Trust me: The T bar row is the back exercise you never knew you needed, and I’m here to tell you everything you’ve been missing about the T bar row! Today, we’ll focus on:
Okay, so you’ve been workin’ it like you just can’t quit at the gym. You’re starting to see broader shoulders, jacked biceps, and maybe even some sculpted thigh muscles.
But for some reason, your back just doesn’t seem to be keeping up with the rest of your body. It’s like it didn’t get the memo that you’re a beast now.
No worries. If you still don’t have those bulging back muscles you've always dreamed of, it may be time to:
- Slow your roll.
- Take a deep breath…
- …and learn how to do a T bar row!
Why Rows Are Important for Working Your Muscles
You know about a row, right? It’s like a reverse bench press–a motion where you pull the weight toward your body instead of pushing it. There are tons of variations of row exercises, but let’s start broad.
Rows in general are super important because if you only performed pushing movements like a bench press in your workout, your back would not develop in a balanced way. Rows in particular come in clutch for shoulder strength as well as great posture because when you pull weight toward your body, you’re pushing your shoulders out into a neutral position.
When you typically think of a row, you probably picture the bent-over barbell row, which is kind of the classic row exercise. Picture someone at the gym with a barbell:
- bent over and hinging at their hips
- driving the barbell up toward their chest
- then releasing it back down toward the knees
This is your regular bent-over barbell row. Don’t get me wrong; it's a great exercise, but you may want to consider adding the T bar row in for some extra fun and stability.
Upgrade Your Row Game and Make it a T Bar Row!
A T bar row is a compound back exercise that can be completed using several different variations and machines, but overall the T bar row will involve a bar (I know–shocker!) and also a handle that extends out on either side of the bar, kind of resembling (you guessed it) the letter “T.” You’ll use this T bar handle to row the bar in toward your chest and then back down.
So, how is this an upgrade for a regular row, you ask? Great question.
There are several benefits of the T bar row:
Less Injury Risk: With the bar anchored in a landmine attached or machine, this offers a more stable device to row with, ultimately reducing the risk of injury through faulty form.
Beginner Friendly: Along these same lines, a beginner to working out can use a T bar row to ensure stabilization of form and engagement of muscles.
Wider Range of Motion: Again, the benefit here is the fixed position of the bar. It adds enough stability for you to stretch deeper into the starting position and also complete a deeper contraction, basically getting more bang for your buck for the work you’re putting in!
Helps You Target Upper Back Muscles: Your lower body can take a chill pill during this motion because the fixed position of the bar in a T bar row helps your form and balance, keeping the strain off the lower back, and helping you isolate those upper and mid back muscles and get them chiseled.
You Can Dissociate A Little: Not in a bad way. Literally, when you hold one part of your body still in an exercise and move another, it’s called dissociation . Holding the hip hinge while you use your arms to row the weight mimics many sports positions and is highly effective for any type of athletic training.
How to Perform a T Bar Row
Before we talk about the muscles worked during a T bar row, let’s go over how to perform a T bar row. We’ll get into this later, but you’ll have a few choices when you set out to perform your first T bar row.
- For example, you can choose whether to use a landmine attachment or a regular T bar row machine.
- You can decide if you want to perform a regular T bar row or a chest supported T bar row.
- You can also choose to perform a close grip T bar row or a wide grip T bar row.
Regardless of what you choose, these are the basic steps for performing a T bar row:
1. You’ll either straddle a landmine bar or use a T bar row machine to position yourself in a similar position with the weight at the end of the bar.
2. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
3. Either hook a V-grip handle under the bar, or use the handles on the machine.
Hinge at your hips, just as if you’re performing a deadlift or an RDL. This means you’ll have a slight bend to your knees as you push your butt back, keeping a flat back and a tight core.
4. Grab the handles.
5. Bending your elbows, pull the weighted end up toward your chest using the handle.
6. Bring your shoulder blades together as you complete this motion, and pause for a moment.
7. Slowly lower back to the starting position, and repeat.
T Bar Row Muscles Worked
We’ll cover different varieties of grips, handles, and machines, but for now, let’s focus on the main muscles worked with a T bar row.
Not to toot the horn of the T bar row, but it’s got an impressive list of muscles worked compared to some other back exercises.
Lats: If you want a wide back that shows off a little bulk, lats–or the latissimus dorsi– are the muscles to grow. Found on the side of your back, these muscles can really show off some brawn when worked out the right way. Lucky for you, the right way to work these muscles out is by adding a T bar row to your workout routine.
Rhomboids: When you pull together the shoulder blades at the top of the motion for a T bar row, you’re engaging the rhomboids, located just between the shoulder blades. Working these muscles helps with posture.
Traps: The trapezius muscle begins at the bottom of your neck–stretches across your shoulders and goes to the middle of your back. Also responsible for posture, these guys will be really feeling it when you get that pump from a good T bar row set.
Posterior Delts: Named for their triangular shape, the posterior deltoids are located on the rear of the shoulder and help your shoulder joint move. This is another shoulder muscle worked during a T bar row.
Biceps: Part of what makes this movement a compound back exercise is the involvement of not just the back but also the biceps. As you bend your elbows, pulling the weight toward your chest, your biceps have no choice but to engage and also to strengthen. Additionally, using an underhand grip will provide an extra emphasis on the biceps.
Erector Spinae: Running along your spine, the erector spinae is a major muscle group of the lower back. When you work out your erector spinae using a T bar row, you’ll be helping your posture and flexibility in your back.
Spice Up the Muscles Worked With These Variations of the T Bar Row
Okay, so now that we’ve covered the official T bar row muscles worked list, all that’s left is to level up your knowledge with some spicy variations of machines to use as well as grips and handles.
Some varieties will emphasize different muscle groups, so depending on what muscles you’re wanting to work during your T bar row exercise, you can pick your fave!
T Bar Row Machines: Same Muscles Worked–Different Equipment
Traditional T Bar Row Machine
If your gym has a specific machine dedicated to a T bar row, this may be your first choice. The T bar row machine has a T bar handle attached to a pivot point, and you’ll be able to load plates onto it depending on how much you want to lift. Typically, T bar row machines have clear platforms for your feet, and you’ll stand with your legs over the bar.
Landmine T Bar Row Attachment
If you’re not seeing a T bar row machine, you may want to go with the landmine T bar row attachment option. For this, you’ll attach a barbell to the end of a landmine base. Then, add weight to the other end. Slip the handle of your choosing (we’ll talk about handles next) under the bar, and you’re set to complete your first T bar row using the landmine attachment.
Chest Supported T Bar Row Machine
Similar to a traditional T bar row machine, the chest supported T bar row machine will have your body at an angle with your chest supported by a pad. Even with this variety, the muscles worked between all machine options are the same.
That being said, the chest supported T bar row machine provides extra support and stability, minimizing your ability to begin using your lower back and hips to support you during the workout. This helps target the upper and middle back muscles you need for this exercise while reducing the risk of lower back injury.
Grips: Different Muscles Worked Depending on Which Handles You Choose
Close Grip T Bar Row Muscles Worked
Maintaining your arms shoulder-width apart is considered a close grip. If using a landmine attachment, choosing a neutral grip bar will give you a close grip for your T bar row.
This grip will allow you to lift the most amount of weight. By keeping the arms at a more neutral position, it also keeps stress off your elbows. The close grip places emphasis on the mid-back muscles, such as the rhomboids and traps, and you’ll see results in your middle and lower back.
Wide Grip T Bar Row Muscles Worked
For this variation, place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width when using a T bar row machine. For a landmine attachment, use a wide grip V handle. With a wider grip, you’ll find your lats become more of the targeted muscle, and your back will become broader in appearance.
Underhand Grip Muscles Worked
Switching your hand position to underhand will still work your back, but you’ll put more emphasis on the biceps for this move, making it even more of a compound exercise.
Need Some Support Along Your Back Exercise Journey?
Okay, so you read this whole article, and you’re pumped up to go try your first T bar row!
Anything holding you back?
If you feel scared to push it in your exercises due to back pain, definitely take that seriously, and get some help along the way.
Our Back of Steel lower back strengthening program could be the perfect fit for you. It’s all about accountability and support as you navigate back pain and physical fitness and what works for you in the mix.
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So, whether you’re just starting on your physical fitness, or you’re adding T bar rows to an already well-practiced workout routine, you deserve to get some support for your fitness journey. In my experience, it’s the best way to stay consistent and get bigger muscles!