T-Bar Rows and Lat Pulldowns are two popular exercises that are used to target the muscles of the back, including the lats, traps, and rhomboids. Both exercises are great for developing a strong back, but they differ in the type of equipment and movement patterns used.
T-Bar Rows is a horizontal row performed using a T-Bar Row machine, while Lat Pulldowns are a vertical row performed using a Lat Pulldown machine.
In this article, we will compare T-Bar Rows and Lat Pulldowns in terms of their benefits, muscles worked, and suitability for different training goals and levels of experience. By understanding the differences between these two exercises, you can decide which one is best for you and incorporate it into your workout routine.
Table of Contents
- T-Bar Rows
- Lat Pulldowns
- T-Bar Rows vs Lat Pulldowns: Which is Better?
- Final Thoughts
- T-Bar Row Machine
- Latissimus Dorsi
- Teres Major
- Posterior Deltoids
- Biceps, Brachialis & Brachioradialis
- 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.
- Lat Pulldown Machine or Lat Pulldown Rack Attachment
- Latissimus Dorsi
- Lower Trapezius
- Forearm Flexors
- Biceps (Biceps Brachii, Brachialis, Brachioradialis)
- Depending on the machine or attachment that you’re using the setup may be a bit different.
- Regardless of the setup, try to position your torso predominantly upright with a very slight lean back.
- Grab the bar* just outside shoulder width grip with an overhand grip.
- Now, pull the bar down to your chest, squeezing the lats hard at the bottom.
- After a quick pause at the bottom of the rep, slowly bring the bar back up to the starting position.
- Repeat for the designated number of reps.
*This is assuming you’re using a standard long Lat Pulldown Bar. If you’re using a different attachment, this is going to vary.
Stay in control of the weight. By far the most common mistake I see lifters make is using way too much weight and rocking and swinging all over the place to try to get the weight to move.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with pushing yourself with heavier weight, but make sure you’re able to maintain proper technique.
Some benefits of incorporating Lat Pulldowns into your exercise routine include:
- Improved posture: Strong lats can help support good posture, which can reduce the risk of back pain and improve overall health.
- Increased upper body strength: Lat pulldowns can help improve strength in the upper body, including the back, shoulders, and arms.
- Enhanced athletic performance: Strong lats can improve your performance in activities that require pulling movements, such as rowing, swimming, and climbing.
It’s important to note that lat pulldowns are just one part of a well-rounded exercise routine. In order to see the full benefits, it’s important to also incorporate other exercises that target different muscle groups and engage in regular cardiovascular activity.
T-Bar Rows vs Lat Pulldowns: Which is Better?
Now, let’s take a look at the two exercises side-by-side to see if one is better than the other for a couple of common lifting goals.
Better For Building Size and Strength: Toss Up
Both T-Bar Rows and Lat Pulldowns can be effective exercises for building size and strength. It’s really hard to say if one of these movements is really better than the other for developing size and strength.
The biggest difference between the two is that T-Bar Rows is a horizontal row that targets the mid and upper back whereas Lat Pulldowns are a vertical row that emphasizes (as the name implies) the lats.
Better For Beginners: Lat Pulldowns
The main reason I’m recommending Lat Pulldowns as being better for beginners is because a cable machine can be less intimidating and easier to learn how to use than a T-Bar Row machine.
Having said that, both of these exercises are relatively beginner-friendly. Most beginners can learn how to execute proper form and technique pretty quickly with both exercises.
As a beginner, always remember to start with light weight and focus on technique. Once you’ve become proficient with your technique you can start to progress and add weight.
I’ve just spent the last section of this article comparing which is better – T-Bar Rows vs Lat Pulldown. 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 back and bicep 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 Lat Pulldown in your training plan.