T-Bar Row vs Seated Cable Row (Is One Better?)
In this article, I will be comparing T-Bar rows and seated cable rows. These two exercises are both commonly used to target the muscles of the back, including the lats, traps, and rhomboids.
We will examine the specific muscles worked by each exercise, the differences in technique, and the pros and cons of each.
By the end of this article, you will have the knowledge you need to determine which rowing exercise is right for you based on your lifting goals and preferences.
- 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.
Seated Cable Rows
- Cable Pulley Machine
- Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)
- Teres Major
- Posterior Delts
- Biceps, Brachialis & Brachioradialis
- Trapezius and Rhomboids (during full contraction)
- Erector Spinae (as stabilizers to hold posture)
- Begin by setting up a cable machine with the desired weight. Adjust the seat of the machine so that it is at a comfortable height for you to sit on.
- Sit on the bench and plant your feet firmly on the ground (or foot plate). Grasp the handle attached to the cable with an overhand grip, making sure that your arms are extended straight in front of you.
- Engage your back muscles and pull the handle towards your body, bringing your elbows back as far as you can. Keep your chest up and your back straight throughout the movement.
- Hold the contracted position for a moment, then slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps. Make sure to breathe evenly and keep good form throughout the exercise.
- When you are finished, carefully release the weight back onto the stack and return the handle to its starting position*.
*Don’t be the person that just lets go of the handle at the end of your set and allows the weight stack to just come crashing down. It just tears up the machine.
Keep your core braced and maintain a static upright posture. Don’t confuse Seated Cable Row with a rowing machine. You shouldn’t be rocking back and forth through the movement.
The Seated Cable Row is a great exercise for building muscle mass in the back and arms, as well as improving posture and overall upper body strength. Some additional benefits of the Seated Cable Row include:
- Improving grip strength: gripping the handle of the cable and pulling it towards your body can help improve your grip strength and overall hand and forearm strength.
- Developing core stability: the seated cable row requires you to maintain a strong, stable core throughout the exercise, which can help improve your overall core strength and stability.
- Improving posture: the seated cable row can help improve your posture by strengthening the muscles in your upper back, which can help keep your shoulders back and your chest lifted.
- Increasing overall upper body strength: the Seated Cable Row can help improve your upper body strength by targeting the muscles in your back, arms, and shoulders.
- Enhancing athletic performance: the Seated Cable Row can help improve your athletic performance by increasing your upper body strength and power, which can be beneficial for sports such as rowing and swimming.
T-Bar Rows vs Seated Cable Rows: Which is Better?
Now, let’s take a look at both exercises side-by-side and see which is better for a few common lifting goals.
Better For Building Size and Strength: T-Bar Rows
It’s difficult to definitively say which exercise is “better” for building size and strength, as both T-Bar Rows and Seated Cable Rows can be effective for increasing muscle size and strength when performed correctly and incorporated into a well-rounded strength training program.
T-bar rows, in particular, can allow for the use of relatively heavy weights, which can be beneficial for increasing strength which is why I’m giving it the slight edge when it comes to developing size and strength.
Better For Beginners: Seated Cable Row
Both exercises can be suitable for beginners if taught proper form and technique when they first get started.
I’m giving Seated Cable Row the edge here because a cable machine is generally less intimidating and easier to learn to use compared to a T-Bar Row machine.
It’s important to remember that proper form is key when performing any strength training exercise, and it’s always a good idea to seek the guidance of a certified coach if you have any doubts about your technique.
I’ve just spent the last section of this article comparing which is better – T-Bar Rows vs Seated Cable 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 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 Seated Cable Rows in your training plan.