You gotta row if you want your back to grow — rowing is probably the best way to add thickness and width to the back. T-bar row is among the most popular back exercise that helps you isolate the back muscles without stressing out the spine.
Reasons why you should be looking at the alternatives? Maybe you just don’t have a t-bar machine, or you are tired of the t-bar rows and want to introduce the novelty factor into training.
Unlike other rowing variations, the t-bar row is quite a safer alternative as it does not put your lower back in a compromised position. Plus, there are chest-supported t-bar row machines that make the back training more beginner-friendly.
There are a lot of things you need to know about the t-bar row alternatives and use them to your full advantage. If you are wondering where to find them, do not worry; you are at the right place. We will give you all the necessary details all at one place.
The T-bar row is a specialized machine (plate loaded) that is fundamentally built on the landmine setup. T-bar row machines are available in different configurations; for this article’s sake, we will mostly talk about the chest-supported version.
T-bar row is a pretty straightforward machine that exhibits the classic rowing movement and allows you to isolate the back. For bodybuilding purposes: t-bar rowing has always been the favored exercise of elite bodybuilders to add volumes to their back training, especially when the whole posterior chain is exhausted after the heavy compound lifts.
Multiple grip options of t-bar row machines allow training the back muscle fibers from different angles and letting you completely annihilate the muscle fibers and bring out the muscle separations.
T-bar row is an excellent auxiliary movement that primarily targets the vast majority of the muscle fibers located at the posterior side of your upper back.
Let’s have a look at the muscles engaged in the t-bar row:
T-bar row machines offer a wide range of grip positioning — primary and secondary movers may be subjective to the grip positioning of the exerciser.
T-bar rows are phenomenal, but there can be numerous reasons behind searching for alternatives.
In order to find a perfect alternative, it is essential to find out “what’s so special about the t-bar rows.” When choosing the ideal option, here are the key features you need to look for:
In this article, we will mention plenty of t-bar substitutes to choose from.
Let’s have a look at some great options we have. We will discuss the exercises that feature: chest-supported or unsupported, barbell, dumbbell, bodyweight, etc. You can select the exercise as per your personal preferences and equipment availability.
You can call it the closest alternative to the t-bar rows as it offers excellent support to the torso and puts the body at a similar angle.
A chest-supported row can be performed with dumbbells or barbells — we suggest dumbbells as they provide a superior range of motion. Just like the t-bar row, you don’t need to worry about the stress on the lower back, allowing you to pull heavier weights.
Equipment required: Incline bench and pair of heavy dumbbells.
It’s that one exercise that will never go out of style! Even if you have selected another exercise as a t-bar alternative, single-arm dumbbell rows genuinely deserve to be in your back training routine.
The single-arm dumbbell row is a unilateral exercise that trains one side at a time — effectively treating strength imbalances.
Equipment required: Dumbbell and a bench.
The underhand barbell row is a great exercise when you want to emphasize more on the lat development.
Plus, an underhand grip increases bicep activation, thus making the weight feel lighter on the back.
Equipment required: Barbell and weight plates.
Inverted row is a bodyweight row that will improve the upper back thickness and strength. It’s an excellent alternative to the t-bar row as it targets the same muscle groups without stressing out the lower back.
Inverted rows are a highly underrated but surprisingly effective back-building exercise. Inverted rows are best performed on the smith machine or power racks, as those machines allow you to alter the bar height easily.
Equipment required: Bodyweight.
As the name suggests, this rowing variation derived its name from legendary bodybuilder and six-time Mr. Olympia winner Dorian Yates himself.
Yates row is a great back builder and emphasizes more on upper back development. Unlike traditional bent-over rows, the Yates row allows the lifter to stay more upright, thus relieving pressure on the back and allowing them to pull heavier weights.
Equipment required: Power rack, barbell, and weight plates.
Unlike traditional barbell rows, Pendlay row starts from the ground. You bring the torso parallel to the floor, pull the weight up, and then rest the bar back on the floor.
With Pendlay rows, we will be working on the explosive force. You pull the barbell off the floor for every rep and concentrate on developing concentric strength.
Equipment required: Barbell and weight plates.
It’s a beginner-friendly alternative to the t-bar row. Seated close-grip is easy to learn and does not stresses out the posterior chain.
This version perfectly adds volume to the back routine and allows you to focus on the muscle pump.
Equipment required: Seated row machine.
Those who don’t have a seated row machine can reap the same benefits while in a standing position.
Equipment required: Cable machine.
TRX or gymnastic rings are the best examples of the suspension trainer. The suspension trainer row can be a perfect t-bar alternative for someone who prefers to train with minimum equipment.
Suspension trainers are easy to set up and offer many workout variations with a single piece of equipment. The instability element of the suspension trainer row enhances muscle activation and control.
Equipment required: TRX or gymnastic rings.
The unavailability of weights should not stop you from developing a well-defined back.
Resistance bands come in different sizes and strengths; you can choose a band that suits your strength levels. Resistance bands are also great for rehabilitation purposes.
One can expect to see decent strength and size gains with this exercise.
Equipment required: Resistance band.
Make your mid-back, rear delts, traps, rhomboid, and lats scream for mercy with the seal row! It is a chest-supported rowing variation that allows perfect horizontal pulls.
What makes seal row so special is its lower back friendliness which allows going heavy while training.
Equipment required: High bench and dumbbells.
ISO-lateral row machine is a perfect substitute for the t-bar rows. These machines also allow unilateral back training making them a great addition to your workout.
Equipment required: ISO-lateral row machine.
Whether you love or hate them, you simply can’t ignore the benefits of bodyweight pull-ups. Biomechanics of pull-ups might not look similar to the t-bar rows, but they both strengthen the upper back and lats without stressing the lower back.
Equipment required: Pull-up bar.
No! T-bar rows are not meant to set the PR. T-bar row is an auxiliary movement, meaning, t-bar is used as a supplemental exercise to add volume to the back training. If you want to track your progress, you can calculate the sum of weight plates as a base value.
The degree of upper back activation highly depends on the grip variation. Using a wide overhand grip will help you target the upper portion of your back, including the posterior delt, rhomboid, and traps. Using a neutral close grip targets the lats more.
Find an empty corner and wedge one end of the barbell in the corner, and load the other hand to perform the t-bar row.
If you are afraid that the barbell might damage the corner, then you can cut down a tennis ball at the center and slide it onto the end of your barbell.
Yes, of course. Both exercises fundamentally target the same muscle groups. However, choosing the most suitable exercise depends on the training goals and fitness levels.
While barbell row is a classic back-building exercise, it also puts substantial stress on the lower back. T-bar row on the other hand is a lower-back-friendly exercise that can deliver the same results.
T-bar row is an iconic back exercise that has been an essential part of the back training routine since the golden era of bodybuilding but doing a single exercise for a very long period might make your body adapt to the movement, and someday hit a plateau.
Bringing variety into the training routine is a practical strategy to stimulate consistent muscle growth. You can use these 13 exercises to make advancements in your back training.