August 25, 2021
If you are looking to use resistance bands to build muscle mass in your back, banded rows are a must. In this article, we cover everything you need to know about rows (and resistance band pulling exercises in general). We discuss training variables like grip, body and load positioning and how they affect which muscles are being targeted in your back. Then we run you through 17 different variations of rows and pulls. For each of the resistance band row variations, we will tell you the primary muscles being worked and we'll give you step-by-step instructions with important cues to ensure you have good form. To cap it all off, at the end we have a couple resistance band pulling workouts for you.
So, let’s get rowing.
In resistance training, a row (or rowing) exercise involves a pulling motion that aims to strengthen the muscles that retract your shoulder blades and draw your arms toward your body.
The major muscles of a row are your lats, traps and rhomboid, as well as your biceps. However, many muscles are involved in rows. It is a big compound exercise...
More on the muscles worked later.
Rows are a pulling exercise, so they are a “pull”.
Pulldowns (i.e. lat pulldowns) and pull ups are also a pulling exercise.
Essentially, resistance exercises that involve a horizontal pulling motion are considered rows and exercises that involve a vertical pulling motion are considered pulldowns. Both types of pulling exercises aim to strengthen the back.
However, it should be noted that while both pulldowns and rows work the muscles of the back, and, of course, involve a pulling motion, they do target and emphasize muscles differently. This should be obvious since pulling horizontally and vertically places our joints in different positions.
Be that as it may, even among rows and pulldowns muscles can be targeted differently. This comes down to grip positioning, load positioning, and body positioning. These are all training variables that should be applied to your training so that you can emphasize all the muscles in your back evenly and effectively. This is why so many variations of rows and pulldowns exists. They are not all redundant. They have purpose!
What’s our point explaining all of this?
Well, first, we want you to understand why we have so many variations of resistance band rows AND why we included pulldowns. This post is all about resistance band pulling exercises, and since pulldowns are essentially vertical rows, we have included them. Overall, with all of the variations of rows/pulls we have for you below, you'll be able to build well-rounded back strength and muscle mass.
Absolutely! Rows are one of the most effective exercises that you can do with resistance bands. Moreover, there are so many variations of rows that you can do. You can mimic all the same rows that you do with barbells, dumbbells, and cable machines using resistance bands. Because of that, resistance bands are probably the most versatile training tool that you can use for rowing and pulling exercises.
With resistance bands, you can do overhand, underhand and neutral grip rows. You can do single arm or bilateral rows. And, you can do rows from a standing, bent over, half-kneeling, kneeling, seated and even supine position.
Moreover, you have anchored and non anchored options. What this means is you can anchor one end of the band to an external object (like a bar) and perform your rows by standing away from the anchor and pulling the band towards you, or you can use your own body as an anchor by looping the band around your feet or simply stepping on the band. As such, you can do rows with resistance bands literally anywhere, and effectively at that.
So, whether you train at home, the gym, outside or even while traveling, resistance band rows should be implemented.
Both 41” loop resistance bands and resistance tubes with handles are good for rows. However, we prefer to use 41” loop resistance bands because they are more versatile. You’ll have many more options for exercises with them.
If you are worried about them not having “handles” don’t be. The loops act as perfect handles.
Another very important reason why we prefer 41” loop resistance bands is that you have a much greater range of resistance, both on the low and high end.
Here are the specs for 41” loop resistance bands (which are also more durable and flexible):
#1 Yellow Band: 5 to 30 Pounds (1/2" - 41" x 0.5" x 0.18")
#2 Black Band: 20 to 55 Pounds (7/8" - 41" x 0.85" x 0.18")
#3 Blue Band: 35 to 70 Pounds (1 1/4" - 41" x 1.25" x 0.18")
#4 Green Band: 45 to 115 Pounds (1 3/4" - 41" x 1.75" x 0.18")
#5 Gray Band: 60 to 170 Pounds (2 1/2" - 41" x 2.5" x 0.18")
Note: The colors of the band may differ among sellers, but the dimensions won’t. The above reference our SET FOR SET bands’ colors.
All in all, we choose 41” loop resistance bands over resistance tubes with handles all day every day. They are just more superior bands on all fronts. This is why you see them becoming way more popular than tube bands, which really are limited in functionality. You can read more about the benefits and uses of resistance bands if you are interested.
There are many reasons why you should be doing resistance band rows, besides the obvious reason of strengthening and building muscle in your back and arms.
Let’s quickly go over some of the benefits of using resistance bands for rows, including strength and hypertrophy advantages:
Now, let us be clear, we are not saying that you shouldn’t use dumbbells, barbells and other equipment for back exercises, but we ARE saying that bands are worthy of being placed into everyone’s routine, including advanced athletes. It’s definitely not just a beginner training tool. But, we are guessing you already know this seeing as pros (both in fitness and sports) use bands regularly.
Resistance band rows work the same muscles as rows with other equipment do as the movement mechanics are the same, which are your back muscles (i.e. your lats, traps, rhomboids), your rear delts, and your arms (specifically your biceps and forearms).
The difference with resistance band rows is in the type of tension, which is elastic tension rather than gravitational tension. Essentially, you are working the same muscles just the resistance penetrates your muscles a little differently, albeit both free weight and resistance band rows are effective for strength, hypertrophy and muscular endurance.
Related: Free Weights vs Resistance Bands
For a more in-depth look at the muscles worked, here is a list of all the muscles targeted when doing rows:
Back (Major Focus):
Arms (Secondary Focus):
As you can see, rows are a big compound movement.
Now, it’s important to note, that not all rows are equal. Different variations will emphasize certain primary movers and secondary movers more or less.
With that, when going over all the different resistance band row variations below, we will make a clear statement of the muscles being targeted for that specific exercise.
NOTE: Vertical Pulls will hit the back muscles differently, but pretty much all the same muscles are being targeted. We will also tell you which muscles are being emphasized for the vertical pulls that we have included in our variations of resistance band rows below.
Even with the king of the rows, the barbell bent over row, no one is doing 1 rep maxes. It is simply not an exercise where you do a one rep max, like you would with deadlifts, squats, bench press and overhead press. Basically this is because there’s no way to do a clean 1rm with rows. Your form would be too sloppy. With the big 4 (deadlifts, squats, bench press, OHP), you can do 1 clean rep with a max load to test absolute strength.
With all that said, strength training can involve lower reps with bent over rows, such as 3-5 reps, and it is effective. However, since we are using resistance bands, we won’t be going that low.
With resistance band rows, you will want to work in the 5-15 rep range.
Yes, this is a wide range, but it depends on what the exercise you are doing is, how heavy of a band you are using, and what’s your goal.
We are going to tell you the best rep range for each exercise, but just to simplify things, here are the rep range goals for resistance band rows.
Obviously, none of these rep ranges matter without speaking about load, so, again, to keep things simple, you will want a resistance level that challenges you in these rep ranges, which means brings you to failure or close to failure within the given range.
We recommend that you work through all rep ranges. You can do this by doing strength days, hypertrophy days, and endurance days or having various sets in your workout that work you through the different rep ranges.
Just to be clear, it’s not like you won’t build strength in a higher rep range, because you will. The same is true for hypertrophy, you can build muscle in lower rep ranges. AND, the same is true with endurance too, you will build some muscular endurance in the hypertrophy range. It’s just that the main focus of the rep ranges will be either to build strength, size or endurance.
With all that said, let’s not think too much about all this here, especially if you are a beginner. All you have to do is play around with your sets and the resistance level. Don’t just always use the same number of sets, reps, and resistance level. It’s hard to have linear progression with resistance bands because you can't exactly measure the resistance, so your best bet is to play around with these and other training variables.
It’s going to depend on what variation of resistance band row you are doing and what rep range you are working in. Ideally, you will want to have at least a set of 41” loop resistance bands that has the 0.5”, 0.85”, and 1.25” width bands, which will give you 10-100+ pounds of resistance. Even better if you get the 1.75” width band too as that will be useful for rows, at least for most men.
All in all, you will find all of the 0.5-1.75” bands useful for resistance band rows. It will allow you to do all the variations effectively and play around with both strength and hypertrophy rep ranges.
Note: Some row exercises will be super challenging even with just the smallest (0.5” width) resistance band while other row exercises will be too easy with the smallest, so it’s best if you buy a set or a few different sizes.
Remember, you can combine bands together (as they are all the same length and thickness, just the width is different and thus resistance).
So, let’s say you have a 0.5” and 0.85” band and you combine them for an exercise, you’d essentially be using a 1.35” band.
Women: We recommend getting at least a 0.5” and 0.85” band, and if you can the 1.25” as well.
Men: We recommend getting a 0.5”, 0.85”, 1.25”, and 1.75” band, but if you are a true beginner, you can probably skip out on the last on and get it later on if needed.
There are many ways to do a resistance band row as there are a plethora of variations. All the different variations play around with different training variables.
The two main training variables are:
You can combine body positioning with grip, so the total number of variables is a lot (for examples, seated neutral grip, seated overhand, seated underhand).
What’s more, you can also add in unilateral and bilateral variations, which takes the number of variations up even more!
Rather than explain how to do one type of banded row, such as seated rows or bent over rows, we are going to teach you how to do 17 of the best resistance band rows, all of which use these different training variables.
For each variation of the banded rows we go over, we will explain the muscles worked and exactly how to do them with step by step instructions and cues.
17 RESISTANCE BAND ROW VARIATIONS:
1. Bent Over Rows (0:06)
2. Bent Over Alt Rows (0:15)
3. Kroc Rows (aka Single Arm Rows) (0:25)
4. Upright Rows (0:41)
5. Seated Neutral-Grip Row (anchored) (0:52)
6. Seated Single Arm Row (anchored) (1:07)
7. Seated Lat Pulldown (anchored) (1:17)
8. Seated Close-Grip Pulldown (anchored) (1:33)
9. Seated Single Arm Lat Pulldown (anchored) (1:47)
10. Half-Kneeling High Row (anchored) (1:58)
11. Half-Kneeling Twisting High Row (anchored) (2:07)
12. Half-Kneeling Face Pull (anchored) (2:22)
13. Bent Over Lat Pushdown (anchored) (2:32)
14. Standing Neutral-Grip Rows (anchored) (2:47)
15. Standing Alt Rows with Twist (anchored) (3:02)
16. Standing Neutral-Grip Low Rows (anchored) (3:12)
17. Standing Underhand Rows (anchored) (3:22)
Below we have the muscles worked and step-by-step instructions for all of the resistance band rows in the video above. After we go through each of them, we will give you some sample resistance band pulling workouts, using these resistance band back exercises...
This variation has you in the bent over position, which automatically activates your spinal erectors, glutes and hamstrings, making the row and greater compound exercise.
With the neutral grip, your elbows will be more tucked. This places maximum activation on your lats. Your biceps will also have greater activation because they will be moving through a greater range of motion. With this grip and positioning, you will also get good activation for your rhomboids and mid traps.
This banded row variation will work the same muscles as the previous variation as you will be performing the row through the same movement pattern using the same grip. The difference is that with the alternating movement, you will have more activation of your core to maintain stability and keep your torso and hips squared forward. Furthermore, with the alternating rows, you can iron out muscle imbalances as the focus will be on just one side at a time. To top it all off, your sets will be longer, which means more calories burned!
While Kroc rows generally refer to single arm dumbbell rows from a split stance position or with one knee on a bench and the other behind on the ground, this banded single arm row is essentially the same thing.
The resistance band Kroc row works a lot of muscles, not just your back. Your delts, biceps, forearms, low back and obliques will get some great activation.
That said, the primary emphasis is on your lats, biceps, rear delts, traps and core.
The upright row with a resistance band is arguably better than a dumbbell or barbell upright row. It’s a lot easier on your shoulder joint as you have flexibility in your grip to spread the band at the top. The further your hands are apart at the top, the easier it will be on your shoulders.
As for muscles worked, the banded upright row effectively targets your front, middle and rear delts, as well as your upper trapezius, rhomboids, and even biceps.
The seated neutral grip allows you to take your legs out of the equation, placing all your focus on your upper body. With this variation, using a neutral grip, you will be emphasizing your teres major/minor, rhomboids, and middle traps as well as your lats and biceps.
This resistance band row variation is essentially the same as the previous exercise. However, since you are using one arm at a time, you have the added core factor. Moreover, when holding the band with both loops in your hands as seen in the video, you are virtually doubling the resistance.
While this is technically a pull down and not a “row”, rows and pulldowns are the same, just a row is a horizontal pull and a pull down is a vertical row.
As you are pulling down from a high anchor point with an overhand grip, the emphasis will be on your lats and lower traps. Your biceps and forearms will also get good activation.
We recommend using a little heavier of a band for this one.
This lat pull down involves a close, neutral grip. With that, you get more activation of your biceps, rhomboids, teres major, teres minor, and infraspinatus, in addition to your lats and lower traps. Even your upper chest will get some good activation with this exercise.
While this resistance band pull variation may seem similar to the previous exercise, there are some more notable differences than just using one arm. Your arm will be out to the side more, with the anchor point in line with your working sides shoulder rather than your centerline. With that, you will have more activation of the lats, as well as your teres major and minor. Of course, your lower traps, rear delts, and biceps will also have good activation.
This row variation is what is called a high row as you will be rowing to your upper chest with your elbows at almost 90˚. This will place emphasis on your upper back, so your rhomboids and chest, as well as your rear delts and teres major.
As you are in a half-kneeling position, you will also have core and glute activation to maintain stability.
The twisting row is great because it involves rotation, which is great for your core and obliques and building strength through the transverse plane, but also it allows you to maximize range of motion in your row. Essentially, you are exaggerating the row and getting the most possible contraction and stretch with each repetition.
So, all together, the muscles worked with this exercise are your lats, rhomboids, traps, and all the other smaller muscles of your back, as well as your biceps, obliques, abs and erector spinae.
As you are in a half-kneeling position, your glutes and forward leg will also be activated to maintain stability.
Since you are using a high anchor point, hence the name twisting “high row”, you will also get more activation in your lower traps than your would with a mid-point anchor since some shoulder depression is involved.
If you though the high row was high, the face pull row is even higher...to your face...hence the name.
The face pull will target your rear delts, lower traps, mid traps, infraspinatus and teres major.
Again, as you are in a half-kneeling position, your core, glutes and legs will work to stabilize and keep your torso and hips square forward.
Related: Machine High Row Exercise Guide
While it’s called a pushdown, this resistance band exercise is essentially a pulling motion. The main target here is your lats. However, the long head of your triceps will also be activated as it is involved in shoulder extension, which occurs in this movement.
Other muscles activated will be your rear delts, teres major, levator scapulae, rhomboids, and lower lats.
And since you are in the bent over position, your spinal erectors, glutes and hamstrings will be working isometrically.
The standing neutral grip row emphasizes your rhomboids, middle traps, and teres major, as well as your lats, biceps and forearms.
Because you are in a standing position, your lower body and core will also be activated isometrically to maintain a strong position.
Note: This exercise can also be done with an overhand or underhand grip to change how the muscles are targeted.
The set up for this resistance band standing row variation is exactly the same as the previous exercise. However, with this one you will be alternating sides each rep and adding a slight twist into the movement. With that, you will be working all of the same muscles (rhomboids, middle traps, teres major, rear delts, lats, biceps, forearms), while additionally targeting your obliques. Moreover, because you are doing a twist, you will be increasing your range of motion on the concentric phase, which will give you greater contraction of the targeted muscles.
This resistance band row variation has the same set up as the previous exercise but you will only be using one arm at a time and you will have a neutral grip.
The standing neutral grip low row targets your lats, especially the upper lats, rear delts, teres major and biceps, as well as your rhomboids and middle traps.
Also, because it is a unilateral exercise, your core and low back will work to maintain a squared forward, upright position.
This is a standing resistance band underhand row, which targets the same muscles as the aforementioned neutral grip row, yet with a little more emphasis on the lats and biceps...but that’s not all. Since you are using a low anchor point, your upper traps will also be activated. Altogether, this is a great exercise to target the traps, rhomboids, lats and arms.
There are many ways to incorporate resistance band rows into your workouts. For example, you could superset free weight back exercises with banded rows or you could just add them into your routine like you would any other exercise.
But let’s say you want to do just a resistance band back workout (aka pull workout)...well, here are a couple great workout examples:
SET X REPS WORKOUT:
Rest 60 seconds between sets
Circuit 1 x 3 Rounds:
Rest 1 minute between rounds
Circuit 2 x 3 Rounds:
Rest 1 minute between rounds
What is a good beginner workout?
For beginners, choose 4 to 5 different exercises, ideally 3 row variations and 2 pulldown variations and do 3 sets for each with 8-12 reps. This will give you a well rounded back workout.
When choosing exercises, make sure they are different. For example, don’t choose 3 variations of neutral grip rows, choose one underhand, one overhand, and one neutral grip and each with different body positioning. This will help you hit the muscles of your back more evenly.
You can get resistance bands for rows at SET FOR SET.
Our 41” loop resistance bands are extremely durable and long lasting. They come in the following sizes:
You can buy them individually or in sets. Our two sets are:
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