T-Bar Row vs Barbell Bent Over Row (Is One Better?)
T-Bar Rows and Barbell Bent Over Rows are are both popular exercises for targeting the muscles of the back, particularly the lats, but they differ in their execution and the equipment they require.
In this article, we will explore the differences between T Bar Rows and Barbell Bent Over Rows, including the muscles they work, the benefits of each exercise, and the proper form for performing them.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced lifter, this comparison will help you decide which exercise is best for you based on your experience and lifting goals.
- 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.
Note: If you don’t have access to a T-Bar Row Machine, Barbell Bent Over Rows can make a great alternative. Here are some of my other favorite alternatives for T-Bar Rows.
Barbell Bent Over Rows
- Bumper or Iron Plates
- Lifting Straps (optional)
- Upper and lower back
- Abdominal muscles (Stabilizing the horizontal lifting position)
- Approach the barbell and take a shoulder-width stance. Your shins should be almost touching the barbell.
- Hinge at the waist and bend the knee until you can grab the barbell. Use a pronated grip (Knuckles facing the floor). I will talk later about the supinated grip (palms up) in this movement.
- Always keep a flat back, and a neutral spine, and keep your eyes focused slightly down about 1 foot in front of you.
- Take a deep breath, brace the abdomen, and pull the bar in until it makes contact right about the belly button.
- Pause for about 1 second. Squeeze the shoulder blades and lock in the rep.
- Slowly return the barbell back to the starting position (weights about 1-2 inches off the ground).
The initial setup and stance for this movement should be specific to the lifters deadlifting and Olympic lifting goals. Having identical setups and grips will be great for the lifts to carry over to the compound movements.
I would highly recommend Barbell Bent Over Rows to any lifter or athlete. It develops strength in the posterior chain and can be overloaded over time easily.
I typically recommend the pronated grip here for athletes. Especially athletes that are cleaning and snatching as the pronated grip will carry over to cleans and pulls.
However, there is some benefit to the supinated grip for general lifters and bodybuilders. The supinated grip will engage more of the biceps and can be a great time under tension movement for hypertrophy.
The setup here is very similar to the Deadlift. With that in mind, always remember to keep a nice neutral spine. DO NOT ROUND YOUR BACK.
Another common mistake is I have seen lifters go too heavy and therefore need to “hitch or yank” into a lock in position. Never sacrifice your form for more weight. You will get hurt eventually.
Some potential benefits of Barbell Bent Over Rows include:
- Building hypertrophy and strength in the upper and lower back and arms.
- Improving posture by strengthening the muscles that support the spine.
- Increasing grip strength, which can be useful for many sports or activities like rock climbing.
- Improving athletic performance, such as in sports that require upper body strength and power.
T-Bar Row vs Barbell Bent Over Row: Which is Better?
Now, let’s compare the two rowing exercises side-by-side to see which is better for a few common lifting goals.
Better For Building Size and Strength: Toss Up
Both T-Bar Rows and Barbell Bent Over Rows can be effective exercises for building strength in the upper back and arms. These two exercises are extremely similar. Both are a horizontal row that allows the lifter to use a considerable amount of weight.
The choice of which exercise is better for you may depend on your training experience (more on that in a second), and the equipment available to you.
For example, if you don’t have a T-Bar Row, Barbell Bent Over Rows are one of the closest substitutes that you can do for them.
Better For Beginners: T-Bar Row
This is assuming you’re using a chest-supported T-Bar Row machine. Having a pad to support the torso can be very advantageous for beginners who are still learning how to brace and proper positioning for bent over rows.
Barbell Bent Over Rows can take a little time for a complete beginner to properly attain (and maintain) a proper body position and keeping the core braced while rowing. It’s also an exercise that improper form has the ability to lead to an injury.
The pad to support the torso can act as a sort of ‘safety net’ while a new lifter is still learning and improving their technique.
I’ve just spent the last section of this article comparing which is better – T-Bar Rows vs Barbell Bent Over Rows. However, the truth is, there is no reason you shouldn’t have both exercises in your strength training program.
Both are excellent exercises for developing shoulder strength and muscle mass. Incorporating both exercises into your training program can also add variety and keep your workouts from getting stale.
So, my suggestion would be instead of trying to decide between the two exercises, figure out how you can utilize both T-Bar Rows and Barbell Bent Over Rows in your training plan.