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T-bar rows are undoubtedly one of the most excellent exercises you can do for your back. They allow you to load up a lot of weight and progress nicely. They’re also useful for building a strong back.
At the same time, they will focus on your traps, erector spinae, and to an extent, your arms and abs. If you’re looking to shake up your training routine with a t-bar row alternative, you’re in the right place. We’ll go over the best options you can try instead of t-bar rows in this article.
Sure, it’s hard to replace such a challenging exercise. You might want to avoid T-bar rows as you’ve gone through an injury recently. Or perhaps you just want to try something new – which is what we’re here to help you with!
Why T-Bar Rows are So Hard to Replace?
Yep, that’s true – they are hard to replace. That’s because of several factors:
- They are safe
- They’re easy to do
- They allow you to load up a lot of weight
And because they will target your back muscles effectively, T-bar rows are also hard to replace.
However, not everyone has a T-bar at home, so performing this exercise is impossible for some people. They might also get repetitive after some time, and you want to shake things up a bit.
We understand you. The good news is there are some excellent alternatives for the T-bar rows.
So, What Are the Alternatives? X Options
Let’s dive deeper into the alternatives then, shall we?
1. Bent-Over Dumbbell Rows
This classic exercise with dumbbells is a worthy alternative for T-bar rows. If you only have dumbbells at your disposal, you’ll do well to find a better choice!
Sure, it’s not as easy to load up weight with this exercise as it is with the T-bar row. However, performing this exercise with dumbbells does have its perks.
Firstly, it isolates your back muscles better. And secondly, it’s even easier to do than the regular T-bar rows. So if you have dumbbells that are heavy enough to make you sweat, you should certainly try this exercise. Here’s how to do it:
With your legs at the hip-distance, bend your knees slightly, move your body forward, and keep your back straight (same position as with T-bar rows)
Place a dumbbell in each of your hands. Use neutral grip
Start rowing with the dumbbells. The starting position is when you have your arms straight towards the ground.
Hold at the top of the movement and squeeze tightly, and release. Repeat
Here’s a quick video showing you how to do this exercise.
2. Bent Over Cable Rows
Another excellent alternative for this exercise is to do bent-over cable rows. The movement is mostly the same as it is with the T-bar rows. The only difference is that you use cables.
These might be better than the barbell in some aspects. They’re more convenient to use, as you can load up weight much faster. Also, they allow for more controlled movements. The downside is that you might not be able to load up as much weight as you would with the T-bar rows.
Here’s how to perform the cable rows:
- Use the narrow grip on the cable machine
- Get in the rowing position (back straight, legs bent, your body at a 45-degree angle)
- Start the rowing movement slowly and in a controlled manner
- Stop for a brief moment at the top of the movement and repeat
3. Chest-Supported Rows (Dumbbells or Barbell)
For chest-supported rows, you’ll need a bench and either two dumbbells or a barbell. In essence, this movement is similar to T-bar rows in many ways. It isolates your back even more than T-bar rows, though.
Another advantage of this exercise is that you can adjust the bench angle. The straighter the bench is, the more you’ll focus on the upper back and your shoulders. The angle of 45 degrees is probably the best for this movement.
Follow these steps.
- Set up your bench. We recommend using a 45-degree bend
- Then, arrange your dumbbells and place them beneath your bench.
- Alternatively, you can use a barbell (which might be slightly more inconvenient)
- Place your chest onto the bench, and prepare yourself for the movement
- Start with your arms extended, and row backwards until your hands reach the top. Pause at the top and repeat
Note: Some gyms have a machine that’s designed especially for chest-supported rows, so you can use it if your gym has it. It looks something like this:
4. Inverted Rows
Sometimes also called the Australian pull-ups, inverted rows are one of the best T-bar row alternatives you can do.
The great thing about this exercise is that it’s simple – you don’t need to use any weights. Instead, you only need the weight of your body. Once you progress with this exercise, you can even use a vest to make it more challenging.
This exercise can also be done at home, which is great if you don’t go to a gym. All you need is a pull-up bar or gymnastics rings.
Note: You can do this exercise with gym rings, too.
Here’s how to do inverted rows.
- Place the barbel onto the Smith machine or the cage (the lower you place it, the more challenging it will be)
- Then, grip the bar with your hands and place them so that they are straight
- The lower you go, the more challenging the rows will be – if you’re a beginner, place the bar higher, and you can progress by going lower
- Then, start performing the rows. The movement is similar to pull-ups
If you have rings and you want to use them for this exercise, you definitely can. Here’s how you can use the rings to perform this exercise.
5. Pendlay Rows
Pendlay rows are one of the best exercises to really focus on engaging…and disengaging your back muscles effectively. They are possibly one of the easier exercises to help you establish the mind-to-muscle connection.
This type of rows is very similar to the T-bar rows in many ways. Firstly, the starting position is similar – if not the same. The only slight difference will be the position of your lower back – it will be neutral rather than straight.
It’s an effective exercise for really focusing on your back and making sure you engage your back muscles effectively.
Here are the steps to follow with this exercise.
- Set up your Olympic bar with your desired weights – you can start low and progress slowly from the start
- With your feet at hip-distance, hinge your upper body to about 45 degrees
- Grab the barbell with your arms at shoulder distance apart – use an overhand grip
- Your back should be flat and in a neutral position
- Then, start rowing with the barbell. You should clearly feel when the muscles get engaged when you reach the top of the movement. Stop for a few seconds and disengage the muscles when you move the barbell back down
We recommend doing this 8 times at least; if you want to use higher weights, then you can do this exercise at least 5 times for 3 sets.
Oh yes, deadlifts. It seems like they are the exercise that can do anything. The truth is deadlifts are one of the best exercises ever.
They focus on a variety of your muscles – from your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, to your upper back as well. Because of that, they are definitely a worthy alternative for T-bar rows.
It’s not a movement that’s exclusively meant for your back, though. In truth, deadlifts will focus on slightly different muscles, although a lot of the focus will be on your lats, too. Don’t be surprised to feel your lats the next day after deadlifts.
The biggest advantage of deadlifts is the ability to load up the exercise – almost as much as you want. It’s satisfying to progress with your deadlifts, too. The most important thing is to master the form with deadlifts – they are difficult to master, so start low if you’ve never done them before.
Here’s how to do them.
- Load up your barbell and stand with your feet at shoulder-distance apart
- Then, with your glutes at a 90-degree angle, make sure your back is straight before you start doing deadlifts
- Engage your back muscles first and then pull yourself from the ground as you lift the barbell
- When your body is straight, pause for a moment and then move your body back into the start position
- Don’t bend your body at the top of the movement – this can cause nasty injuries and lower back aggravation
Here’s a complete tutorial that will help you master your deadlifts…along with the most common mistakes people make when they do deadlifts.
7. Kroc Rows
Kroc rows are great for focusing on each side of your back individually. You can do them with dumbbells, although some people also do these with the T-bar (although it’s not as easy as it is with dumbbells).
There are two ways you can do Kroc rows:
- With the bench
- Without the bench
When you do them with the bench, you’ll get the extra support as you place one of your legs onto the bench. It’s a decent way to do Kroc rows if you’re struggling with lower back pain.
If you decide to do them without the bench, the exercise will be slightly more explosive. And you’ll also feel your lower back more with this type of movement, too. However, the real Kroc rows are done without the bench.
To do them, follow these steps.
- Place your hand onto a supporting surface such as a bench
- Slightly bend your knees and hinge your upper body so that it’s at approximately 45 degrees
- Then, place the dumbbell in your other hand and start rowing. Don’t stop at the top of the movement – instead, the movement should be smooth and your upper body will move slightly – but don’t sway to the side too much!
- Repeat and don’t forget to do the other side as well 🙂
8. Pull Ups
If you’re more of a calisthenics guy or gal, then you will want to do pull-ups instead of T-bar rows. Pull-ups are one of the best movements you can do in the gym – but they can also be done everywhere!
As long as you have a pull-up bar or you can even use a branch or something like that, you’ll be able to do them. For beginners, it might be challenging to start; but once you get going, you’ll find it hard to progress without a vest.
Pull-ups will focus on your lats and your entire upper body – your arms, shoulders, and even chest and abs.
It’s all about the proper form with pull-ups. Do them incorrectly and you’re risking injuries or serious shoulder problems at the least. But if you do them correctly, they are one of the best exercises anyone can perform for their back.
Here’s how to do them:
- Place your hands onto the pull-up bar so that your legs are off the ground
- Keep your body as straight as possible and squeeze your abs – this makes the movement easier
- Start the pull-ups – again, keep your body as straight as possible, and don’t swing forwards or from side to side. Your body should stay rock-solid during the movement – like this:
Hopefully, you have picked your favorite T-bar row alternative by now – we like all of the above exercises. It’s all about your preferred movements and the ones you think will benefit you.
Whether you’re looking to work around your injury or if you’re simply looking to add some variety to your workouts, this article offers something for everyone.