13 Best T-Bar Row Alternatives (With Pictures)

the 13 best t-bar row alternatives

The t-bar row, otherwise known as the landmine row, is a phenomenal exercise to isolate the muscles of your back. Unlike other variations of the row, the t-bar row is much safer because it doesn’t place your lower back in a compromised position.

That said, you might not have access to the elaborate components of a t-bar row or you may want to find some t-bar row alternatives simply to add variation to your workouts.

The 13 best t-bar row alternatives are:

  • Dumbbell Row
  • Chest Supported Row
  • Banded Row
  • Underhand Barbell Row
  • Pendlay Row
  • Yates Row
  • Seated Close Grip Cable Row
  • TRX – Row
  • Meadows Row
  • Iso – Lateral Row
  • Seal Row
  • Inverted Row
  • Barbell Row

In this article, I’ll dive into each of these exercises in further detail, including why it makes an ideal alternative to the t-bar row, how to do it properly, and some tips to maximize its benefits.

As well, I have included a variety of barbell, machine, and bodyweight variations for you to add to your collection of back exercises. 

What Makes a Good T-Bar Row Alternative

A good t-bar row alternative will accomplish one of the following: 

(1) Target similar muscle groups as worked in the t-bar row, and 

(2) Place less compressive forces on the lumbar spine.

Let’s look into these factors a bit further.

Muscles Used In The T-Bar Row

The muscles used in the t-bar row are:

  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Trapezius
  • Posterior Deltoids
  • Rhomboids

During the t-bar row, the close neutral hand position allows you to squeeze your lats as you pull the weight towards your abdomen. This places the body in a position to directly target several muscles of the back, which improves your ability to lift more weight.

Takeaway: An effective t-bar row alternative will primarily target the lats, trapezius, posterior deltoids, and rhomboids.

Reduced Spinal Loading

In a t-bar row, one end of the bar is going to be fixed to the ground by landmine. This will allow for a linear bar path which will decrease the technical requirements of the exercise.

Consequently, the t-bar row requires less core muscle activation and postural stability, which allows you to instead isolate the muscles of the back to a greater extent.

When done properly, compared to other back exercises, the t-bar row places less of a demand on the posterior chain. This can allow you to get all the benefits of rowing while placing your back under a lower risk of injury.

I cover this more in my article comparing the T-Bar Row vs Barbell Row

Takeaway: A great t-bar row alternative will save the lumbar spine from excessive loading.

T-Bar Row Alternatives: 13 Exercises

1. Dumbbell Row

The single arm nature of the dumbbell row allows you to target similar musculature as the t-bar row because of the neutral grip that is used in this exercise.  As a result, this makes it an effective substitution to the t-bar row. 

Dumbbells give you freedom to fully stretch through the lowering of the row and exaggerate extension at the top. This increased range of motion allows for an increased time under tension, mind-muscle connection, and novel exercise stimulus. 

How To Do It

  • One knee will be bent on the bench and placed in front of the hip while the opposite leg will be slightly bent firmly planted onto the ground under the opposite hip.
  • You will firmly grasp the head of the bench to secure yourself into a stable position.
  • You will let the dumbbell sit low in your hand as you wrap your thumb around the handle.
  • When you initiate the row you will focus on driving your elbow behind you while pulling the handle aside your hip. 
  • This is almost like pulling a lawn mower, at full flexion you want the elbow to be at a 90 degree angle.
  • At completion of a rep, you will guide the dumbbell down until your elbow is at full extension.

Pro Tip

During the dumbbell row, you can get greater muscle activation by exaggerating the different phases of this exercise. For example, pausing the load in the top range of motion for 1-2 seconds. 

As well, straps allow you to lift more weight. I personally prefer the Gymreapers Lifting Lifting Straps because I’ve found them not to fray easily when compared with other straps on the market. 

Here I reviewed the Best Lifting Straps, there you can find a more in-depth opinion about which straps I prefer depending on the exercise.

2. Chest Supported Row

Hands down my favorite t-bar row alternative is the chest supported row because it saves your erectors and core stabilizers from additional exertion. This allows you to target your back muscles to a greater extent, just like a t-bar row.

The chest supported row is not taxing on the posterior chain, this makes it an excellent t-bar row alternative for powerlifters or olympic lifters who are deep in competition prep, and want to save their erector muscles for the main lifts (not accessory movements).

For this exercise, you get the direct back muscle activation by pulling the dumbbells diagonally towards your hip, and because you’re lying flat on the bench, you don’t have the ability to ‘cheat reps’. 

Interested in learning how powerlifters train back?  Check out my article that provides 3 sample workouts.

How To Do It

  • Prior to lying down for this movement, you will place a dumbbell on each side of the incline bench.
  • You will lie down on an incline bench, with your legs fully extended, and your heels coming off the ground.
  • You will let each dumbbell sit low in your hand as you wrap your thumb around the handle.
  • From this position you will sweep the elbows back as you aim the DBs towards the lower stomach.
  • At the completion of a rep, you will guide the dumbbell down until your elbow is at full extension.

Pro Tip

Depending on the angle of the incline, the chest supported row will target a different set of back muscles. 

If you want to target your lats more, you can set the incline to a lower angle while tucking your elbows during the row. If you want to target your upper back more, you can set a higher incline while flaring your elbows out during the row.

Check out my article on answering if you can Work Out Back And Chest On The Same Day?

3. Banded Row

The banded row is an at-home t-bar row alternative that targets the latissimus dorsi and the rhomboids.

This exercise only requires a resistance band which allows you to take this gym on the road, to a hotel, or just exercise at home.

The banded row is a highly versatile banded exercise making it beneficial for any lifter’s training protocol. You can do this exercise with high reps and high sets while causing minimal fatigue to the nervous system.

For this exercise, you’ll need continuously-looped resistance bands. Here is a set of high quality bands on Amazon (click here to check today’s price) that will last you years of solid use.

How To Do It

  • You will press the band together and stand on top of the center of the band.
  • You will grab both ends of the band as if they are handles.
  • To get into the starting position, you will sit your hips back until your torso is parallel to the ground.
  • During the movement make sure your chest is over your feet, and you are emphasizing the sweeping of the elbows back while aiming for the lower abdomen/navel.
  • During the lowering of the movement you will guide the band into the full elbow extension to lock out.

Pro Tip

The banded row doesn’t utilize a very high absolute load or directly place pressure on the posterior chain. Because of this, the banded row isn’t very fatiguing, which can allow you to take this exercise to failure multiple times throughout the week. 

While giving you an insane pump, the banded row allows you to be explosive and utilize high repetition sets.

4. Underhand Barbell Row

The underhand barbell row allows one to lift more weight and move through greater range of motion, which is why it is a revered bodybuilding t-bar row alternative.

Contrary to the traditional row, this exercise is performed with the palms facing up. Consequently, you will be targeting the lats and rhomboids to a greater degree. 

Unfortunately, the trade off is more targeting of the erectors and stabilizers than the t-bar row which can be a deal breaker if you are suffering from low back pain.

How To Do It

  • Stand with your feet hip – width apart.
  • You will hold the barbell with your palms facing up.
  • To maintain postural stability, you will retract your shoulder blades while maintaining an exaggerated chest forward position as if you’re breaking the bar.
  • With the bar sitting in your hands, you will get into the starting position by initiating and sitting back until the torso is parallel to the floor, and the chest is in line with feet.
  • From this position you will sweep the elbows back, as you pull the bar towards your lower abdomen/naval.
  • During the lowering phase of the movement you will guide the load into full elbow extension.

Pro Tip

Secondary to the muscles of the back, this movement will target the biceps as well. If you are trying to get more bicep involvement in your workout this exercise is a great alternative to the t-bar row.

Also, You can use momentum on this exercise to get more weight on the bar as well. By letting the weight pull you forward slightly you can use your total body to pull the weight towards your naval. 

5. Pendlay Row

The pendlay row is a great t-bar row alternative for powerlifters because it targets the exact opposite muscles of the bench press, which allows for greater stability when performing heavy presses.  

Unlike the traditional barbell row, the pendlay row starts from the ground. This exercise involves a forceful pull to the upper abdomen/lower chest (essentially the same spot where you touch the barbell on your chest for the bench press), which is predominantly beneficial for increasing power of the back muscles.

When done effectively, secondary muscles that are targeted by this exercise are the erectors and core stabilizers. This can promote muscle density and thickness in the trunk which directly strengthens compound exercises.

Check out this article on 12 Deadlift Accessories To Increase Strength & Technique!

How To Do It

  • Unlike the traditional barbell row, the starting position of the bar will be on the floor. 
  • Stand with your feet hip – width apart as you pick up the load with your palms facing down.
  • To maintain postural stability, you will externally rotate both your shoulder blades while maintaining an exaggerated chest forward position as if you’re breaking the bar.
  • Because the bar is starting from the floor, you will get into the starting position by initiating with the hips and sitting back much further until the torso is parallel to the floor, and the chest is in line with feet.
  • From this position, you will sweep the elbows back as you pull the bar towards your upper abdomen/lower chest.
  • During the lowering phase of the movement you will guide the load into full elbow extension and rest the bar on the ground.

Pro Tip

Since this exercise is good for improving power output we can program it at much lower reps and higher intensity. For example, you could do 3 – 6 sets of 4 – 6 reps to generate strength and power gains.

6. Yates Row

Another great muscle building t-bar row alternative is the Yates row, which was constructed by one of the greatest bodybuilders of all times with the goal of targeting the lower lat, trapezius, and upper back.

Just like any of the other exercises, make sure you have proper posture during its execution. 

Too much excessive forward lean can put unnecessary strain on your lower back. Make sure you maintain tension by closing your armpits and squeezing your lats. This can promote optimal activation and range of motion when executing the lift.

How To Do It

  • Stand with your feet hip – width apart as grab the bar with your palms facing up.
  • To maintain postural stability, you will externally rotate both your shoulder blades while maintaining an exaggerated chest forward position as if you’re breaking the bar.
  • You will get into the starting position by initiating and sitting back but maintaining a much more upright posture.
  • From here, you will sweep the elbows up and back as you pull the bar towards your lower abdomen/belly button.
  • During the lowering phase of the movement you will guide the load into full elbow extension.

Pro Tip

The diagonal nature of this exercise hits the back differently. Regardless of whether or not you have other rows in your routine, this would be a beneficial addition.

7. Seated Close Grip Cable Row

The seated close grip cable row puts minimal stress on the posterior chain while directly targeting the muscles of the back, which makes this a great machine alternative to the t-bar row.

The number of times I’ve looked at my program and saw this exercise is no joke. The reason why is that this is a non fatiguing variation of the t-bar row. You can do this exercise many times throughout the week and save energy for your olympic lifts or compound exercises.

How To Do It

  • For this exercise, you will grab the v-handle and push back with your legs to get into position, while maintaining proper posture.
  • To maintain proper posture, you will have an exaggerated forward chest position, retract your shoulder blades, and maintain a rigid/neutral spine.
  • To initiate this row, you will sweep back with your elbows and pull the v-handle towards your naval/lower abdomen.
  • During the second phase of this movement, let the weight of the machine bring the handle and your elbows back into complete extension.

Pro Tip

There are many different attachments to use when doing the seated row:

  • Mag Grip
  • Wide Grip
  • V-Bar
  • Straight Bar
  • Rope

All of these can be put in full rotation to target your back in diverse and novel ways.

8. TRX-Row

The TRX-Row is a simple back exercise that anyone can do, making it a perfect t-bar row substitute for beginners.

The TRX-Row targets the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and traps while allowing the flexibility of adjusting difficulty whenever you want.

How To Do It

  • Set up with the TRX handles in each hand.
  • Let the weight of your body fall back until you are suspended in air. 
  • Your heels should be firmly planted into the ground as your toes are pointing towards the ceiling.
  • From this position, you will drive your elbows back and pull your chest through the straps.
  • At full flexion your elbow should be 90 degrees, from this position you will lower your body until your elbows are fully extended.

Pro Tip

The reason why this is such a great t-bar row alternative is that you can adjust the difficulty by changing your body position relative to the handles. The closer you are to the floor, the more challenging this exercise becomes. The more upright you are, the less challenging this exercise becomes.

9. Meadows Row

The meadows row is a single arm landmine row that can easily replace the t-bar row by allowing you to create a greater stretch at the bottom of the movement.

Compared to the dumbbell row, one end of the barbell is fixed by a landmine or corner of the rack. This allows you to lift more weight because of how you’re positioned next to it.

How To Do It

  • Here, you will stand next to the barbell as it is securely fixed to the ground by a landmine or corner of the rack.
  • Using straps, you will fasten the starting hand to the base of the barbell sleeve.
  • Similar to the dumbbell row you pull the bar towards your lower abdomen/naval.
  • During the second phase, you will guide the bar as your elbows return to full extension.

Pro Tip

I would highly recommend throwing on a pair of Versa gripps to make this exercise much easier.

You can also get greater muscle activation by exaggerating the different phases of the lift. By reaching your shoulder forward at the bottom you can get a better stretch, by throwing your elbow further back you can get better lat activation.

10. Iso – Lateral Row

This plate loaded machine row is a great t-bar row substitution by simplifying the movement so you can focus on targeting the lats, traps, rhomboids, and posterior deltoids.

There are three variations of these machines:

  • High Row – This machine mimics the rope pullover that hits the lower lats.
  • Regular Horizontal Row – This machine mimics more of the seated row by targeting the back directly.
  • Low Row – This exercise targets the back similar to the dumbbell row.

How To Do It

  • To set up for this exercise, you will sit on the iso-lateral row machine seat while pressing the lower chest against the pad.
  • While maintaining proper posture, you will grab each of the handles.
  • From here, you will row the handles back towards your lower chest/upper abdomen.

Pro Tip

You can do all of these movements either unilaterally or bilaterally. Whether or not you use one or two arms you can target the different muscles of the back.

11. Seal Row

The seal row is a great t-bar row alternative because it locks your body in place taking away the ability for you to heave the weight as you perform this movement. 

This exercise can be done with either dumbbells or a barbell. For the purposes of this article I prefer the dumbbells because it can be done through greater range of motion to promote total back muscle activation.

Additionally, this exercise doesn’t load the lower back and can be beneficial for avoiding injury. Beginners and advanced lifters can benefit from this exercise by promoting recovery and avoiding spinal loading.

How To Do It

  • To set up for this exercise, you will elevate a bench between two stacks of 45 lbs plates.
  • For this exercise, you will lay in a face down position.
  • You will engage the muscles of your core to maintain a neutral spine during this exercise.
  • You will sweep back with your elbows pulling the dumbbells towards your navel/lower abdomen.
  • During the lowering of this exercise you will guide the dumbbells down until elbows are at complete extension.

Pro Tip

Many powerlifters and bodybuilders incorporate this exercise in their program because it isn’t taxing the posterior chain and it forces you to maintain a neutral spine.

Also, this exercise can be done with a snatch grip (wide grip) to get greater range of motion and target the upper muscles of the back.

12. Inverted Row

The inverted row is a less challenging alternative to the t-bar row because it is done with only body weight.

The inverted row is an extremely flexible exercise that can vary in difficulty as you are more upright or perpendicular to the ground.

When perpendicular to the ground the exercise is going to be much more challenging which is better for more advanced lifters. When upright the exercise is going to be much easier which is better for beginner lifters.

How To Do It

  • For this exercise you will place a barbell in the j cups just a bit longer than arms length of distance from the ground.
  • To change the difficulty of this exercise you can position the barbell lower or higher in the rack.
  • You will maintain a supine body position (face up) during the course of this exercise.
  • You will have an overhand grip on the bar with your hands placed similar to how they would be on the bench press.
  • Maintaining a rigid spine, you will pull your lower chest towards the bar until it makes contact.
  • During the lowering of the movement, you will guide yourself away from the bar until your elbows are at full extension.

Pro Tip

You can make this exercise even more challenging by modifying the grip. You can wrap a towel on each side of the bar to make the grip mimic more of a rope. This allows you to target the back muscles to a greater degree by increasing range of motion all the way through.

Also, you can do either an overhand or an underhand grip to make this exercise target the back differently.

13. Barbell Row

The barbell row is a free weight exercise that works all the back muscles similarly, this makes it a great alternative to the t-bar row. 

The barbell row is a more technical rowing movement that can prove to be beneficial in promoting core muscle activation and challenging postural stabilization. 

The main difference here is that instead of the bar being fixed to the ground, the barbell row requires you to move the weight through greater degrees of freedom. 

How To Do It

  • Stand with your feet hip – width apart as you pick up the load.
  • To maintain postural stability, you will externally rotate both your shoulder blades while maintaining an exaggerated chest forward position as if you’re breaking the bar.
  • With the bar sitting in your hands, you will get into the starting position by initiating and sitting back until the torso is parallel to the floor, and the chest is in line with feet.
  • From this position you will sweep the elbows back as you pull the bar towards your upper abdomen/lower chest.
  • During the lowering phase of the movement you will guide the load into full elbow extension.

Pro Tip

The rigidity and postural demand that this exercise requires can be beneficial for exercises such as the squat or deadlift.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, a great t-bar row alternative will target the muscles of the back similarly, which are the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius, and posterior deltoids. Additionally, a great t-bar row alternative will place minimal loading on the lumbar spine.

The exercises you select will depend on the equipment that is available at your gym and how much you want to load the posterior chain. Carefully select these back exercises that match your goals, and you will make great progress in size and strength.