Ring rows can be helpful but in some situations, you may want other options. Discover some alternatives to ring rows with similar results.
Among the more general benefits this exercise offers, ring rows can strengthen your upper back, lower back, erector spinae, forearms, and bicep muscles, they can improve your posture, etc.
Whether you don’t enjoy ring rows, you don’t have the gymnastic ring setup available at home or in the gym, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these ring row substitutes can offer you some or all of the same benefits.
1. Inverted rows with other equipment
Using gymnastic rings for the inverted rows offers more focus on balancing muscles and a slightly bigger range of motion but other equipment options can be used to do inverted rows.
Some examples of alternative equipment options include a sturdy barbell rack with a bar, a sturdy table, dip bars, or trx bands. Take the following steps to do an inverted row with a barbell rack:
- Sit or lie down with your back on the ground under the barbell.
- Put your hand in an overhanded position on the barbell at about shoulder width.
- Move your body so your arms are stretched, your knees are at about a 90-degree angle, and the rest of your body is in a straight line.
- Raise your body by slightly bending your elbows until your body reaches the bar. The goal is to mainly make your back muscles support this movement. Keep your arms close to your body, your body in a straight line, and your feet in the same position during the movement.
- Slowly lower yourself again until you are back in the position of the third step.
The slightly bigger range of motion of ring rows is generally a bit better for muscle growth but other inverted rows still have a similar effect.
In both these alternative versions and the ring row you likely need to make the exercise more challenging to see a lot of muscle growth and strength progress. Something like a weighted vest can be a good choice for this.
2. Bent-over rows
Bent-over rows are one of the most standard row variations for a great reason. This exercise can be a really effective ring row alternative for training similar muscles at home or in the gym.
Take the following steps to do a bent-over row with a barbell:
- Load the desired number of weight plates on the barbell and stand in front of it.
- Put your feet at about shoulder width, grab the barbell with an overhanded grip, and lift up the barbell with your legs until you stand up straight. Keep your spine straight throughout the exercise.
- Slightly fold your knees and tilt your upper body forward until it is at about a 45-degree angle with the ground. Let your arms hang down to the ground for now but hold the barbell tightly.
- Bend your elbows until your hands reach your body. The goal is to mainly make your back muscles support this movement. Keep your arms close to your body, your spine in a straight line, and your feet in the same position during the movement.
- Lower your hands again to the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.
The above walkthrough uses a barbell but if you want to make bent-over rows as similar to ring rows as possible you would use one-handed back exercise equipment like dumbbells, kettlebells, a cable machine, resistance bands, etc.
Similar to ring rows, these will engage more balancing muscles and allow you to row through a larger range of motion.
A difference between these two exercises is that bent-over rows will typically be more challenging for your erector spinae and lower back muscles. Especially if you do this ring row alternative with heavy weights.
3. Lat pulldowns
The lat pulldown exercise often has its own back machine setup in the gym.
This is basically a seat with pads to brace your upper thighs against in front of a cable machine. The pads are there so you don’t pull yourself up during the exercise.
If you have some type of straight bar attachment and a good anchor somewhere high you may also be able to do this ring row substitute with resistance bands.
Take the following steps to do a lat pulldown:
- Take place the seat with your legs anchored behind the thigh pads. Select the desired weight.
- Grab the handle with an overhanded grip, this means hand palms facing forward/downward, with your hands at about shoulder width. Lean back slightly with your upper body.
- Slowly pull down the bar by folding your elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together until the bar reaches your chest.
- Lower the bar back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
As the name implies this alternative mainly focuses on your latissimus dorsi also known as your lats.
This exercise does also engages a few other muscles similar to ring rows like deltoids, forearms, biceps, and trapezius but in a different ratio than ring rows.
For the next ring row alternative, you need something to do the pull-up on. Even if you currently don’t have something like this, a doorway pull-up bar is relatively inexpensive.
Take the following steps to do a pull-up:
- Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward.
- Pull your body up slowly until your shoulders are the height of the bar.
- Lower your body again into starting position in a controlled motion.
The pull-up is a classic compound back exercise that works similar muscles as ring rows but with more of a focus on the latissimus dorsi. This can be both an upside or downside depending on your training goals.
One downside is that pull-ups are too challenging for many people. If that is the case you can start with some of the other options on this list to strengthen the muscles involved.
On the other hand, if you are more experienced with resistance training, bodyweight pull-ups may currently be too easy.
In that case, you can make them weighted with equipment like a dip belt, weighted vest, ankle weights, or a dumbbell clamped between your feet.
5. Renegade rows
The next option is another row variation. To do renegade rows at home or in the gym you preferably have some type of one-handed free weights like dumbbells.
Once you have that, take the following steps to do a renegade row with dumbbells:
- Place the dumbbells on the ground at about shoulder-width and the grips at horizontal lines with each other.
- Get into the position where your face is facing the floor with your hands on the dumbbell grips. Your arms are stretched and your knees are on the ground.
- Move your feet back until your body is in a straight line. If you notice you need more stability during the exercise you can put your feet slightly more apart.
- Raise one dumbbell upward until it is at the height of your upper body. Keep your elbow close to your body and mainly use your back muscles for this movement.
- Lower the dumbbell back into the position of step 3 and raise the dumbbell on the other side in the same way.
Similar to ring rows, renegade rows will work your latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius, forearms, and biceps a lot. Due to the one-handed weights, you can go through a large range of motion.
One difference in muscle engagement is that ring rows will work your lower back and erector spinae. On the other hand, renegade rows will be more challenging for your abs and obliques due to the plank position.
This can be a downside if these muscles fatigue before you train your upper back muscles enough or if not, a nice addition to your back training.