6 Lat Pulldown Alternatives You Can Do At Home

If I were to ask you what exercise is best for building your lats, what would you say?

I guarantee the majority of people would say the lat pulldown or at least put it in their top 3.

And why wouldn’t you, it literally has lat in its name.

Unfortunately, it is not as useful as it first seems.

Growing wing-like lats that you can see from the front is a desire everyone wants for their physique, yet a lot of people struggle.

People incorporate one-dimensional moves, such as the lat pulldown, into their workout, rather than moves that target multiple parts of your back, and more specifically, your lats.

In this article, I am going to show you 6 compound movements you can include in your workout to strengthen your back, and pack volume onto your lats.

Even better than that, these exercises do not need a gym membership to be performed and can be done from the comfort of your home.

What Muscles Do Lat Pulldowns Work?

Theoretically, the lat pulldown machine is meant to work your lats.

Some even use it as their sole exercise for that muscle group.

It arguably doesn’t do that at all, though, due to the angle your elbows are in.

When doing an ordinary lat pulldown, your elbows are flared.

This is not a natural movement for your lats, thus causing more tension on your rhomboid muscles and rear deltoids. 

Of course, this exercise is not the worst to be in your workout, and does help add size, but not in the common areas you would expect, leaving your lats underworked and underdeveloped.

I’m also not a big fan of those types of machines simply because they require fewer muscle groups to be involved, therefore lacking the core strength compound movements need for stability.

Where Are Your Lats And How Can We Get Them Bigger?

The Lattissimus Dorsi, or lats, are found in your back, spanning across the width and helping to control the movement of your arms and shoulders. 

If you want to feel your lats in your back, pin your elbows to your side with your arms stretched out in front of you.

Then, pull your elbows backward by squeezing your shoulder blades together.

Starting a chainsaw is the closest natural movement I can think of that predominantly requires the lats.

In order to activate the lats and other types of muscles in the back, we will be primarily focusing on pulling movements, while avoiding any type of help from our arms.

My 6 Lat Pulldown Alternatives You Can Do At Home

#1 – Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

lat pulldown at home - man-at-weight-bench-doing-dumbbell-bentover-rows

This exercise is an awesome type of row that allows you to concentrate on working your lats and back muscles unilaterally.

With a greater range of motion than the lat pulldown, and the required stability, this can be a great exercise to build your core and back.

This movement is great for targeting imbalances in your back muscles and helps you work on any strength differences you may have in your back. 

The equipment required can be interchanged.

If you don’t have a set of dumbbells or a bench, that doesn’t matter.

As long as you have some sort of elevated surface, and a weight to use in each hand, such as a kettlebell, then you can benefit from this back builder.

How To Do It

  1. Place your dumbbell at the side of your bench or any elevated surface. 
  2. Place both hands on the bench and shuffle your feet back with a slight bend in the knee, until your back is straight and horizontal to the floor. This is better than putting a knee on the bench as it includes your core for stability.
  3. Place one hand on the dumbbell and lift it off the floor slightly. 
  4. Engaging your core, and keeping your back straight, lift the dumbbell to your chest. Concentrate on squeezing your shoulder blades together, rather than lifting with your arms.
  5. Hold this position for a second, then control the weight back down.
  6. Repeat on that arm for 8-12 reps, then change.

#2 – Pullup

lat pulldown at home - behind-shot-of-a-man-doing-a-pull-up

What’s that I hear you say?

How can a bodyweight exercise ever be better than weights?

Well, bodyweight exercises, or in particular pullups, are much better at activating all of the muscles in your back, with wide pullups being excellent at increasing the tension on your lats.

The wider range of motion in a pull-up makes it a much more desirable exercise than simple movements like the lat pulldown.

However, it could be argued that the lat pulldown is a lot easier for progressive overload than the pullup, so both have their pros and cons.

To read my take on the debate between pullups and lat pulldowns, be sure to check out this article here.

How To Do It

  1. To set this up at home, you can install a pullup bar. If this is not an option, then a sturdy surface that is about a meter above your head should do. I tend to avoid doors as you can end up with nasty hand injuries if it decides to swing shut.
  2. Jump up to the pullup bar and grip it with an overhand grip. Position them wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Engage your core, bend your torso back slightly and pull down so your body raises. 
  4. When your chest reaches the bar, squeeze your shoulder blades and hold that position for a second.
  5. Slowly lower your body back to the original position.
  6. Repeat for as many reps as you can possibly do.

#3 – Resistance Band Seated Row

lat pulldown at home - man-using-a-resistance-band-to-do-a-seated-row

Another row variation, this exercise mimics the seated cable row which is a common exercise in many gym-goers workout plans. 

There’s a reason this is such a popular choice.

It’s one of the most effective exercises for working not only your lats but all upper back muscles. And I personally can’t get enough of it.

Resistance bands are a great tool for working out at home, and you can use them to vary your back exercises too.

Performing a seated row with a resistance band allows you to extend the time under tension your back muscles experience, making it way more efficient.

How To Do It

  1. Sit on the floor with your back upright and your legs extended in front of you.
  2. Wrap one loop of the resistance band around your feet, and grab the other end with two hands. Your grip should be overhand with your knuckles facing outward.
  3. Engage your core and keep your back straight. 
  4. Pull your elbows back, aiming to squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  5. As the band reaches your stomach, hold the position for a second, then slowly control it back.
  6. Repeat for 8-12 reps.

#4 – Kettlebell Pullover

lat pulldown at home - female-athlete-lifting-kettle-bell-while-lying

I couldn’t make an at-home workout plan without including at least one kettlebell exercise, could I?

Well, here it is, the kettlebell pullover.

It has been argued for decades over whether this is a chest or a back exercise, but it made its way onto this list due to how great it is at targeting your lats.

It requires a ton of stability, with it being a muscle stretching exercise, improving your posture and core strength. 

The best thing about an exercise like this is how simple it is while incorporating many other muscle groups to help out.

How To Do It

  1. To set up, sit on the end of a bench with the kettlebell on your knee. Place both hands in an underhand grip.
  2. As you lie down on the bench, extend your arms upwards so the weight is above your chest.
  3. Engage your core and plant your feet, pull the weight over your head without bending your arms. Allow the weight to move until it is behind you and in line with your head.
  4. Hold the weight there for a second.
  5. Slowly return the kettlebell to the original position.
  6. Repeat for 8-12 reps.

#5 – Wide-Grip Pushup

lat pulldown at home - man-doing-wide-grip-push-ups

Most of us have attempted a pushup, or at least seen someone do them.

It is probably one of the most famous bodyweight exercises, and for good reason.

It is an example of strength, fitness, and stability, as well as being able to work various types of muscles with just a change of hand position.

Today, we are going to be looking at a wide grip pushup to enable us to work the back muscles a lat pulldown would.

Rather than working the chest, this exercise recruits the lats to help push your body upwards.

Obviously, it’s not a pull movement, like the majority of the exercise on this list, but it’s just too good to miss out.

This is primarily a bodyweight exercise, however, if it gets too easy and you find yourself wanting to progressively overload, how about adding some weights in the form of a backpack?

This is a lot easier than trying to stack some plates on your back, trust me, I’ve tried, and it did not end well.

How To Do It

  1. Start in the plank position, with your hands on the floor rather than your elbows.
  2. Shift your hands out to just a bit wider than shoulder-width.
  3. Engage your core and slowly lower yourself down until your chest is hovering above the floor.
  4. Hold this for a second, then drive through your hands to push your body back up.
  5. Try to squeeze your back as your reach the top of the pushup.
  6. Repeat for as many reps as you can.

#6 – Renegade Row

lat pulldown at home - Woman-doing-kettlebell-renegade-rows-1


Look at that, another kettlebell exercise.

Are you even surprised at this point?

This exercise is arguably my hardest on the list, requiring the core strength of a plank, while also recruiting your back muscles to row the kettlebell.

I do recommend putting this in your workout, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you struggle at first.

The main aspect we are looking at here is the row movements.

This requires all of your upper back muscles, but more specifically your lats.

Obviously, the added bonus is the core stability it aids with, but that’s just a given with the compound exercises I love to choose.

If kettlebells aren’t available to you, then feel free to switch to some dumbbells. It will still do wonders for the size and strength of your upper body.

How To Do It

  1. Place 2 kettlebells on the ground in front of you, in line with each shoulder.
  2. Get into the plank position, grabbing the kettlebell handles with each hand.
  3. Engage your core and keeping your back straight, pull the weight towards your chest. Try to pull with your back muscles rather than your arm. 
  4. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold the position for a second.
  5. Slowly control the weight back down to the ground.
  6. Repeat the exercise with the other arm, aim for 8-12 reps for each.


A lat pulldown is a machine that does the job for your back. 

Yes, it will help you build some size.

Yes, it will help you gain some strength.

Unfortunately, it’s just not that efficient.

Luckily, you have now got 6 exercises that you can implement into your routine to replace it.

Compound moves that will strengthen your lats, and all the muscles around it. 

The best thing is, that you don’t even need a gym membership for it. These exercises can be done at home, or wherever you like.

If working out like this interests you, then feel free to check out my Ebook “Train Wherever The F*ck You Want” for more in-depth exercises and workouts you can do at home.

Have you replaced the lat pulldown?

Do you agree with the choices I have made to replace it? What exercise would you do instead?

Let me know in the comments below.