Pendlay Rows Alternatives

10 Best Pendlay Row Alternatives For a Stronger Back

Pendlay Rows are one of the best exercises for building a stronger, more explosive back. If you’re an Olympic lifter or an athlete that wants to improve their upper body explosiveness, Pendlay Rows can be an amazing addition to your training.

However, as great as I may think they are, there may be situations where you need an alternative for Pendlay 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 Pendlay Row alternatives, you’re in the right place. I’ve been a College Strength Coach for 20 years and I am 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.

Alternatives for Pendlay Rows

I’ve tried to include as much variety in this list as possible. There are exercises that incorporate various different pieces of equipment and there are movements for lifters of all levels of experience.

Barbell Bent Over Rows

Barbell Bent Over Rows

Barbell Bent Over Rows and Pendlay Rows are often confused because of how similar the two exercises are. While they share an almost identical movement pattern, the intent of the two exercises is where they differ.

Pendlay Rows are explosive with a focus on power whereas Bent Over Rows are more controlled with a focus on strength and hypertrophy.

Step-by-Step Instruction

  • Take a shoulder-width stance. Your shins should be almost touching the barbell.
  • Hinge at the waist and bend the knee until you can grab the barbell. Use a pronated grip (Knuckles facing the floor).
  • Always keep a flat back, and a neutral spine, and keep your eyes focused slightly down about 1 foot in front of you.
  • Take a deep breath, brace the core, and pull the bar in until it makes contact right about the belly button.
  • Pause for about 1 second. Squeeze the shoulder blades and lock in the rep.
  • Slowly return the barbell back to the starting position (weights about 1-2 inches off the ground).

Coaching Points

I typically recommend the pronated grip here for athletes. Especially athletes that are cleaning and snatching as the pronated grip will carry over to cleans and pulls.

However, there is some benefit to the supinated grip for general lifters and bodybuilders. The supinated grip will engage more of the biceps and can be a great time under tension movement for hypertrophy.

DB One Arm Row

One Arm Row

The most popular dumbbell alternative to Pendlay Row has to be the One Arm Row.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Place the dumbbell next to the bench.
  • If rowing with the right arm, place the left knee and left hand on the bench. Keep the right foot flat on the ground.
  • Make sure the back is flat (neutral) to slightly arched.
  • Brace the core and pick the dumbbell up.
  • Row the dumbbell up, keeping the elbow close to the body as the dumbbell raises.
  • Squeeze the back at the top of the rep and then lower the dumbbell down until the arm is fully extended.

*One Arm Dumbbell Rows do not have to be done with one knee on a bench. You can keep both feet flat on the ground and lean forward and brace yourself with your off-hand on something sturdy.

Coaching Points

The most common mistake I see athletes make when doing One Arm Dumbbell Rows is not maintaining a flat back. The back should stay engaged and slightly arched – similar to the starting position of a Power Clean. Do not let the back round as this can cause unnecessary stress on the spine.

Make sure to give yourself enough room to ‘spread out’ and get into a good position.

Often times I see athletes place their off-hand too close to their knee on the bench and/or place their grounded foot too close to the bench. This leads to them being too cramped, making it difficult to achieve proper positioning.

Inverted Rows

Inverted Rows with Gym Rings
Photo Credit: Mariia Korneeva /

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. All good reasons why they can make a good Pendlay Row alternative.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Start by placing a bar on the rack about waist height.
  • The higher the bar is placed, the easier the rows will be. The lower the bar is placed, the harder the rows will be. (Just make sure to leave yourself enough room to fully extend your arms at the bottom of the rep)
  • Set the bar on either the J-Hooks or the Safety Bars
  • Lay down underneath the bar.
  • Grab the bar with an overhand grip, brace the core and make sure your body is fully extended – including your legs.
  • You should be positioned to where when you pull yourself up towards the bar, the bar touches the same spot on the chest as it would for bench press. Slide up or down to adjust accordingly.
  • Now, keeping your body in a straight line, pull your chest up to the bar and lower back down until your arms are fully extended.

Coaching Points

Think of the Inverted Row like a reverse bench press. Keep your head back, chest out and pull your chest directly to the bar. Pull the shoulder blades down and back at the top of the rep and squeeze the back.

Something I see all too often is tired athletes who start to look like they’re doing the worm. They start rocking and rolling their entire body to try to get their chest up to the bar. Don’t do this! Maintain a rigid body posture and continue pulling yourself as high as you can each rep.

T-Bar Row


If you have access to a T-Bar Row machine, it can serve as an excellent Pendlay Row alternative.

In fact, depending on the machine, you can pretty much exactly mimic the explosive nature of a Pendlay Row, but (also depending on the T-Bar Row machine) with added chest support.

How To

  • Stand over the bar with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend forward at the hips while also slightly bending your knees. Keep your back straight, maintaining a natural arch.
  • If the machine has a chest support, position it on the upper chest.
  • Grasp the T-bar row handles with both hands.
  • Keep your elbows close to your body as you lift the bar towards your chest. Concentrate on squeezing your shoulder blades together as you pull.
  • Hold the contraction briefly when the bar is close to your body.
  • Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.

Coaching Points

Just because you have a chest support, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t maintain your posture. Keep your core and back engaged and maintain a flat back.

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Landmine Row

Landmine Rows

Landmine Rows are another great Pendlay 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 easily with nothing more than a tennis ball.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Setup your landmine attachment.
  • Load the open end of the barbell with the desired amount of plates.
  • Grab the barbell toward the plate side using your hands or a cable attachment.
  • Use a shoulder-width stance, bend the knees, braced core and flat back.
  • Pull the plates up off the floor and begin rowing by pulling the bar toward you. (Most often you will be able to row until the weight plates touch your chest.)
  • Squeeze the shoulder blades and lock in the rep at the top.
  • Control the eccentric portion of the lift back to arms extended and repeat.

Coaching Points

Using a cable attachment for Landmine Rows has its pro and cons. It makes the setup more comfortable and convenient to row, but if you place metal straight on your barbell it can scratch it up. Keep that in mind if you’re planning on using one.

Hammer Machine Iso 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.

How To

  • Start by either standing or seated with your chest against the support pad.
  • Reach forward, grab the handles and then brace your core and set your posture.
  • Row the handles toward your chest, quickly pause at full contraction and then slowly lower back to arm’s length.

Coaching Points

By far the biggest mistake I see with Hammer Rows is athletes I coach think that because there is a pad to support their chest, they don’t need to have good posture. This is wrong. You should still have the same posture – back and core engaged – as you would if you didn’t have a pad supporting you.

Single Arm Snatch

Single Arm DB Muscle Snatch

Pendlay Row is meant to be an explosive movement and so is the Dumbbell Single Arm Snatch.

If you don’t have a barbell to work with, a Single Arm Snatch is one of the best Pendlay Row alternatives for simulating that explosive row from the floor.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding the dumbbell in one hand, positioned between your legs.
  • Begin with a slight bend in the knees and hinge at the hips, lowering the dumbbell towards the ground.
  • Powerfully extend your hips and knees, pulling the dumbbell upwards in a straight line.
  • As the dumbbell ascends, begin to pull your elbow underneath it.
  • Fully extend your arm overhead, catching the dumbbell in a locked-out position.
  • Control the dumbbell back to the starting position, maintaining good posture.

Coaching Points

The two biggest mistakes that I see with Single Arm Snatches are not keeping the dumbbell close to the body on the way up and letting the dumbbell ‘yank’ the shoulder down as it comes back to the starting point.

The dumbbell should travel close to the body all the up until it gets about head height, then rotate the elbow, drop the hips and catch. Don’t allow it to swing forward out away from the body.

The second technique flaw is not staying braced through the return of the dumbbell to the starting position. Letting the dumbbell, especially the heavier you get, yank the shoulder down at the bottom of the rep is asking for trouble.

Resistance Band Rows

Resistance Band Row

Band Rows aren’t going to replace Pendlay 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.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Find a secure anchor point for your resistance band. Ideally, I would suggest a squat rack, but it could also be a sturdy piece of furniture or even a door handle.
  • Stand (or sit) facing the anchor point, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the resistance band with an overhand grip or neutral grip, with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Engage your core and keep your back straight as you pull the resistance band towards your chest, bending your elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  • Slowly straighten your arms, returning to the starting position.

Coaching Points

Avoid rounding your back or hunching your shoulders as you perform the exercise.

Seated Cable Row

Seated Cable Rows

If you have access to a seated cable row machine, Seated Cable Rows can work as a solid replacement for the Pendlay Row. It’s a horizontal row that can be much easier (and safer) to learn for beginners.

For Seated Cable Rows, you’ll need one of the close-grip attachments. If you don’t have a close grip attachment, use a tight underhand grip on the straight bar

How To

  • Begin by setting up a seated cable row machine with the desired weight. Adjust the seat of the machine so that it is at a comfortable height for you to sit on.
  • Sit on the bench and plant your feet firmly on the ground (or foot plate). Grasp the handle attached to the cable with an overhand grip, making sure that your arms are extended straight in front of you.
  • Engage your back muscles and pull the handle towards your body, bringing your elbows back as far as you can. Keep your chest up and your back straight throughout the movement.
  • Hold the contracted position for a moment, then slowly return to the starting position.

Coaching Points

Keep your core braced and maintain a static upright posture. Don’t confuse Seated Cable Row with a rowing machine. You shouldn’t be rocking back and forth through the movement.


The last exercise on the list isn’t a horizontal row like Pendlay Row, 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.

Step-by-Step Instruction

  • Approach the pull-up bar and grab the bar with a supinated grip (palms facing toward you).
  • Use a bench to get to the bar if it is too high.
  • Squeeze the bar and engage the core muscles and do not cross your legs.
  • Engage the upper back and pull up until your chin is over the bar.
  • Pause for 1 second with your chin over the bar.
  • Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.

Coaching Points

Take your time and master the chin-up. The benefits of doing sound chin-ups will pay dividends for your shoulder health and the potential to maximize your upper body strength.

I would highly recommend this movement to any lifter or athlete. It provides all the benefits of an upper-body pulling movement with little to no risk.

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Final Thoughts

I love Pendlay Rows as an exercise to improve explosive pulling, but sometimes Pendlay Rows are just not 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.

Related Posts

Inverted Row Alternatives for Building Strength

My Favorite Alternatives for Bent Over Barbell Rows

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