

    How to do it?

    1. Stand with your chest bent at 15 degrees (your shoulders should be higher than the waist)
    2. Meanwhile, grab a weight using your single-arm just below your chest level (stabilize your body with the other hand) 
    3. Raise the weights towards your rib cage and ensure full muscle contraction by retracting your scapula and your elbows.
    4. Gradually lower the weights and let your shoulder drop so that your lats and middle-upper back are stretched fully.
    5. Most importantly, remember to switch hands and repeat. 

    Requirements:

    Heavier dumbbells 

    Recommended Sets: 4

    Recommended Reps: At least 20 per arm

    T-Bar Row 

    T-Bar Row

    The T-Bar Row is a cornerstone exercise for many athletes. It is used mainly by bodybuilders to increase back width and thickness as it utilizes heavier weight. Consequently, it is a black sheep brother of the bent-over row. With a T-Bar Row, you can strengthen not only your lats but spinal erector, delts, traps, and biceps as well. Of all the rows used as lat pulldown alternative, this exercise is probably the most notorious as it is not easy to master but is very rewarding. 

    How to do it?:

    1. Place your feet on the placements given and stand over the t-bar.
    2. Bend and hold the handle of the bar with an overhand grip
    3. Now slightly bend your knees and allow your torso to come lower than 45 degrees
    4. Raise your elbows back to pull the weight up until it reaches your chest (keep elbows close to the body)
    5. Lastly, lower the bar down gradually in a smooth motion.

    Requirements: 

    T-Bar Row 

    Plates

    Recommended Sets: 3

    Recommended Reps: 6-12

    Straight-Arm Pulldown

    Straight-Arm Pulldown

    This single-joint exercise will give you great backs like those of swimmers. That’s why it is on our list and is also sometimes referred to as swimmers. By using flexion and extension of your shoulder, this exercise looks very identical to a freestyle swim-stroke. The straight arm pulldown can be called a Frankenstein combination of a lat pulldown and a pullover as it performs an excellent job of enhancing your lats and your upper traps and scapula as well. Like pullovers, you will require a cross-over cable system that you can make at your home gym using a resistance band, a long bandle, and a pull-up bar.

    How to do it?:

    1. Place a pulldown pulley at a high level 
    2. Hold the bar and stand back
    3. Retract your scapula, and your chest should point towards the ceiling.
    4. Pull the bar parallel to your chest and squeeze at the bottom. (you are doing it correctly if you feel it in your scapula and lats)
    5. Lastly, release the weights back up with controlled movements and repeat.

    Requirements:

    Cross-over cable system with a straight bar

    Recommended Sets: 3

    Recommended Reps: 6-12

    We hope you try these lat pulldown alternatives from the comfort of your home gym. However, if one of the body workouts seems daunting, don’t quit. Just jump to the next one, and it might work. Luckily, we have compiled a long list of epic back exercises for you to choose from. Above all, you can utilize mostly all of the muscle groups in your posteriorly by using these.

    Try to mix these exercises with your core routine to create a balanced approach, and don’t hesitate to incorporate these in your daily workout. So gather some grit and consistency, and work your lats on a daily basis. Oh, and go back and get some patience as well, as these exercises won’t make you hulk overnight! Enough reading (toggling at screen ain’t going to help you with the muscles). Get your lazy ass up now and begin the tedious yet worthwhile journey towards those lats that will make the ladies swoon.