Barbell Bent Over Rows are one of the best exercises for building a bigger and stronger back. Using a barbell allows you to work heavy and bent rows will challenge your entire back from top to bottom.
However, there may be situations where you need an alternative for Barbell Bent Over Rows.
Maybe you don’t have access to a barbell or maybe you already have too much posterior chain work in your program and need something more ‘low-back friendly’.
Whatever the reason, if you need some Barbell Bent Over Row alternatives, you’re in the right place. I’m going to share with you my 10 favorite substitutions and hopefully, at least one is a good fit for you no matter your equipment or circumstance.
This article contains affiliate links. If you buy something using these links I may earn a commission.
Table of Contents
Alternatives for Barbell Bent Over Row
DB One Arm Row
The most popular alternative to Barbell Bent Rows is probably the One Arm Row. One Arm Rows work as a great substitution for multiple situations.
If you have dumbbells, but not a barbell they are an obvious choice. Because you can brace with your off-hand they’re also much more forgiving to the low back. Finally, they’re simply a solid movement to add variety to your workout.
Inverted Rows are one of the best, and most overlooked, horizontal rows you can do in the weight room. They place zero stress on the low back and can be modified to be good for both beginners and challenging for advanced lifters.
The higher you place the bar on the rack, the easier the lift becomes. As you get stronger, set the bar lower. To add even more challenge, you can elevate your feet on a bench or lay a weight plate on your chest.
TRX Rows, or Ring Rows if you have a set of gym rings, are very similar to Inverted Rows. It’s primarily a bodyweight exercise where you can increase or decrease the difficulty of the exercise by changing the angle in which you work.
If you take a TRX strap with you on road trips, this should be your go-to alternate for Barbell Bent Rows. (If you don’t already have a TRX Strap, you can pick one up from Amazon here.)
Hex Bar Rows
If you have a Hex Bar (or Trap Bar as they are also called) and you’re not already doing Hex Bar Rows then you are missing out. Simply stand inside your hex bar, grab the handles and row exactly the same as you would for Barbell Bent Rows.
The same thing that makes a hex bar great for Trap Bar Deadlifts also makes them great for rows. Because the weight on the bar sits back closer to your midline it will take a little of the stress off the low back.
Plus, just a simple change of equipment can add some much needed variety to a workout program.
Pro Tip: Hex Bars can vary quite a bit in weight. Take that into consideration when planning on how much to load onto the bar for rows.
Landmine Rows are another great Barbell Row alternative.
First, don’t blow past this option because you don’t have a landmine attachment. You can make a landmine attachment yourself pretty easy with nothing more than a tennis ball.
You have a ton of different options for Landmine Rows. You can use both hands on the bar, one arm at a time, stand slightly off to the side for Pendley Rows or use a Lat Pulldown attachment. Find which you like best, there are no wrong answers here.
Hammer Machine Rows
Ah, the Seated Hammer Row machine. I have zero machines in my garage gym, but the one machine I would buy if I ever find one at a decent price is a Hammer Iso Row Machine. It is hands down my favorite.
You can sit or stand, have your chest supported and row ridiculously heavy weight. What’s not to love? If you have access to one of these machines (or a regular T-Row machine works well too) they can serve as an excellent sub for Barbell Bent Rows.
Chest Supported Rows
Set up a bench at a 30-degree angle. Grab two dumbbells and lay on bench on your stomach with your head over the edge of the bench. You can use a bar for Chest Supported Rows as well, but the setup is a bit more awkward and works best if you have a partner.
Keep a good posture (don’t let your shoulders hang forward off the bench) and row.
Keeping the chest supported takes almost all of the strain off the low back and allows the lifter to focus solely on the row.
Band Rows aren’t going to replace Barbell Rows for developing strength, but they can work great in a pinch if you’re traveling. Even if you don’t have something sturdy you can attach the resistance band to, you can always wrap them around your feet if need be.
The other place Band Rows can work well is as at the end of a workout to get a good burnout set in to end the day.
Close Grip Lat Pulldowns
If you have access to a Lat Pulldown machine, Close Grip Lat Pulldowns can work as a solid horizontal row option. For this exercise you’ll need a one of the close grip attachments. If you don’t have a close grip attachment, use a tight underhand grip on the straight bar.
Lean back slightly more than you normally would for a Lat Pulldown and row. Focus on controlling the weight back to the top of the rep so you don’t end up rocking all over the place.
The last exercise on the list isn’t a horizontal row like Barbell Bent Rows, but it’s too good of an exercise to leave off. When in doubt, subbing Chin-Ups for pretty much any back exercise is never a bad idea.
I think Chin-Ups here slightly over Pull-Ups just because the underhand grip gets the biceps more involved.
I love Barbell Bent Over Rows as a back building exercise, but sometimes Barbell Rows just isn’t an option.
Whether you’re lacking proper equipment or are just looking for a different movement to add some variety to your program, I hope at least one of these alternatives I’ve listed here is a good fit for you.