10 Top T-Bar Row Alternatives (Try It at Home!)

T-Bar Row Alternatives

The T-bar row is a fantastic exercise that targets a variety of muscles in your back, arms, and core. While it’s a great addition to any detailed workout regimen, it requires specialized equipment to execute. Not every gym has a landmine station to set it up. For this reason, it’s not always realistic or even possible to get in a set of T-bar rows.

There are several T-bar row alternatives that provide similar benefits as the T-bar row. The best T-bar row alternatives include the single arm dumbbell row, chest-supported row, banded bent-over row, barbell bent-over row, Pendlay row, Yates row, seated close-grip cable row, iso-lateral row, inverted row, and the deadlift. These can all be easily performed right at home!

For the best results, it’s worth combining several of the above exercises into a comprehensive regimen. Rotating them to perform on different days works well too.

How do you perform these exercises? Let’s discuss further!

What Muscles Does T-Bar Row Work?

The T-bar row works a variety of muscle groups, including the:

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Rhomboids
  • Trapezius
  • Posterior deltoids
  • Abdominals and core

Because of the unique body positioning, the exercise activates areas of your back, arms, shoulders, and abdominals. Working T-bar rows into your routine is incredibly effective since it hits so many groups in one movement.

T-Bar Row Pros

There are a variety of advantages associated with the T-bar row, including:

  • Improved strength
  • Better posture
  • Improved core strength
  • Great activation of back muscles

In addition, the unique positioning required to execute a T-bar row is less precarious than other rowing exercises. For this reason, the T-bar row is generally safer on your lower back.

T-Bar Row Cons

There are some disadvantages associated with the T-bar row, as well, including:

  • Can’t lift as much compared to bent-over row
  • Less functional than bent-over row
  • Requires special equipment to perform

Nonetheless, it is still a useful exercise to perform to strengthen the back, arms, and core. Combined with other exercises that target similar and adjacent muscle groups, the T-bar row is an effective tool in any workout regimen.

Is T-Bar Row Similar to Deadlift?

The T-bar row is similar to the deadlift in a number of ways.

  • They are both pulling movements.
  • Both target large muscle groups in the back.
  • T-bar row and deadlift both challenge the abdominals and core.

However, the deadlift is more functional, requires more explosive power, and activates additional muscle groups in the posterior chain and legs.

Overall, the deadlift is a more effective exercise, but this by no means suggests the T-bar row does not have its uses.

Can I Replace Barbell Row with T-Bar Row?

Barbell bent-over rows can be a literal pain. Nonetheless, it remains a functional back-building exercise that should not be ignored.

The only time we would recommend completely replacing the barbell row with the T-bar row is if you are working through a lower back injury. Since the T-bar row places less strain on the lower back, it’s a good tool to strengthen the back during your recovery.

However, it’s imperative to discuss this option with a qualified medical professional or physical therapist before implementing it after an injury.

For the best results, we recommend rotating which exercise you perform. Try completing sets of the bent-over row on some days, then performing T-bar rows on other days to switch things up. Rotating between exercises will help you keep the workout fresh, break plateaus, and make faster strength gains.

T-Bar Row Alternatives at Home

Although the T-bar row is incredibly effective, it requires specialized equipment to perform. Some commercial gyms lack the necessary equipment. Most homes and garage gyms do as well. Therefore, it’s not always realistic or possible to perform T-bar rows regularly.

For that reason, we’re listing 10 of our favorite T-bar row alternatives you can do at the gym, at home, or anywhere you find yourself doing fitness.

1. Single Arm Dumbbell Row

The single arm dumbbell row is a classic back-building exercise. It requires minimal equipment– a dumbbell at the bare minimum– and provides great benefits to many muscle groups. You’ll feel the burn in your back, mostly, but the dumbbell row also hits your chest, triceps, core, and glutes.

Here’s how to perform a single arm dumbbell row with good form.

  1. Stand next to a bench. If you do not have a bench, substitute something sturdy of similar height. Place one knee on the bench, bent, and slightly bend the other knee to lower your body forward.
  2. Firmly grasp the top of the bench to stabilize your body.
  3. Hold the dumbbell in the hand opposite of your benched knee. For example, if your left knee is planted on the bench, hold the dumbbell in your right hand. Use a neutral grip.
  4. Lean your torso forward so it is near parallel with the bench and/or floor and allow the arm with the dumbbell to fully extend toward the floor.
  5. Row the dumbbell upward toward your chest. Bend your elbow as the dumbbell draws closer to your chest. Imagine you are pulling the cord to start a lawnmower. At the end of the motion, your elbow should form a 90-degree angle.
  6. Squeeze your tricep and back at the peak of the motion.
  7. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat for your other side.

If you don’t happen to have a bench or a sturdy surface that’s of similar height, you could do a dumbbell row with nothing but your own two legs. Simply stagger your legs with both knees slightly bent and lean forward over your front knee.

It requires a little more balance and core activation to keep steady, but it will get the job done if you don’t have a bench available.

2. Chest-Supported Row

The chest-supported row targets the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, deltoids, and triceps to a great degree. Hitting all these major areas is exactly what makes it a great T-bar row alternative.

You will need an incline bench to get it done. Here’s how to do chest-supported rows right.

  1. Set up an incline bench at a 45-degree angle and place one dumbbell on either side. You will want these here before getting into position.
  2. Lie down on the bench with your stomach down, legs fully extended, and your heels coming off the ground.
  3. Pick up each dumbbell and hold them low. We recommend using a neutral grip, as with a standard dumbbell row. However, a pronated grip works as well, as with a standard barbell row.
  4. Row the dumbbells upward, keeping them in line with your lower stomach. Squeeze the triceps and pinch the shoulder blades at the peak of the movement.
  5. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat as needed.

A 45-degree angle is the standard way to perform this exercise, but you can change it. Lowering the angle will target your lower back more. Likewise, setting a higher incline hits the upper back more. This allows you to work out your back with more precision.

3. Banded Bent-Over Row

The banded bent-over row is another variation that requires very little equipment. All you need is one resistance band or a set of bands with varying resistance levels.

Even if you are able to perform T-bar rows, banded bent-over rows make a good addition to the workout. This is because resistance bands apply resistance differently than free weights do. Your muscles will be challenged in a different way.

The banded bent-over row will target your lats and rhomboids mostly. Here’s how to perform a set of banded bent-over rows with proper form.

  1. Grab both ends of your resistance band and allow the slack to fall to the floor.
  2. Stand on the center of the resistance band, then lower your torso toward the floor until it is parallel. Shift your hips backward and bend your knees slightly. Allow your arms to fully extend while your hands hold the handles low.
  3. Keeping the chest over your feet, pull the handles upward in a rowing motion. Your elbows should create a 90-degree angle at the peak of the movement.
  4. Squeeze your back at the top of the motion.
  5. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat as needed.

To simulate the T-bar row more faithfully, try using an underhanded grip on the handles or pushing them together to lift them into your chest. This helps target the same muscles as the T-bar row.

Average gym goers often enjoy swapping out a machine or barbell for a resistance band every now and then. Bodybuilders and powerlifters, however, might find even the most challenging resistance band inferior to free weights.

That doesn’t mean banded bent-over rows can’t be beneficial, even for heavy lifters. Try finishing off a workout with a few high rep sets of these and you’ll see what we mean.

4. Barbell Bent-Over Row

The barbell bent-over row is a gym staple. Like the T-bar row, you’ll target the lats and rhomboids to a great degree. 

Unlike the T-bar row, however, you’ll also employ the erectors and stabilizers of the trunk to a greater degree too. This could be problematic to individuals suffering from lower back pain. Be cautious if you are one such individual and consult a doctor when in doubt.

If all else is copacetic, here’s how to perform barbell bent-over rows with good form.

  1. Set up a barbell and place it at your feet. Stand over it with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Shift your hips backward while leaning forward with your torso. Your chest should be parallel with the floor and in line with your feet. Bend your knees slightly and pick up the bar. Hold it with your arms fully extended.
  3. Row the barbell upward to your chest. Your elbows should create a 90-degree angle at the peak of the movement.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat as needed.

Incorporating barbell bent-over rows is an excellent idea in general. However, to truly simulate the T-bar row, try performing these with a supinated grip. Holding the barbell this way targets the back in similar fashion to the T-bar row.

5. Pendlay Row

Named after the famous American weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay, the Pendlay row is very similar to the bent-over row. 

The key difference is that you must only lift the barbell from the floor once during a set of standard bent-over rows. For the Pendlay row, it is required to place the bar back on the floor after each rep and start from a dead stop each time.

Doing so activates the opposite muscles one would use during the bench press. This helps powerlifters build functional strength that will translate big time into their other lifts.

Here’s how to perform the Pendlay row properly.

  1. Set up a barbell and place it at your feet. Stand over it with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Shift your hips backward while leaning forward with your torso. Your chest should be parallel with the floor and in line with your feet. Bend your knees slightly.
  3. From the floor, row the barbell upward to your chest. Your elbows should create a 90-degree angle at the peak of the movement.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat as needed.

Check in with your back frequently while performing the Pendlay row. Since the barbell must be placed on the floor each time, beginners have a tendency to round the back. This increases your risk of injury. Be sure to have a flat back throughout the movement.

6. Yates Row

Speaking of lifts that were named after people, the Yates row is another excellent exercise. Named after 6x Olympia winner Dorian Yates, it’s a great exercise for targeting the lats, traps, and upper back.

And just like the Pendlay row, it is considered challenging due to the unusual posture involved during the movement. Unlike a bent-over row, the Yates row is performed with a significantly more upright torso.

Here’s how to perform the Yates row with good form.

  1. Set up a barbell and place it at your feet. Stand over it with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Pick up the barbell with a supinated grip. Shift your hips backward and sit into a mostly upright position with only a slight bend in your knees.
  3. Row the barbell upward into your stomach.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat as needed.

Many beginners feel that the Yates row is uncomfortable or unnatural. It is considered a more advanced movement. For this reason, it is recommended to consult a qualified personal trainer or coach to scrutinize your form and provide feedback until it feels more natural.

7. Seated Close-Grip Cable Row

Cable machines are excellent, and the seated close-grip cable row is a great alternative to the T-bar row. Using this effective and functional piece of workout equipment, you can activate your back muscles big time. Plus, you’ll place less stress on the posterior chain thanks to the seated position.

Here’s how to perform a set of seated close-grip cable rows properly.

  1. Attach the V-handle to the cable machine and take a seat. Place your feet on the footrests and push back into the starting position.
  2. For proper posture, exaggerate your forward chest position, retract your shoulder blades, and maintain a neutral spine. Refrain from rounding the back at any portion of the movement.
  3. Pull the V-handle into your abdomen, squeezing your back and pinching the shoulder blades at the end of the motion.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position, allowing the machine to pull the handle back without letting the weights crash down. Repeat as needed.

The best part about this seated variation is that you save energy for other more taxing lifts. You’ll feel a great burn but retain energy for compound lifts, Olympic lifts, or CrossFit WODs that require a massive expenditure of energy.

Overall, the seated close-grip cable row is an excellent supplemental exercise to work into your regimen.

8. Iso-Lateral Row

Like the T-bar row, the iso-lateral row also requires specialized equipment to perform. If you happen to have one at your disposal, however, it’s an excellent alternative.

The iso-lateral row targets your lats, traps, rhomboids, and posterior deltoids to a great degree. There are three variations of the exercise depending on the angle of the movement:

  • High iso-lateral row – targets the lower lats
  • Horizontal iso-lateral row – the “standard” version, which hits the whole back similar to the seated cable row
  • Low iso-lateral row – targets the upper back

Remember– variety is the spice of life! Performing a set of high rows in one session means you’ll maybe want to go low in the next. Here’s how to perform the iso-lateral row with good form.

  1. Load the machine with your desired weight and sit. 
  2. Press your chest firmly into the pad and reach to grab each of the handles.
  3. Row the handles back towards your lower chest, upper abdomen area. Squeeze your back at the peak of the movement.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat as needed.

Keep in mind that the machine has two handles, but you don’t have to do both arms at once. The iso-lateral machine allows you to perform sets both bilaterally and unilaterally. This allows you to correct muscular imbalances, similar to the single-arm dumbbell row, and really isolate each arm as needed.

9. Inverted Row

It’s easy to get lost in the sheer number of floor-facing row variants. The inverted row is a refreshing take on the exercise, flipping it upside down.

You can perform the inverted row using:

  • A barbell resting secure in the j-cups of a rack
  • A locked Smith machine
  • A set of P-bars
  • A TRX suspension trainer

As long as you have something sturdy to grab onto and pull your body upward, you will be able to perform the inverted row. Here’s how to do inverted rows with good form.

  1. Whatever you’re using, whether it’s a secured barbell, Smith machine, or something else, set it to the right height first. You want it slightly farther than a full arm’s length away, so you are not hitting the ground with each rep.
  2. Grab hold with your chest facing the ceiling.
  3. Pull your chest to the bar, or whatever you are using, until they touch. If you are using P-bars or a TRX suspension trainer, pull your body up until your hands are close alongside your chest.
  4. Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position. Repeat as needed.

If you want to make this exercise a little easier, raise the height on the bar or handles you’re using to pull yourself up. The less extreme the angle, the less challenging. Likewise, starting out closer to the ground will be more difficult.

The fact you can scale the difficulty of inverted rows by making simple adjustments make them a very versatile exercise.

10. Deadlift

Seriously? The deadlift? 

You bet!

The deadlift is distinctly different from the T-bar row because, well, it’s not a rowing exercise. Nonetheless, it is similar in that it’s a pulling motion that targets large portions of your back muscles. The deadlift hits the upper and lower portions of your back, strengthens the posterior chain, activates your core, and ropes in the legs as well.

It’s overall one of the best barbell exercises there is. Period.

Here’s how to deadlift with proper form.

  1. Load the desired weight on your barbell and place it at your feet. Stand shoulder-width apart with the weight back on your heels.
  2. Shift your hips backward and hinge forward with your chest at a 45-degree angle. Grab the bar with a pronated grip, a flat back, and a tight core.
  3. Exhale and while driving from the heels and with your hips to stand with the barbell in your hands. Squeeze your back muscles, hamstrings, and glutes for one or two seconds at the peak position.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat as needed.

It might seem like no big deal to lift mostly with the arms at light weights, but keep in mind that the deadlift is for your back and legs. Your power will come from a strong drive from your heels and by thrusting your hips.

Always check in with your form to ensure you’re keeping a flat back, neutral neck, eyes straight ahead, and the weight on your heels. If you cannot maintain proper form during the lift, we recommend lifting lighter weight until the form is picture perfect.

Related Guides

Choosing Nutrition Team

Here at Choosing Nutrition, our goal is to help people with making smarter food choices. Whether you're wondering about vegan, keto, paleo, or other diets, we'll help you determine which options fit your nutritional lifestyle. Our staff is composed of registered dieticians, nutritionists, and health-conscious individuals.

Recent Posts