The T bar row is one of those really satisfying exercises you can gleefully crank out rep after rep in the gym.
Simple, but still challenging, the T bar row is a lot of fun. However, how can you recreate that enjoyable feeling if you don’t have access to a barbell and/or heavier weights?
Lucky for you I have some alternative exercises for the T bar row that I think you’re going to love!
These exercises are just as challenging, and you can do all of them at home, provided you have a few essentials like some dumbbells or a pull-up bar.
Read on to discover why you should care about finding an alternative to the T bar row, and what the great alternative exercises are.
What’s so Good About the T Bar Row?
So you don’t have access to a barbell or enough weight plates and you can’t do the T bar row, no problem, right?
Well, if you’re interested at all in developing a gorilla-like back and explosive power, then maybe it is a problem.
The T bar row is an amazing exercise when it comes to training the biggest muscles in the body. No, not the biceps, the lats!
Being a rowing exercise which involves a pulling motion with heavy weights, the T bar row has the potential to be your one-stop-shop for huge lats.
Not only that, the T bar row is also great for your trapezius muscles, – the ones that look like second shoulders – your rhomboids, and your deltoids.
In a nutshell, this means that you are going to work all the big muscles in the upper back, and be able to work towards a chiseled physique.
After all, a strong back is hugely important when it comes to performing exercises at your best, and for allowing huge gains to come your way.
Not to mention you’re going to be able to hit a series of other muscles with this exercise too. Such as the biceps, triceps, hamstrings, glutes, and abdominal muscles and obliques.
If that doesn’t make the T bar row seem more appealing, then I don’t know what will.
For all the reasons stated, I think it’s wise to incorporate the T bar row – or a variation of it – into your next upper body workout for some big results.
T Bar Row Alternatives
Now that it’s clearer why you should find some alternatives for the T bar row in case you can’t do it, let’s explore some of the best options!
You’ll notice that a lot of these alternative T bar row exercises are rows. This is because, as I mentioned earlier, the T bar row is all about the pulling motion, and this is what brings all those big back muscles into action.
- Resistance Band Bent Over Row
- Inverted Rows
- Chest Supported Rows
- Sled Pulls
- Cable Rows
- Kroc Rows
Resistance Band Bent Over Row
When it comes to re-producing the movement and reaping similar benefits to the T-bar row, this alternative resistance band bent over row exercise might just be all you need.
All that’s required for this exercise is a resistance band. Preferably one that is challenging for you to work with, so you can maximize your results.
The resistance band bent over row is an excellent T bar row alternative that will require you to flex the same muscles.
You will mainly be targeting your lats with this exercise, which are hugely important for maintaining good posture, and develop your pulling strength.
The biceps will also be utilized with this bent over row, so you can a variety of benefits with this compound exercise.
You’re also going to need to activate your abdominal muscles and legs to get the most out of these bent over rows, so it’s worth incorporating this one into your next workout.
What I like best about this one though is how easy it is to do at home whenever you have a spare minute.
To perform the resistance band bent over row, you’re going to stand shoulder-width apart.
Take your resistance band, and step on it with your feet, which should be facing slightly outwards.
Now bend your knees, engage your core and legs, before pulling the resistance band up towards your chest.
To get the most out of this exercise, you’ll want to squeeze the shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.
As always, slow and controlled is the way to go with this exercise to get the best results.
Inverted rows are one of the exercises in which you can use a barbell, like with the T bar row, but without the need for handles.
A simple barbell, and smith machine which you can find in most gyms will suffice for this exercise.
Inverted rows are great since they are one of the only pulling movements you can do if you’re at home and you don’t have access to any weights.
You can lay underneath a table or other stable surface for example, and get some solid exercise in.
Aside from that, the inverted row is good to get to grips with harder pulling exercises like the pull-up. I mean that literally too. The inverted row can develop your grip strength and forearm strength, which are both crucial for performing a pull-up with proper form.
What’s more, you will get a killer workout for your upper back with just a few sets of this challenging exercise. You will have to pull your whole body weight up to the bar for each rep, which is no easy feat.
You will also be able to work on your core stability, as you are essentially holding a plank as you perform the inverted row.
All this adds up to make this exercise a fantastic alternative for the T bar row.
To perform an inverted row, position yourself under a barbell which is loaded onto the smith machine. It should be high enough that you don’t touch the ground when you try to hang from it.
Lay down under the bar with your heels on the floor, holding your body up. Grab the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart, and directly above your chest.
Pull yourself up towards the bar until your chest almost touches it, then lower yourself back to your starting position to complete one rep.
The alternative for the T bar row that’ll help sculpt your upper back and really test your mettle, the pull-up is the king of calisthenics movements.
Without the need for any equipment other than a bar, the pull-up is a convenient alternative to the T bar row wherever you are.
The pull-up is a mighty exercise that is almost certainly one of the toughest bodyweight exercises out there.
To complete a set of this exercise, the pull-up requires great upper body strength, strong lats, and phenomenal grip strength and forearm strength.
Much like the T bar row is an intense weighted exercise that will push you to the limits of your strength, the pull-up is a bodyweight exercise that will do the same.
Plus, you can mix up your grip of the bar (wide, narrow, underhand, overhand) to work different muscles with this exercise, making it very versatile.
To perform a proper pull-up, the most important thing to remember is not to jump or use momentum to help with the movement.
Engage your upper body muscles as best you can to give you the best chance of doing this exercise with strict form.
Hold onto the bar, and pull yourself up, crossing your legs in the process so they don’t sway too much and throw you off your game.
The deadlift is hands down one of the best exercises you can do at the gym.
Requiring a heavy barbell, steely determination, and maybe someone to spot you, this exercise is the real deal.
If you’re looking for some of the best Olympic barbells to kit out your home gym with and crank out some deadlifts, then we’ve got you covered.
The deadlift is a fantastic all-round exercise in that it will everything from your legs to your lats.
Like the T bar row, you can expect plenty of upper body muscle engagement for this exercise, but you also get the added benefit of using your core, quads, hamstrings and many other muscles.
Perhaps the king of compound movements, it’s hard to go wrong with the deadlift, and if you’re not already doing it, I highly recommend you add it into your next workout.
To do a deadlift, stack the barbell up with as much weight as you can handle.
Stand directly in front of the barbell, and stand with your feet just wider than shoulder-width apart.
Bend forward and grab the bar with both hands, and pull it up until you are standing straight. Reverse the movement with a flat back, and that’s one rep.
Chest Supported Rows
This T bar row alternative is a straightforward exercise that will work similar muscle groups to the T bar row, and help you develop good form.
An adjustable bench and a pair of dumbbells are necessary for this exercise.
Check out the best adjustable dumbbells on the market, so you can adjust the difficulty of this exercise on the fly.
This movement is fantastic for developing your upper back muscles since you are locked in place and will have to rely on them solely to do the heavy lifting.
Lying on the incline bench, this exercise requires you to activate your upper back muscles almost exclusively to haul the dumbbells up off the floor, making it an amazing strength-builder.
The way this exercise employs the upper back muscles can rival the T bar row, maybe not in intensity, but at least in developing muscle endurance and practicing good form with the pulling movement.
To perform the chest supported row, place a dumbbell either side of the bench then lay face down on the bench with an upward incline.
Contracting your upper back muscles and engaging the core, lift the weights off the ground as slowly as possible, and then squeeze the shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.
An interesting exercise often seen in CrossFit workouts, sled pulls are a great alternative for T bar rows.
For this, you’ll need a sled with a handle, and some weight plates.
There are countless reasons to do this exercise. Cardio endurance, conditioning, and explosive power to name a few.
But with regards to being a T bar row alternative, what we’re most interested in is the potential for upper body gains with this exercise.
The sled pull will help you build muscular endurance, and hypertrophy your upper back muscles in a highly dynamic fashion.
As I’ve mentioned repeatedly in this article of the best T bar row alternatives, the pulling motion is critical for working the main upper body back muscles.
So naturally pulling a heavy sled loaded up with extra weight is bound to yield some fantastic results in that regard.
To do the sled pull, you must make sure your feet are in front of your hips at all times, and your arms are straight.
If you follow these two steps, the rest should be self-explanatory.
Start off with no weight on the sled to begin with, so that you can get used to the feeling of pulling it around. Then you can start to stack the weight up to make it more challenging.
Cable rows are a brilliant alternative for the T bar row that requires the use of a seated cable row in the gym.
An exercise which mirrors the rowing machine movement, cable rows take momentum and your legs out of the equation, instead focussing on the upper back muscles to pull off the movement.
Working the lats especially, cable rows are a T bar row machine alternative which will also work the biceps, triceps, and forearms.
A different kind of resistance than the barbell, training with cables can be very challenging, and will help develop your upper back muscles as few other exercises can.
To perform the seated cable row, you must sit with your back straight on the bench and pull the cable handles into your chest.
Make sure you don’t get taken with the momentum of the cable, and keep your back against the backrest (if there is one) at all times.
If there isn’t a backrest, ensure that your shoulders don’t hunch over, and you maintain a straight back.
Last but certainly not least, Kroc rows are brutal. That’s what makes them such an effective alternative for the equally challenging T bar row.
Heavy dumbbells and an adjustable bench are required for this exercise.
Kroc rows are one of those exercises that will truly test your strength in the gym. Just like the T bar row provides a tough challenge, Kroc rows are no joke either.
Using very heavy dumbbells, this exercise aims to build muscle mass, and separates the boys from the men.
Kroc rows are a fun exercise to see how many reps you can do, and they can be a good benchmark for how you’re progressing with your upper back and upper body strength.
To perform the Kroc row, stand with one hand resting on a raised bench, and the other gripping your heavy dumbbell.
Row the dumbbell as if you were doing a bent over row, bringing it up to the level of your chest, before reversing the movement.
Of course, start out with a couple of reps of this exercise to be safe, then you can add a bit more volume if you’re feeling strong.
That caps off our list of some of the best T bar row alternatives.
I hope you’ve found some new exercises to rotate into your next upper body workout.
If you fancy reading about more alternative exercises, then you can read our article on the best cable crossover alternatives, to see how you can replace the exercise.
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