T-Bar Row vs One Arm Dumbbell Row (Side-by-Side Comparison)

When it comes to building strength and size for your back, both T-Bar Rows and One Arm Dumbbell Rows can be highly effective.

But is one of these rowing exercises better than the other?

In this article, we’ll compare the T-Bar Row and One Arm Dumbbell Row to help you determine which exercise is best for your goals and level of experience. We’ll take a look at the muscle groups targeted by each exercise, their benefits, and any potential drawbacks.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of both exercises and be able to make an informed decision about which one is right for you.

T-Bar Rows

Equipment Needed

  • T-Bar Row Machine

Muscles Worked

  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Teres Major
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Posterior Deltoids
  • Biceps, Brachialis & Brachioradialis

How To

  • 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.

Coaching Points

*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:

  1. 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.
  2. Increased upper body strength: T Bar Rows can help build strength in the upper body, including the back, shoulders, and arms.
  3. 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.

One Arm Dumbbell Row

One Arm Row

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells
  • Bench (optional)

A bench is helpful, but not totally necessary. Bracing one arm against the rack or even on your leg can work as well.

Muscles Worked

  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Teres Major
  • Posterior Deltoids
  • Trapezius and Rhomboids (at contraction)
  • Secondarily: Biceps (Biceps Brachii, Brachialis, Brachioradialis)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab a dumbbell and a bench*.
  • Place the dumbbell next to the bench and set yourself up.
  • If rowing with the right arm, place the left knee and left hand on the bench. Keep the right foot flat on the ground.
  • Make sure the back is flat (neutral) to slightly arched.
  • Brace the core and pick the dumbbell up.
  • Row the dumbbell up, keeping the elbow close to the body as the dumbbell raises.
  • Squeeze the back at the top of the rep and then lower the dumbbell down until the arm is fully extended.
  • Repeat for the designated number of reps and then switch sides.
One Arm Rows without a Bench
Just do NOT brace yourself on an actual dumbbell on a rack as they WILL flip off the rack on you.

*One Arm Rows do not have to be done with one knee on a bench. You can keep both feet flat on the ground and lean forward and brace yourself with your off-hand on something sturdy. You can even lean your off forearm on your leg for support if necessary.

Coaching Points

The most common mistake I see my athletes make when doing One Arm Rows is not maintaining a flat back. The back should stay engaged and slightly arched – similar to the starting position of a Power Clean. Do not let the back round as this can cause unnecessary stress on the spine.

Also, do not twist and turn while rowing. You’re not starting a lawn mower. If you need to use your whole body to twist and rock the weight up then the dumbbell is too heavy. Lower the weight and maintain proper form.

Finally, make sure to give yourself enough room to ‘spread out’ and get into a good position.

Often times I see athletes place their off-hand too close to their knee on the bench and/or place their grounded foot too close to the bench. This leads to them being too cramped, making it difficult to achieve proper positioning.


Some of the benefits of One Arm Dumbbell Rows include:

  1. Increased upper body strength: The One Arm Dumbbell Row targets multiple muscle groups in your upper body, including your lats, biceps, and shoulders. As you progress with the exercise, you’ll be able to lift heavier weights, which can help to increase your overall upper body strength.
  2. Improved stability and coordination: The Dumbbell One Arm Row requires balance and coordination, as you need to maintain control of the dumbbell with one hand while performing the exercise. This can help to improve your overall stability and coordination.
  3. Increased muscle mass: By consistently performing One Arm Rows, you can build strength and size in your back, shoulders, and arms, which can contribute to an overall increase in muscle mass.
  4. Improved posture: By strengthening your back muscles, the One Arm Dumbbell Row can help to improve your posture and reduce the risk of developing poor posture-related issues such as rounded shoulders or a hunched back.

T-Bar Rows vs One Arm Dumbbell Row: Is One Better?

Now, let’s look at both exercises side-by-side to see if one is better than the other for a few common lifting goals.

Better For Developing Strength and Size: Toss Up

It’s difficult to say definitively which exercise is better for strength and size development, as both the T-Bar Row and One Arm Dumbbell Row can be effective for building strength and size.

One thing to consider regarding targeted muscle groups: Both exercises target the lats (latissimus dorsi), as well as the shoulders and biceps. However, the T-bar row may place slightly more emphasis on the lats, while the one arm dumbbell row may place more emphasis on the shoulders.

The bottom line is, if your goal is to build strength and muscle mass, both exercises are great options.

Better For Beginners:

Both the T-Bar Row and One Arm Dumbbell Row can be suitable exercises for beginners, if proper technique is used. Here are a few things to consider when deciding which exercise is best for a beginner:

  1. Equipment availability: If you have access to a T-Bar Row machine at your gym, then the T-Bar Row may be a convenient option for beginners. However, if you don’t have access to this piece of equipment, Dumbbell Rows can be performed with a single dumbbell and is therefore more accessible.
  2. Form and technique: Proper form and technique are important for avoiding injury and getting the most out of any exercise. The T-Bar Row may be easier for beginners to learn, as the movement is more controlled and the machine provides support.

No matter which exercise you choose, start light, focus on technique and only start to progress in weight once you’ve become proficient in the movement.

Overall, it’s important for beginners to start with exercises that they feel comfortable with and that allow them to focus on proper form and technique. If you’re a beginner, it may be helpful to try both exercises and see which one you prefer and which one produces the best results for you.

Final Thoughts

I’ve just spent the last section of this article comparing which is better – T-Bar Rows vs One Arm Dumbbell 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 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 Dumbbell One Arm Rows in your training plan.


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