A man doing the seated row without machine

Seated Row Exercise without Machine


Building upper body strength is the ultimate focus of most row exercises, yet the seated row is more effective in that aspect than most others. The seated row targets the lats and helps you to develop a strong and flexible upper body.

Most people think that the seated row is possible only with equipment, but actually, seated rows can be done even without, machines, dumbbells, kettlebells, or the likes. It is possible to do the seated row without any machine whatsoever.

In this article, I will talk about various aspects of the seated cable row without machines- instructions, muscles worked, alternative exercises, etc. I will try to provide links for videos, statistics, and other relevant information that I use in the article.

 What is the Seated Row Exercise?

A man doing the seated row

The seated row is an effective exercise for building strength in your upper body. It is a strength and conditioning training exercise that targets the back, the lats, biceps, etc.

The seated row also fixes your posture issues, if you have any, and allows you to carve an exquisite back.


For a comprehensive guide to the seated row, you can watch this video.

Muscles Worked with Seated Row Exercise

Muscles Worked during seated row without machine

  • Latissimus Dorsi, which is colloquially called lats.
  • Rhomboids, the muscles located between shoulder blades.
  • Trapezius or traps, situated in necks, shoulders, and parts of the upper back.
  • Biceps situated in the upper arm.

During the exercise, the main muscles that are worked are lats and rhomboids. Biceps and traps help in that movement to occur.

Can Seated Row Exercise be Done without a Machine?

Doing the seated row without machine

As surprising as it sounds, you can actually do a seated row without any machine whatsoever. You have two options: you can do it using your body weight, or you can use exercise bands.

Doing it using your body weight might be a bit inconvenient; hence we will be talking about the exercise band version here.

How to Do Seated Row Exercise without a machine- Step by Step Instructions

Instructions for seated rows without machines


For detailed guidance on how to do the seated row exercise without machines, consult this video.


To do seated rows without machines, follow these steps:

  • Start with your body seated on the floor. Your legs will be extended, and the exercise band will be tied around your heels.
  • You will grab one end of each exercise band with each hand.
  • Lift the exercise band in the direction of your waist, simultaneously pressing your shoulder.
  • Now relieve the tension and revert to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 5-10 reps.

Tips on Doing Seated Row Exercise without a Machine for Getting Best Results

How to do the seated row properly

Do not rely on your arms and shoulders to bear the burden of the entire exercise. That way, you will end up targeting your arms and shoulders, and your lats will be neglected.

  • Keep your torso motionless during the entire exercise. Otherwise, all the tension built during the exercise will be relieved, and the muscle groups will not be targeted effectively.
  • Brace your abdominal muscles; keep them taut and tight during the exercise. Do not rock during the exercise.

Keep your spine tight and move in a controlled manner.

Common Mistakes to Avoid While Doing Seated Row Exercise

A woman doing the seated row

  • When you are in the pulling phase of the movement, it is best to tuck your elbows to your body. If you keep lifting your elbows up and down with the rest of the body, your biceps will get engaged in lieu of the lats and rhomboids.
  • Do not do the exercise with poor form. Also, if you feel sharp pain during any phase of the exercise, stop doing it immediately and get immediate help.
  • Rounding your back is a strict no-no, not just for the seated row but for all exercises. One of the ways you can avoid rounding your back is that to engage your core and focus on keeping your spine upright.
  • Do not execute the movements too rapidly. You need to go through each phase in a slow and controlled manner in order to activate your muscles properly.
  • Avoid locking your knees during the exercise as it might place extra stress on the delicate knee joints.

Benefits of the Seated Row Exercise:

Benefits of the seated row exercise

  • It fixes posture issues and shields your shoulders from future issues.
  • When you learn how to engage your feet and abdominal muscles, it helps you to prevent muscle strains.
  • It helps you to have a strong upper body and develops your back.
  • The strength you gain from this exercise will be helpful in squats and deadlifts.

Seated Row Exercise Alternatives

Chest Supported Row

A woman doing the chest supported row

The Chest supported row is an excellent alternative to the seated row. The best thing about the Chest supported row is that it does not put much strain on your erector and core stabilizer muscles.

We do have a tendency to ‘cheat reps’ while doing exercise. It’s nothing to feel disgraced about; it happens to the best of us.

But the Chest supported row does not allow you to cheat reps because you are lying down on the bench while doing the exercise.


For graphic instructions on how to do the Chest supported row, you can consult this video.


To perform the Chest supported row, you have to follow these steps:

  • Start by putting a dumbbell on either side of the incline bench.
  • Now rest your body on the incline bench, extending your legs and putting your heels off the floor.
  • Grab the handles of the dumbbells with your thumb, and allow the dumbbells to settle low on your hands.
  • Now try to drive the dumbbells towards your stomach while pushing your elbows back.
  • After you are done with a rep, you lower the dumbbell until your elbows are fully extended.

Meadows Row

A man doing the meadows row

The meadows row is a relatively obscure name on this list, but they offer a great alternative to seated rows. They operate on a barbell landmine and let you use a much heavier load than the seated row.

It lets you do a bigger stretch at the bottom of the movement compared to the seated row. Considering the tip of a barbell is a lot thicker than the handle of a dumbbell, meadows row also enhances your grip.


To do a meadows row, follow these steps:

  • Your starting position would be next to the barbell, which would be fixated to the ground with the help of a landmine.
  • Tie your starting hand to the base of the barbell through straps.
  • Now pull the bar towards your lower stomach while pushing your elbows back.
  • Lower the bar till your elbows are fully extended.
  • Repeat for 8-10 reps.

Inverted Row

A man doing the inverted row

The inverted row is a conventional, low-maintenance alternative to the seated row that many prefer over the seated barbell row. It is done with a barbell, which, as I mentioned before, has its own set of advantages.

But the inverted row has to be done with the perfect form. Otherwise, it is useless and might even lead to injuries.


To do the inverted row, follow these steps:

  • Set the barbell to your waist level. Remember that the higher you set the bar, the easier your movement becomes.
  • Your starting position would be lying on the floor below the bar.
  • Hold the bar using an overhand grip. Your palms would be directed away from you.
  • Contract your abdominal muscles, and keep your body completely erect.
  • Lift your body up till the bar. Stop when your Chest is in contact with the bar.
  • Lower your body in a slow and controlled manner.
  • Repeat for 5-10 reps.

Frequently Asked Questions about Seated Row Exercises

Seated Row exercise

What Exercises Can Replace the Seated Row Exercises?

Answer: The seated row exercises are usually replaced by other forms of row exercises. The most popular alternatives are the inverted row, meadows row, the Chest supported row and the t-bar row.

Is Seated Row a Good Exercise?

Answer: Yes, the seated row is a good exercise for developing your upper body strength and preventing future shoulder injuries.

Can Seated Rows be Done with Dumbbells?

Answer: Yes, you can do the seated row with dumbbells. Dumbbells are one of the safest and most convenient options for seated rows, and they also increase grip strength.

What Are the Best Dumbbells to Buy for this Exercise?

Answer: Dumbbells are, in my opinion, the most basic of all pieces of strength training equipment and should be a staple in any home gym. There are many options out there that can satisfy all budgets. Cheap models can be had quite easily at your local sporting goods store. But for most gym goers we would recommend getting a pair of adjustable dumbbells as they give you a very good value and allow you to switch weights without cluttering up your home gym. Not to worry, as just because they are adjustable does not mean that they are expensive. There are many cheap budget options out there to pick from all you have to do is research to see which set will fit your home gym the best.

Final Thoughts:

To conclude, the seated dumbbell row is one of the best exercises for building upper body strength. If you want to break the myth that seated rows can only be done using machines, use exercise bands for the same exercise, or just your body weight.