t bar row substitutes
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T Bar Row Substitute: 10 Best Alternatives for a Stronger Back

Out of all bar row variations, the T bar row stands out as an amazing compound exercise that gives your upper back muscle a killer workout at the gym.

Being that you can use a neutral grip, trainees can use the t bar row to pull significantly more weight safely which will add some serious mass and strength to all your back muscles. Yet, this is only one exercise to train your back so let’s take a look at 10 other t bar row substitutes to use in your program:

1) Pronated Grip T-Bar Row Substitute

While the T-bar row is usually done with a neutral grip, you can perform several t bar row substitute exercises by using a bar attachment. The one we want to look at involves using a pronated grip. This will change the biomechanics of the t bar row which will allow you to hit the back muscles a little differently. The similarity in movement makes this the best t bar row alternative.

Equipment:

T-Bar Row, Handle Attachment, Plates

Instructions:

  • Like the t bar row, stand with your feet straddling the t bar with a neutral stance
  • Bend down and grab the handlebar with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width. Make sure to bend down using your legs!
  • Stand up fully erect
  • Now bend over be slightly bending the knees and allowing your torso to come down until it’s lower than 45 degrees
  • Pull the weight up by pulling your elbows back, keeping them close to your body.
  • Pull the weight up until the weight comes up to your chest while also pulling your shoulders together at the top.
  • Lower the weight slowly and smoothly

Sets and Reps:

3x 6-12

2) Pull-Up

The pull up is one of the greatest exercises, particularly a great t bar row substitute, you can add to optimize your upper body workout. You are going to train all of your upper back muscles with this exercise; your lats, traps, rhomboids, core, and biceps. Pull-ups are also easy to add to a home gym because all you need is a pull-up bar!

Equipment:

Pull Up Bar

Instructions:

  • Grab a pull-up bar with hands pronated, slightly greater than shoulder-width apart.
  • Embrace your core and retract your scapula
  • Pull your body up to the bar by pulling your elbows down to your side
  • Come back down in a slow and controlled movement

Set and Rep Range:

Because this is bodyweight, reps will be a little different. We will use a “Reps in Reserve” or RIR. A 2RIR means your workout until you think you could do 2 more reps.

4 sets of 2 RIR

If you can do 10 solid pull-ups, add weight so that you can do 6 pull-ups

3) Bent Over Barbell Row

The bent-over barbell row is a great t bar row substitute since they are both bar rows. The main difference is that the bent-over barbell row is 100% free weight while the t bar row is attached to the ground. Being that you are bent over, you will also train your core and lower back in addition to the upper back muscles.

Equipment:

Barbell and weight plates

Instructions:

  • Take a loaded barbell and stand in the middle with your feet hip-width apart (natural stance)
  • Grab the bar with a pronated grip (overhand) shoulder or slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
  • Pick up the bar so you are standing straight up
  • Allow a slight bend in your knees so that you can drop your torso down. Think you’re about sticking out your butt and dropping your body out in front of your toes.
  • Drop until your body gets below 45-degree angle
  • Your hands should be able to hang straight down while being in from of your knees. The key is to allow your body to come out in front of your toes
  • Brace your core and pull the bar up by focusing on driving your elbows up
  • Keep your elbows close to your side. Do not let them flare out
  • Pull the bar up into your belly button
  • Allow the bar to come down in a controlled manner
  • Make sure not to bounce! Keep your torso in the same position

Set and Reps:

3x 6-12

4) Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

The dumbbell row is another rowing exercise but it uses dumbbells instead of a barbell. However, it will still give your back muscles a killer workout. Unlike a t bar row that uses both arms, this exercise allows you to focus on one arm at a time. Doing so will allow you to identify any muscle imbalances which may exist.

Equipment:

Bench and Dumbbell

Instructions:

  • Set up a bench and bring over a dumbbell
  • Place a hand and knee of the same side on the bench
  • Grab the dumbbell and create a slightly arched back
  • Keeping your shoulders level, pull the dumbbell into your lower stomach
  • Lower in a controlled and smooth manner
  • Switch arms

Set and Reps:

3x 6-12

5) Kroc Row

Equipment:

1 Dumbbell and some item for support

Instructions:

  • Find your dumbbell and bring it over to some type of support to rest your hand i.e. bench, box
  • Set the dumbbell on the ground so that you can set-up
  • Place one hand on the support, and alter your legs so that the leg on the side of your lifting arm is forward and the lifting leg is back
  • Lean over so your back is relatively flat at around 45-degree angle. (Setup is not as important. You can alter this exercise by altering the angle)
  • Reach down and grab the dumbbell
  • Bring the dumbbell up by bringing your elbow back and the dumbbell comes up to the rib cage
  • Let the dumbbell come back down
  • Special notes: Remember, when you do these reps, use some momentum with your body to allow for more reps. Kroc Rows are a heavy, high-rep movement

Sets and Reps:

3x 12-20

6) Resistance Band Bent Over Row

The resistance band bent over row is the perfect addition to any type of home gym or home workout regime. This is a great t bar row substitute for beginners due to the ease of use and all that is required for this exercise is a resistance band.

Equipment:

Resistance Band

Instructions:

  • Grab the band and stand either inside or on top with a natural stance and with your feet hip-width apart
  • Push your butt back while bending over at the same time until your back is at a 30-45 degree angle
  • Pull your arms back until the band hits your stomach
  • Bring your arms down in a slow and controlled manner

Sets and Reps:

3 x 6-12

7) Chest Supported Dumbbell Row

Chest supported dumbbell rows are a great way to train isolate the upper back muscles since your chest will be supported on a bench. This will eliminate any type of momentum which can be caused by using your body.

Equipment:

An adjustable bench and set of dumbbells

Instructions:

  • Set a bench at a 45-degree angle
  • Pick up a set of dumbbells and sit on the bench and lay your chest down on the bench pad
  • Brace by pushing your feet into the ground
  • Allow the dumbbells to sink fully beneath your head. Let your arms come to full extension and stretch your back
  • Retract your scapula and pull your elbows back while simultaneously pushing your chest into the bad
  • Let the dumbbells go back slow and controlled.

Set and Reps:

3 sets of 8-12 reps

8) Pendlay Rows

Named after famed Olympic coach Glenn Pendlay, Pendlay rows are a t bar row substitute and are very similar to the bent-over barbell row. However, similar to a deadlift, the barbell starts on the ground and ends on the ground for 1 rep. This is a favorite for intermediate and advanced gym trainees.

Equipment:

Barbell and Weight Plates

Instructions:

  • Load a barbell and stand in front of it with your feet in a natural stance.
  • Bend over far enough so that you can grab the bar while keeping a flat back.
  • Pull your shoulder blades
  • Pull your elbows up into the rib cage powerfully
  • At the top of the movement, make sure to squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Lower the bar back to the ground in a controlled manner.

Set and Reps:

3x 6-8

9) Seated High Cable Row

Similar to the seated cable row, this t bar row substitute differs as the cable is placed at a higher level. The movement will be similar to other cable rows except rather than pulling horizontally, you will be pulling down at an angle.

Equipment:

Cable Pulley System

Instructions:

  • Sit down on a padded seat, or ground, with your feet grounded. Sit at a distance so that your knees and bent to aide in support
  • Place the cable at one of the high settings
  • Reach up and grab the handle with a neutral grip.
  • Lean back to about a 45-degree angle and pull your shoulder blades together and stick your chest out.
  • Pull the cable with your elbows by pulling them backward while keeping them close to the body
  • Pull until your elbows reach your lower stomach and lower the

10) Inverted Row

via Gfycat

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The inverted row is a bar row that is done upside down using your body weight. It’s basically a bar row exercise that is done upside down with your body, as the name implies. As you progress, you can also add weight. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using a smith machine or TRX.

Equipment:

A low bar or Smith Machine or TRX

Instructions:

  • Place a bar so that it is several feet off the ground. Keep in mind that you will need to hang underneath with arms extended but don’t place the bar too high.
  • Grab the bar or handles a little wider than shoulder-width
  • Allow your body to hang upside down but keep your back muscles tight and pulled back.
  • Pull your chest up to the bar by driving your elbows back and hold at the top of the movement.
  • Lower your body slowly and controlled.

Now Build Your Back

These t bar row substitutes are already used and loved by the most serious gym devotees. Using them will allow you to hit your back muscles from every angle which will be a sure-fire way to kick-start growth in all your back muscles.

Don’t worry if you’re stuck at home as many of these exercises can be easily duplicated merely by using a resistance band. In your next upper body workout, go ahead and use some of these t bar row alternatives to break through plateaus in back strength!

Frequently Asked Questions


Which is better T bar row or barbell row?

Both! They are both great exercises and you should incorporate both of them into your workout


Is the T bar row dangerous?

There is a small risk of injury involved with any exercise or sport. However, when done correctly, the T bar row is a very safe movement. Remember to build slowly with the weight and you’ll get stronger which will actually prevent injuries!

Garett Reid

Garett Reid is a sports and performance consultant. He has over 10 years of experience working in the fitness industry and has worked in virtually every field; strength & conditioning coach, gym owner, educator, and consultant. Garett also has extensive experience working in the international sector in China and Thailand. Garett currently has his Masters in Exercise Science and holds his NSCA CSCS and CISSN certification. He will begin work on his Ph.D. this year.

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