Sports Training

Ring Rows Alternatives – Best Substitute Exercises

Ring rows are great exercises for beginners to both ring training and weight training in general. It is common for people to use the ring row as a way to build up back strength for pull-ups and barbell rows.

The problem with ring rows is well… the rings. Not every gym has rings installed, so beginners will often have to do without. In today’s article, we’re discussing alternatives to the ring row, so that you can build up back strength no matter where you’re training.

What Are Ring Rows?

What Is Rings Row

Ring rows are a beginner back exercise that recruits similar muscles to the pull-up and traditional row, but requires a lot less strength to do so. This makes it ideal for beginners who can’t yet perform a pull up safely, it helps them train their back and build up strength so they can then move on to harder exercises.

Muscles Worked During Ring Rows

 Muscles During Rings Row

Here are the muscles worked by ring rows.

Lats & Upper Back

The primary muscle worked during the ring rows are the lats and your upper back muscles. The lats run alongside your back and are responsible for giving people that wide v-taper look, while the upper back muscles create thickness when you look at people from the side.

Both of these muscles are activated through pulling motions, though how much each muscle is activated will depend on how you position yourself during ring rows. The higher up your hands are, the more you’ll activate your upper back. The lower they are, the more your lats will take over.

Other great exercises that target the upper back include the overhead cable curl, the single-arm french press, and shrugs (dumbbell shrugs or barbell shrugs)


The biceps work as a secondary muscle in the ring row. They partially take care of flexing your elbow. It’s important to focus on feeling the exercise on your lats, to avoid having your biceps do most of the work.

How To Do Ring Rows

How To Do Rings Row

Step 1: Setting The Ring Height

The height of the rings is a crucial part of setting up a ring row. It works this way, the higher the rings, the more of your weight will rest on your feet, so the exercise will be easier.

As you lower them, the opposite happens, you’ll have to lift up more weight with every repetition, which makes the exercise harder.

Step 2: Starting Position

Once the rings are at an appropriate height, grab a hold of them and lean back until your arms are straight. Your torso and legs should form a straight line towards the ground. Keep your core tight to avoid sagging.

Step 3: Pull

While keeping your core tight and your back straight, pull yourself up until the rings touch your chest. Pause at the top for a second and then slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position.

Ring Rows Substitute Exercises

Uses Of Rings Row

Here are a few exercises that can substitute ring rows.

 Inverted Barbell Row

 what Is Inverted Barbell Row

The inverted barbell row is an amazing substitute for the ring row. The mechanics of the exercise are almost the same, but the equipment needed to perform it is a lot more common.

Much like the ring row, the inverted barbell row is a great stepping stone before pull ups, since it only uses some of your body weight. But instead of needing rings, all you need is a barbell and a squat rack, or just a smith machine.

How to Do Inverted Barbell Row: Step By Step Guide

 How To Do Inverted Barbell Row

Step 1:

Set the bar on a squat rack, smith machine or two benches. Like with ring rows, the lower the bar, the harder the exercise becomes, so keep that in mind.

Step 2:

Position yourself under the bar and grab a hold of it with your palms facing your feet. The bar should be around shoulder height so that you can reach up and grab it.

Step 3:

The motion is the exact same as in a ring row, keep your core tight and your body in a straight line. Pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar, then hold yourself up for a minute and slowly lower yourself back down. Repeat for as many reps as needed.

Tips To Get The Best Of This Exercise

  • If the exercise is too easy, but a pull up is too hard, lift your feet up on a platform. This will increase the % body weight you’re lifting and make it harder.
  • If the exercise is too hard, raise the bar.
  • If you place your palms facing up, you will engage your biceps more and make the exercise easier.

Bent-Over DB Row

What Is Bent Over DB Row

The bent-over dumbbell row is a more “advanced” variation on the ring row since we’re now moving on to using free weight and not just our body weight. However, this makes it a great transition for those that need more resistance than their body can offer with a ring row, but can’t move on to pull-ups or barbells yet.

How To Do Bent-Over DB Row: Step By Step Guide

How To Do Bent-Over DB Row

Step 1:

Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand and your feet shoulder-width apart. Now bend over so that your chest is facing the ground. As always, you should keep your core tight and your back straight.

Step 2:

Start the exercise by pulling the dumbbells up towards your chest and retracting your shoulder blades. Once they touch your torso, slowly lower them in a controlled manner.

Mistakes To Avoid When Doing This Exercise

  • Bending your back too much during the movement could lead to injury.m
  • Craning your neck up as you pull. Keep your neck neutral.

Tips To Get The Best Of This Exercise

  • If you’re feeling it too much on your bicep, use a false grip, don’t wrap your thumb around the dumbbell.
  • Pull up and back towards your hip to improve lat activation.

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