5 Best Lat Pulldown Alternatives

Lat pulldowns are a great exercise for developing mass and strength in the upper back muscles. Sometimes, though, you need to switch things up or don’t have access to a massive pulldown machine. In that case, here are 5 of the best lat pulldown alternatives for your workout.

The lat pulldown is a stable of upper back workouts, but variety is key. Photo By: Flickr

The exercises below are hardly the only substitutes for lat pulldowns. You can get very creative with your program and and their are a countless number of ways to target the muscles you want. While there are plenty of machine alternatives, like seated rows, these 5 options give free weight alternatives to target your upper back from different angles.

Band Assisted Pull-ups

While lat pulldowns are often considered an alternative for those who can’t do pull-ups, variations of pull-ups can just as easily substitute for pulldowns. These lifts obviously mimic the other and they are the most natural way to substitute for one or the other.

Pull-ups are usually considered to be harder than pulldowns, but that doesn’t have to be the case with bands involved. The bands can be used to lighten the load. This will allow you to get rep counts similar to that of pulldowns even if you aren’t strong enough to rep out bodyweight pull-ups.

Pull-ups and chin-ups can be done with so many variations based on your strength and skill levels. Resistance can easily be changed, anywhere from using bands for assistance to adding weight on a belt. Alterations can also be done to adjust the grip, wide or narrow, similar to lat pulldowns.

Reverse Grip Bent Over Rows

Variations of bent over rows are among the best exercises you can do for upper back development. Including at least 1 is a staple of most back programs.

Bent over rows are another exercise that can be done with a ton of variations. You can alternate between a wide and narrow or reverse and standard grip if you want. You can also use single or double arms with a dumbbell or barbell, respectively.

Decline Dumbbell Pullovers

Dumbbell pullovers are a common lift for triceps and chest work, but they can also be used to develop back muscles. You can see a demonstration of the proper technique in the video below.

Like will all back exercises, actively engaging the lats and other back muscles is important to really targeting them. If you aren’t focusing on using back muscles, you are likely to get more work from your chest or triceps in a lift like this.

Pullovers can be done on a decline, flat, or even incline bench. Flat or decline dumbbell pullovers are a great option and mixing it up will provide stimulus from different angles.

Single Arm Landmine Rows

People often use the landmine to target their upper back with 2 arm rows, but the single arm version is another great option. Doing the single arm version also allows you to use the landmine easier without needing attachments.

The single arm version of landmine rows also allows you to directly target the outer lat muscles. This is one of the best ways to specifically target that area of the back.

Band Pull Aparts

Band pull aparts are a really underrated exercise for upper back development. A common misconception is that bands don’t offer enough resistance to get the same benefits as dumbbell or barbell lifts. All you need to do is try band pull aparts if you want to realize that isn’t true.

Once you’ve learned the right technique, band pull aparts are a simple exercise that can be performed anywhere. Simple, doesn’t mean easy, of course. They are so challenging because they target your muscles in a way that is much differnet than anything else on this list. And if the exercise isn’t challenging enough, you can always get a heavier weighted band.

Related: 5 Alternatives to Pull-ups


Using variety to constantly target the upper back from a variety of different angles is the best way to make progress. Lat pulldowns are a popular exercise, but they are hardly the only lift that can done to enhance back size and strength. Any of the above lat pulldown alternatives would make a good choice for your next back workout.