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Few things are as ruggedly impressive as a thick, muscular V-shaped back. The combination of width and density screams out power and masculinity, so it’s no wonder that so many guys train for that combination. Achieving it requires training the upper and mid-back muscles for width and thickness. To achieve the width you need to do exercises like lat pulldowns and pull-ups. When it comes to thickness, however, rowing is king.
The T-Bar Row is a popular old-school back thickness exercise that has had a resurgence in popularity in recent times. It’s an exercise that allows you to rep out with maximum plates through a full range of lat extensions to really hit that muscle group. Of course, not everyone has access to a t-bar rowing machine. That’s why I’ve put together a number of t-bar row alternatives that can deliver a similar training effect.
The main muscles of the back are the latissimus dorsi, or lats, the trapezius, and the erector spinae. The lats muscle fibers originate on the mid spine and fan up to insert at the top of the humerus, or upper arms bone. The function of the lats is to bring the elbow down toward the hip. The trapezius is a kite-shaped muscle in the middle of your upper back which has the job of bringing your shoulder blades together. The erector spinae runs up the middle of the back along the spine. This muscle is not involved in the t-bar row exercise.
The 4 Best T-Bar Row Alternative Exercises:
1. Decline Dumbbell Row
Adjust the seat on an adjustable bench to a 45-degree angle. Now put a pair of heavy dumbbells behind the bench. Lie face down on the bench so that your head is hanging over the top of it, your feet are firmly planted on the floor and your arms are hanging down toward the dumbbells.
Now grab hold of the weights with a neutral grip (palms facing each other). In this position depress your shoulder blades to fully extend the lats. Now row the dumbbells up toward your ribcage. Lower and under control.
2. Renegade Row
Get down on the floor with a pair of dumbbells in your hands and assume the top push-up position. Your legs should be straight and feet wide apart. Now row your left hand up to your ribcage. Lower and repeat with the right hand.
3. Bent-Over Barbell Row
Place a loaded Olympic barbell on the floor and stand behind it with feet shoulder-width apart. Hinge at the hips to lower into a quarter squat with your torso angled slightly forward. Now reach down to grab the bar with a shoulder-width overhand grip.
From this position, pull through your lats to bring the bar up to your navel. Lower until the bar is just off the floor and repeat. It is crucial that you do not buck your body up as you pull to make use of momentum. If you find yourself doing that, reduce the weight and focus on only moving the lats up and down.
4. Improvised T-Bar Row
You don’t need to have a t-bar row set up to benefit from this exercise. So long as you have a barbell and some weight plates you can improve the movement. Here’s how …
Place the barbell on the floor and load your plates on one end. Stack a couple of 45-pound plates on top of the other end of the bar in order to weigh it down. Now grab a v-shaped handle and place it under the bar about 8 inches from where the weight plates are.
Now stand straddling the bar and grab the v handle with a neutral grip. Lift the bar from the floor and hold it at arm’s length, depressing your shoulder blades to allow your lats to hang at full extension. Row the bar up to touch your chest. Lower under control and repeat.
This is another exercise where it is very easy to cheat with momentum. In the start position, your torso should be at a 45-degree angle and it should remain in that position throughout the entire movement. If you find yourself having to bring the upper body up as you pull, the weight is too heavy. Take off a plate and focus on isolating the lats through the pulling motion.
3 Resistance Band T-Bar Row Alternatives:
With the benefit of a low-cost resistance band set, you will be able to perform t-bar row alternative exercises at home. Here are 3 excellent band exercises to develop thickness in your last and trapezius.
1. Band Row
Secure a resistance band to a secure upright at waist level. Hold the band in both hands with palms facing at shoulder level about four feet from the upright, facing toward it. Bend at the waist to bring your torso to a 45-degree angle. Now row your arms toward the sides of your waist. Squeeze your lats together in this position and then extend them to return to the start position.
2. Banded Pulldown
Position a resistance band around a secure upright above the level of your head. Stand facing the upright about three feet away from it, holding the band in your hands with a neutral palms grip and straight arms. From an arms parallel position, extend your arms all the way down. Squeeze through the lats as you perform this action. Return to the start position and repeat.
3. Banded Lying Lat Pulldown
Lie face down on an exercise mat with a thin resistance band around your hands, and your arms at shoulder level. Lift your feet off the ground. Now extend your arms out to full extension, squeezing the muscles of your upper back as you do so. Pull your arms back to the start position. That is one rep.
This article was last updated on March 16, 2022 .