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4 Best Renegade Row Alternatives (with Videos!)

renegade row alternatives

Many similar alternatives exist that can help lifters better target their back, strengthen their core or otherwise fulfill the same role as the renegade row without the same equipment requirements.

Best Renegade Row Alternatives

If You Only Have a Barbell: Bent-Over Rows

The bent-over barbell row is a classic free weight exercise replicating the upper body positioning of a renegade row – only with the body hinged at the hips, rather than being in a plank stance.

barbell bent over row

Apart from allowing for a similarly horizontal trunk orientation, the bent-over row also offers far greater loading capacity, reduced limitations (primarily core muscle fatigue) and is an overall better exercise for both strength and hypertrophy.

Equipment Needed

The bent-over row will require only a barbell and a set of weight plates.

Sets and Reps Recommendation

Bent-over rows are an exercise suitable for moderate volume and heavier amounts of weight. 

As such, starting off with 3-5 sets of 8-12 repetitions should suffice.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Due to the potential for lower back injury while in a bent-over position, lifters must first master properly hinging at the hips prior to attempting a bent-over row. 

In connection, properly bracing the core and ensuring no swinging of the waist occurs are also vital cues to master.

How-to:

Barbell Bent Over Row
  1. Gripping a loaded barbell at the front of the legs in a shoulder-width double overhand grip, the lifter braces their core and pushes their hips back so as to lever the torso nearly parallel to the floor.
  2. From this position, the lifter pulls their elbows behind their back as they draw the barbell up towards the base of their ribs – retracting the scapula as the elbows begin to bend as well.
  3. Once the bar is touching the torso, the lifter slowly disengages their scapula and extends their arms downwards once more. This completes the repetition.
    Subsequent repetitions do not require further hinging of the trunk – the entire set is performed while bent over.

For Less Core Involvement: Seal Rows 

Seal rows are a compound horizontal pulling movement where the lifter faces chest-down atop an exercise bench. 

barbell seal row

Though unusual, positioning the body in this manner effectively eliminates many of the trunk stabilizers that would otherwise be recruited with a renegade row – allowing for greater volume and a reduced risk of injury.

Equipment Needed

Seal rows may be performed with any type of free weight, be it dumbbells, kettlebells or a barbell fitted beneath the bench.

Sets and Reps Recommendation

Though somewhat safer than other row variants, the seal row may become uncomfortable if performed with a significant amount of weight.

For novices or those performing seal rows for the first time, performing 2-3 sets of 10-16 repetitions with a light amount of weight will be ideal.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Lifters may make the mistake of excessively protracting their scapula or otherwise internally rotating their shoulders due to the position of the weight. 

To avoid doing so, the lifter must keep their shoulder blades either partially retracted or in a neutral position throughout the set.

How-to:

Barbell Seal Row
  1. To perform a seal row repetition, the lifter will begin by lying chest-down atop a bench, arms extended beneath as they grip their choice of weights in a pronated orientation.
    The upper arms must remain close to the trunk throughout the set, with no movement of the trunk or legs whatsoever.
  2. Squeezing their lats, the lifter simultaneously bends their elbows towards the sides of their ribs as they pinch their scapula above them – raising the weights as close to the chest as they can go.
  3. Once completing the concentric phase, the lifter may then finish the repetition by simply reversing the movement and lowering the weights back downwards.

If You Prefer Bodyweight Exercises: Inverted Rows

In cases where no training equipment is available, lifters may still target the same muscles as a renegade row by performing a bodyweight inverted row instead.

inverted row

Though the core musculature will be worked in a comparatively diminished capacity, inverted rows will work the same major muscles of the back (lats, traps, posterior deltoids) through a similar range of motion and intensity.

Equipment Needed

Inverted rows require only a handle position sufficiently high enough off the floor. Playground equipment, railings or gymnastic rings may also work as potential substitutes.

Sets and Reps Recommendation

As a bodyweight exercise, programming inverted rows will largely depend on the lifter’s weight and strength ratio. The lighter and stronger, the more volume needed to reach temporary muscular failure.

However, the majority of individuals new to calisthenics may find 3-5 sets of 8-10 repetitions sufficiently stimulating.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

A common mistake seen with inverted rows is allowing the elbows to flare outwards – causing the upper arms to become parallel to the shoulder joint, thereby greatly increasing the risk of injury.

Like most other variations of row, the inverted row should involve the elbows kept as closely tucked to the torso as possible without affecting the movement pattern.

How-to:

Bodyweight Inverted Row
  1. To perform a repetition of the inverted row, the lifter begins by suspending themselves from a bar chest-up.
    The hands should be in a pronated orientation and spaced somewhat wider than shoulder-width apart. The legs should be straightened across the floor as the core and glutes remain contracted, forming a flat plane with the entire body.
  2. Now in the correct stance, the lifter contracts the muscles of their back and rows their own body up towards the handle – stopping just short of their chest touching it. The elbows should bend towards the sides of the body as the scapula retracts alongside.
  3. Once the trunk has been raised sufficiently close enough to the bar, the lifter allows their own weight to slowly pull their trunk back downwards as their arms passively extend over their chest. 
  4. When the lifter has returned to their starting position, the repetition is considered complete.

For a Less Horizontal Torso Angle: One Arm Landmine Rows

For those that wish to replicate the same unilateral movement pattern of the renegade row without necessarily being in a plank stance, the one arm landmine row is the perfect substitute. 

landmine row

Landmine rows are a compound horizontal pulling movement involving the trunk being hinged somewhat forwards at the waist as the lifter rows one end of a barbell using a neutral grip.

Equipment Needed

Single-handed landmine rows require a barbell, a set of weight plates and a landmine attachment.

Sets and Reps Recommendation

In order to strike the ideal programming between both hypertrophy and strength development, lifters should perform 3-4 sets of 6-8 repetitions.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

To ensure no injuries of the lower back occur, lifters should avoid swinging the barbell upwards by moving their hips or waist. All force used to move the bar should be derived entirely from the arms and back.

How-to:

Landmine Single Arm Row
  1. To perform a repetition of the one arm landmine row, the lifter begins by standing beside the loaded end of the barbell, holding it in one hand by the neck using a neutral grip. The hips should be pushed back with the knees slightly bent, the trunk hinged forwards.
    For greater stability, the non-working arm may be placed on the upper thigh so as to better support the upper body.
  2. Now in the correct stance, the lifter proceeds to row the barbell by drawing the working elbow behind the body as they retract the shoulder blade on the same side.
  3. Once the weight plates are nearly touching the trunk, the lifter reverses the motion and slowly lowers their arm back downwards in a slow and controlled manner. With this, the repetition is complete.
    Don’t forget to also train the opposite side of the body.

Which Renegade Row Alternative is “Best”?

The optimal renegade row alternative is highly individualized and dependent on specific training objectives, equipment availability, and personal preferences. 

Though the bent-over barbell row is comparatively superior to the renegade row in nearly all aspects, limitations or special training considerations may call for the equipment-free inverted row or the more isolated seal row.

References

1. Nieto-Acevedo, Raúl, Blanca Romero-Moraleda, Almudena Montalvo-Pérez, Carlos García-Sánchez, Moisés Marquina-Nieto, and Daniel Mon-López. 2023. “Sex Differences in the Load–Velocity Profiles of Three Different Row Exercises” Sports 11, no. 11: 220. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports11110220