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T-Bar Row Versus Barbell Row: Which One Is Better for You?

    The T-Bar Row and the Barbell Row are very similar in terms of the muscles they target. But the question is – Which is better for you?

    The answer is: It depends on which fits your need. Both exercises help you change your shape and become strong, but the bent-over row will help you increase the width of your muscles while the t-bar row increases thickness and depth.

    Read on to know the details about the T-Bar Row versus the Barbell Row exercises.


    T-Bar Row Versus Barbell Row

    What is a T-Bar Row?

    Considered one of the many row exercises, the T-Bar Row is good for improving your lower back muscles. This type of exercise majorly relies on the pulling movements to train the back muscles.

    To get superior benefits with the minimal risks being involved, you must do the exercises correctly.

    You perform this exercise by doing the following steps:

    1. You should step into the T-Bar row. Both feet should be on either side of the bar. Your feet should be between the shoulders to hip-width apart.
    2. Keep your feet flat and slightly bend your knees. Then you can hinge forward from your hips. Ensure to keep your back slightly arched.
    3. Hold the handles with both hands. It should be a tight grip.
    4. Straighten out your arms and lift the weight until your torso is between 45 degrees to the parallel surface.
    5. Make sure to bend your arms and consequently pull the handle towards your chest. You should not always allow your back to round.
    6. Fully extend your arms and repeat the same process

    This workout is considered safer compared to other row exercises. You are probably wondering why. The answer is simple. For the T-Bar row exercises, the weight is directly beneath your center of gravity.

    However, T-Bar rows involve unsupported forward movements and can put a lot of strain on your lower back muscles. If done in the wrong manner, this exercise could result in a serious injury.

    Primary muscles worked in a T-Bar row include:

    • Latissimus Dorsi – Located on the backside, it ensures shoulder extension. When well developed, lats look like wings and could be visible from both the back and front.
    • Trapezius– Commonly referred to as traps and are in a diamond shape. Their main function is to offer retraction for the shoulder girdle. They will be responsible for your upper back thickness.
    • Rhomboids– They are found below the mid-traps. They ensure the retraction of the shoulder girdle.

    Secondary muscles worked in at a T-Bar row include:

    • Biceps/Forearms (brachii) – Consist of the main elbow flexor. You wouldn’t be able to perform T-Bar rows without working out your biceps.
    • Core muscles
    • Spinae Erector– It’s a collective name for the lower back muscles. It works isometrically when performing a T-Bar row to hold your spine in a stable position.
    • Hamstrings/Glutes – Also known as quadriceps. The quadriceps are responsible for stabilizing your knees.

    What Is Barbell Row?     

    The Barbell Row is also referred to as the Bent-Over Row. It’s a vague exercise classification given to all rowing movements.

    As highlighted above, this type of exercise is good for increasing strength and improving your posture. It’s often used for bodybuilding and powerlifting.

    If you are a beginner, you will find this exercise to be quite difficult. However, you could start by lifting smaller weights before advancing to the heavier ones.

    When you experience lower back pain, one possible reason for this is the incorrect way of performing the Barbell Row.

    If you are experiencing pain in the lower back, it is most likely that your lumbar area is too rounded. This can lead to a series of hamstrings.

    The most important aspect of the Barbell Row exercise is it’s set up before you even touch the barbell. This will make or break the amount of weight you can lift when doing this exercise.

    You perform this exercise by doing the following steps:

    1. You should place the end of a regular Olympic barbell in the corner of the gym and load the other end with weights that you can lift.
    2. You should stand astride the barbell bar. Hold the bar below the weights with a narrow overlapping grip.
    3. Ensure to keep your back slightly arched and knees bent before lifting the weight from the floor.
    4. Use your elbows to pull the bar up towards your body.
    5. Extend your arms and repeat the same process.

    T-Bar Row Versus Barbell Row Similarities 

    • Both the T-Bar Row and the Barbell Row work every major muscle in your back. However, different muscles will always bear the weight of the load. Both exercises primarily work the upper lats, rhomboids, and middle fibers of your trapezius muscle.
    • In general, both the barbell bent rows and the T-bar row exercises use pretty much the same muscles. A similar workout position is held throughout keeping all the muscles in your legs, core and lower back are always under tension.
    • Both exercises can help increase your back width. You may have to focus your hand placement to achieve greater activation through the latissimus dorsi by doing a bent-over row since you can hold the bar wider.

    T-Bar Row Versus Barbell Row Differences

    Below are the key differences between the T-Bar Row and the Barbell Row.

    Muscle Activation and Versatility

    Depending on which muscle type you are specifically trying to target, both exercises will eventually get you there.

    The difference is that you will have a lot more options if you choose the barbell over the T-Bar.

    You can always use the underhand or overhand grip or a narrow medium/wide grip to hit the target muscles.

    You can also easily switch between grips and even perform some sets in different manners. This makes the barbell bent-over row a versatile exercise than the t bar row exercise.

    Equipment Needed

    You will need a barbell for the barbell row exercises and V-Bar handles for the T-Bar row exercise. 

    You will find out that most of the modern and fully equipped gyms have a proper T-Bar Row.

    Beginners may need some guidance from a gym instructor regarding the safe use of the equipment.

    Lower Back/Posterior Chain Strength Requirements

    For the barbell exercises, the maximum amount of weight that you will be able to lift will depend on your back and leg strength. This is so because the weight will be informed of your body whenever you bend over and start pulling.

    As for the T-Bar, the weight is directly underneath your center of gravity. This will allow you to lift more weight without feeling any sort of discomfort in your lower back.

    The T-Bar row offers far greater lateral and upper backstretch at the bottom of the movement.

    Range of Motion (ROM)

    It does not matter if you use 25lbs or 45lbs plates. The range of motion for the T-Bar row will be slightly shorter than that of the Barbell row.

    The barbell row stops whenever the bar hits your torso, but the T-Bar stops when the plates hit your torso. This results in a smaller range of Motion.

    What Is T-Bar Row Better For?

    While both exercises are amazing for compound movements, the T-Bar allows for room for an overloading potential.

    T-Bar row exercises will be better for your lower back.

    The T-Bar rows are easier to learn compared to barbell rows. It will be difficult for you to master barbell rows.

    The T-Bar rows are much simpler. You can easily get to your starting position. Despite the need to pay more attention to the technique, you will find out the T-Bar rows to be more straightforward.

    Most T-Bar rows machines are versatile. They will allow you to use different hand positions to work your back from different angles. Grips available to T-bar row exercises include; close-neutral, wide-overhand, narrow underhand, and shoulder-width neutral.

    It’s easier to adapt to T-bar row exercises. It doesn’t matter if you’re strong or weak. You can use various weights at your disposal.

    Adding or removing weights will take you little time. Besides, T-Bar rows are plate loading machines making it easier to use low domination weights to increase your weights gradually.

    What Is a Barbell Row Better For?

    Barbell rows are crucial in improving your posture. They also serve as an excellent assistance exercise to strengthen your deadlift.

    Other benefits of the Barbell Row include developing your stronger back, improving your posture, increasing the weight on your deadlift, and increasing your muscle mass.


    Choosing between the T-Bar Row and the Barbell Row may be somewhat confusing.

    If you want to focus on improving your lower back, the T-Bar Row is good at that. If you want to focus on improving your strength and posture, the Barbell Row is good at that.

    T-Bar rows are simpler and safer to perform compared to barbell rows.

    Hopefully, this article has enlightened you on which one is the better choice.

    For maximum effect, I suggest you consider incorporating both of them into your workout schedule.


    James Wright

    James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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