Chest Supported Dumbbell Rows and T-Bar Rows are two very similar exercises. Both are great rowing movements for building upper back strength while supporting the torso to take strain off the low back. The only real difference between them is the equipment used.
So, my guess is, you’ve found this page because you’re either trying to figure out what the difference is between the two exercises or you’re trying to determine if one is better than the other. Or, potentially option C, can I sub one for the other if I don’t have the necessary equipment.
In this guide, I’m going to do my best to answer those questions. I’ll explain how to do each exercise including their benefits and coaching tips. Then I’ll compare them side by side. In just a few moments you should have a good understanding of how to utilize each exercise based on your training goals and experience.
Chest Supported Dumbbell Row
- Adjustable Bench
- Back (Lats, Rhomboids, Traps, Infraspinatus)
- Biceps (Biceps Brachii, Brachialis, Brachioradialis)
- Shoulders (Posterior Delt)
- Set up an adjustable bench at a 45-degree angle.
- Lay on your stomach with your head hanging just above the edge of the bench.
- Grab a dumbbell in each hand and set up with a good posture – core and lats engaged and shoulders neutral.
- Row the dumbbells toward the top of the stomach and squeeze the back at the top of the rep.
- Finally, lower the dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat until all reps are completed.
Make sure to maintain good posture through the movement. Oftentimes I see athletes who allow their shoulders to slouch forward and drape over the edges of the bench.
Related –> Chest Supported Dumbbell Row Alternatives
There are several benefits to doing Chest Supported Rows, including:
- Building strength and hypertrophy in the upper back, including the lats, rhomboids, and rear deltoids.
- Improving posture by strengthening the muscles that support the spine.
- Reducing the risk of back injuries by strengthening the muscles that help to stabilize the spine.
- Providing an alternative to other rowing exercises like Barbell Bent-Over Rows, which can put strain on the lower back.
T Bar Row
- T-Bar Row Machine
- Latissimus Dorsi
- Teres Major
- Posterior Deltoids
- Set yourself up on the T-Bar Row Machine*
- Feet should be flat on the platform and the chest supported on the pad.
- Grab the handles, brace the core and unrack the bar.
- Make sure your posture is good and then row the bar toward your chest.
- Lower back down under control and repeat until all reps are complete.
- Once all reps are down, re-rack the bar into its rack.
*Exactly how you set yourself up will vary dependent upon the machine. Not all T-Bar Row Machines are exactly the same.
By far the biggest mistake I see with T-Bar Rows is athletes I coach think that because there is a pad to support their chest, they don’t need to have good posture. This is wrong. You should still have the same posture – back and core engaged – as you would if you didn’t have a pad supporting you.
Some of the benefits of including T Bar Rows in your workout routine include:
- Improved posture: T Bar Rows can help strengthen the muscles of the upper back, which can help improve posture by pulling the shoulders back and down.
- Increased upper body strength: T Bar Rows can help build strength in the upper body, including the back, shoulders, and arms.
- Variety in your routine: Including T Bar Rows in your workout routine can add variety and challenge to your workouts, helping to keep you motivated and engaged.
It’s important to note that the benefits of T Bar Rows will depend on your lifting goals and how the exercise is incorporated into your overall strength program.
Chest Supported DB Rows vs T Bar Rows: Which is Better?
Now, let’s take a side-by-side look at the two rowing exercises is determine which might be better for some common lifting goals.
Better For Developing Strength and Size: T Bar Rows
The movement pattern of the two exercises are almost identical, so the edge is going to go to the exercise that allows the lifter to move more weight. In my opinion, the answer to that question is hands down, T-Bar Rows.
The T-Bar Row machine makes it incredibly easy to load up as much weight as you’re able to handle and then taking it in and out of its rack is pretty smooth and easy.
On the other hand, getting set up with heavy dumbbells on an incline bench can be rather awkward, to say the least. This is why I usually opt to keep Chest Supported Dumbbell Rows a little lighter in weight, slow down the tempo and focus on strict technique.
For those reasons, I give the edge to T Bar Rows for being better at building strength and hypertrophy.
Having said that, if you don’t have access to a T Bar Row machine, Chest Supported Dumbbell Rows can make an excellent substitution (or vice versa). For more substitutions, here are my favorite alternatives for T-Bar Rows.
Better For Beginners: Toss Up
I like to start beginners with exercises that are safe, easy to learn and easy to execute.
Because the chest is being supported for both rowing movements, I think either is more than suitable for a beginner to learn and start doing right away. Just start light, focus on proper technique and only start increasing in weight once you feel your technique is proficient.
I’ve just spent the last section of this article comparing which of the two rowing movements is better, Chest Supported Dumbbell Rows or T Bar Rows. But, the truth is, assuming you have the necessary equipment there is no reason to not have both in your strength training program.
Both are excellent options for building upper back strength. And, incorporating both within your program can add variety and help keep your workout from getting stale.
So, instead of trying to choose between these two back exercises, my suggestion would be to figure out how you can utilize both Chest Supported Rows and T Bar Rows.