T-bar rows are one of the most popular rowing exercises for adding serious mass and strength to your back muscles. 

But what happens when you can't perform the T-bar row? 

The good news is that there are plenty of excellent T-bar row alternatives that'll work the same muscles used to perform the traditional T-bar row. 

In this article you'll discover the best T-bar row substitutes and how to perform them. Number 8 is one of my favorites. 

Here are 10 of the best T-bar row substitutes that you can perform in your home or garage gym (even a commercial gym).

Choose 1-2 of these exercises to add into your workout routines to develop a thick looking upper back.

1. Pronated Grip (T-Bar Row Alternative For Bodybuilding)

Man Doing Pronated Grip T Bar Row Substitute Exercise

The traditional T-bar row is usually performed with a neutral grip, but there are a number of other ways that you can perform the T-bar alternative by using a bar attachment or a pronated grip.

The pronated grip will change the biomechanics of the T-bar row, and it will allow you to hit the back muscles differently. It is one of the best T-bar row alternatives because of the similarity to the traditional T-bar rows. 


  • You can overload your lats with a lot of weight. 
  • The movement is strict. 
  • Builds your grip strength.


  1. Stand with your feet in a neutral stance and straddle the T-bar row. 
  2. Lower your body and hold the bar with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Remember to bend your legs.
  3. Stand up straight. 
  4. Then bend over with slightly bent knees and let your torso come down until it has hit 45 degrees or below. 
  5. Pull the weight up, pull your elbows back and keep them close to your body. 
  6. Pull the weight up until it comes to your chest while also pulling your shoulders at the top together. 
  7. Slowly lower the weight. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Don't be afraid to let your lats stretch at the bottom of the movement, you'll increase lat activation. 

2. Seated Cable Row 

Man Doing Seated Cable Row Exercise

A great T-bar row alternative is the seated cable row, which you can use with a neutral grip. 

As cable rows are seated instead of bending over helps to take the strain out of your lower back, but it still allows you to pull heavy weight. 

At the moment I'm seeing excellent results from seated cable rows and believe it's one of the best exercises for overloading your lats using a large range of motion.  

If can't perform the seated cable row exercise, there are seated cable row alternative exercises that can effectively target and engage your back muscles. 


  • The seated row is ideal for all ability ranges (even beginners).
  • Works your lats through a wide range of motion.


  1. Sit on a padded seat and put your feet on the placements. You should sit at a distance with a slight bend in your knees.
  2. Bend over and hold the handle with a neutral grip. 
  3. Pull the shoulder blades together and stick out your chest. 
  4. Pull the elbows back and keep them close to the body. 
  5. Pull the cable until the elbows hit the lower stomach. 
  6. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  •  Avoid using momentum to move the weight. You can do this by making each rep slow and controlled. Your lats will thank you for it.

3. Pull Up (T-Bar Row Alternative For At Home)

Man Doing Pull-Ups

The pull-up is a great exercise that you can add to make the best of an upper-body workout.

It is also an excellent T-bar row substitute that will train all of your upper back muscles, including the biceps, core, lats, traps, and rhomboids.[1] 

Pull ups are easy to add to a home gym because the only piece of equipment that you need is a good pull-up bar. We have researched and compared ceiling mounted and wall mounted pull up bars.


  • Develops overall upper body strength.
  • Increases grip strength.
  • Creates a wider looking back (V-taper).


  1. Hold the pull-up bar with an overhand grip, slightly more than shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Engage the core and retract your shoulder blades. 
  3. Pull the body up to the bar as you pull the elbows down to the side. 
  4. Come back down slowly to the starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Struggling with pull ups? Try using a resistance band to assist you by removing some of your body weight.  
  • You can also try performing an inverted row instead of a pull up. The inverted row is often an easier exercise compared to the pull up (you can use a Smith machine or squat rack for this).

4. Bent-Over Barbell Row 

Man Doing Barbell Bent Over Row Exercise

The plate loaded bent-over barbell row makes an excellent T-bar row alternative because they are both bar rows.

The only difference is that the bent-over barbell row is a 100% free weight exercise, while the T-bar row is attached to the ground.

In the bent-over barbell row, you will train similar muscle groups as the T-bar row such as the core, lower back, upper back and biceps.

I'm a HUGE fan of barbell rows and think they're one of the best upper back developers you can add to your workout. 


  • Great for developing upper back thickness.
  • You can overload your lat muscles with heavy weights.
  • It's a compound exercise (works multiple muscles at once).
  • Increases posterior chain strength.


  1. Load a barbell with weight plates.
  2. Stand in the middle with your feet hip-width apart in a natural stance (knees slightly bent) 
  3. Take a hold of the barbell with a pronated grip or slightly more than shoulder width apart. 
  4. Pick the bar up and stand straight. 
  5. Slightly bend your knees and drop your torso down. You might want to stick out your butt and drop the body in front of your toes. 
  6. Lower the body until you reach a 45-degree angle while maintaining a neutral spine. 
  7. The key is to let your body come out in front of the toes, and your hands should be able to hang straight down in front of your knees. 
  8. Engage your core and pull the bar towards your stomach. 
  9. Make sure that your elbows are close to your side, and do not let them flare. 
  10. Pull up the bar into your stomach. 
  11. Control the bar and return to the starting position (arms extended). The loaded barbell should move in a straight line. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  •  Use a variation of grips on the barbell to get the most from this exercise. I enjoy a combination of overhand grip and underhand grip, usually performing 3 sets of each type (overhand and underhand barbell row)
  • You can use a Smith machine to allow the barbell to move along a set path, this is sometimes a good idea for beginners.

Related Article - T Bar Rows Vs Barbell Rows

5. Single-Arm Dumbbell Row (T-Bar Row Alternative With Dumbbells)

Man Doing Single-Arm Dumbbell Row Exercise in The Gym

The dumbbell row is another T-bar row alternative and uses dumbbells instead of a barbell. It will give your back muscles a great workout. 

Single arm exercises like the dumbbell bent over row let you focus on one arm at a time, unlike a T-bar row which uses both arms.

You will be able to identify and train against imbalances in your muscles by performing the single-arm dumbbell row. 

I enjoy the dumbbell row as it doesn't require a ton of weight and it places a lot of stress on my lower lats. 


  • Allows you to work each side individually. 
  • Great for lower lat development.
  • Works the same muscle groups as the T-bar row.
  • Only requires a flat bench and dumbbell. 


  1. Arrange a bench and carry a dumbbell. 
  2. Put your left hand and a left knee on the bench. 
  3. Hold the dumbbell with your right hand and lean forward while slightly arching your back. 
  4. Keep the shoulders level and pull the dumbbell into the lower stomach (retract your shoulder blade).
  5. Lower the dumbbell slowly back to the starting position.
  6. Then switch the arms and complete your dumbbell rows set.

Tips From A Trainer!

  •  Lift the dumbbell to your hip NOT your chest, this will increase your lat activation. 
  • Focus on slow and controlled reps to get the most from this T-bar row alternative. 
  • Feeling wrist pain? Try increasing the angle of the incline bench. 

6. Kroc Row 

Man Doing Kroc Row Exercise In The Gym

The Kroc Row is an intense type of row utilizing one arm at a time. 

Using heavy weights and a high number of reps, this is one exercise everyone should include if they want to build size and strength. 

This row variation is similar to single arm dumbbell rows, except you use more momentum and a far heavier dumbbell. 


  • Massively overloads the lats. 
  • Develops size, strength, and power.
  • Achieves a lot of muscle activation.


  1. Bring a dumbbell to a support structure for you to rest your hand (such as a bench or a box). 
  2. Put one of your hands on the support, and alter your legs. The leg on the side of the lifting arm should be forward, and the lifting leg should be at the back. 
  3. Lean over so that the back is flat at a 45-degree angle. 
  4. Grab the dumbbell and bring it up by pulling the elbow back to let the dumbbell come up to the rib cage. 
  5. Bring the dumbbell back down to the starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • When you perform each rep, remember to use the momentum with your body to make room for more repetitions because Kroc Rows are a heavy and high repetition movement. 

7. Resistance Band Bent Over Row 

Ilustration How To Perform Resistance Band Bent Over Row

The resistance band bent-over row is a great exercise to add to a home gym or a home workout routine. It is an excellent T-bar row alternative for beginners, and the only piece of equipment you will need is a resistance band.

You can even perform multiple grip positions with ease. I'm a big fan of the using an underhand grip to simulate a supinated barbell row.

I like to think of this as the dumbbell bent over rows for people on the go. I've performed this exercise many times from hotel rooms, offices, and even in the park. 


  • Can be performed anywhere. 
  • Excellent exercise if you're travelling.
  • Doesn't require much equipment.


  1. Stand inside or on top of the resistance band in a natural stance with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. 
  2. Push your butt to the back as you hinge forward until your back is at a 30 to 45-degree angle. 
  3. Pull the arms back until the band reaches the stomach, drawing your shoulder blades together.
  4. Let the arms come down slowly. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Use this exercise as a high rep finisher at the end of your workout routine. It'll give you one hell of a PUMP. 

8. Chest Supported Dumbbell Row 

Chest Supported Dumbbell Row

Chest-supported dumbbell rows are a great T-bar row alternative because they train and isolate the upper back muscles due to the chest being supported on the bench.

Therefore, it will get rid of momentum that can be caused by using the body. 

I've added the chest supported row to many of my clients workouts as it works all of the same muscle groups as the T-bar row, but without needing to rely on your core for stability.


  • Isolates the upper back muscles. 
  • Extremely difficult to cheat on this exercise. 


  1. The bench should be at a 45-degree angle. 
  2. Lay your chest on the bench pad and pick up a set of dumbbells. 
  3. Push your feet into the ground with your legs extended straight.
  4. Let the dumbbells sink beneath your head, and let your arms come into full extension as you stretch the back. 
  5. Retract the scapula (shoulder blades) and pull the elbows back while you push the chest into the bench. 
  6. Allow the dumbbells to come back slowly.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Super set this back exercise with spider curls. It's one of my favorite super sets of all time, even my clients love it. 
  • If you like the chest supported dumbbell row, you can also try out the seal row. The seal row requires an elevated platform, a bench, and a barbell. 

9. Pendlay Row 

Man Doing Pendlay Row Exercise In Home Gym

The Pendlay row is named after the famous Olympic coach Glenn Pendlay. The Pendlay row is a great T-bar row substitute and is similar in nature to the bent-over barbell row.

However, the barbell begins on the ground and ends on the ground for one repetition, similar to a deadlift. The Pendlay row is a favorite among intermediate and advanced gym-goers. 

Who needs T-bar row machines when you've got this AWESOME back builder? I know I don't. 


  • Helps you develop power in your upper back. 
  • You can lift a lot of weight, giving you plenty of muscle activation.
  • Builds a thick upper back.
  • Strengthens your rear delts and posterior chain.


  1. Take a standing position in front of a barbell (with weight plates) with your feet shoulder width.
  2. Hinge forward from your hip and grab the bar with a flat back. 
  3. Pull the shoulder blades. 
  4. Pull the elbows into the rib cage. 
  5. Remember to squeeze the shoulder blades together at the top of the movement. 
  6. Lower the bar to the ground slowly. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Place more weight on the bar than you would for the traditional barbell row. This T-bar row substitute is all about power generation.  

10. Seated High Cable Row (T-Bar Alternative With Cable Machine) 

Woman Doing Seated High Cable Row Exercise

The seated high cable row is very similar to the traditional seated cable row. However, the only difference is that the cable is placed at a higher level. 

This particular T-bar row alternative is similar to other types of cable machine rows, except that you will be pulling down at an angle instead of pulling horizontally. 

I like to use this exercise with new clients before placing them on the inverted row. It's a great way to learn how your lats move and to develop your base strength.


  • Ideal for beginners.
  • You can perform this in most gyms. 


  1. Put the cable at a high setting. 
  2. Keep your feet grounded as you sit down on the padded seat or ground. 
  3. Grab the handle with a neutral narrow grip. 
  4. Lean back at a 45-degree angle and pull the shoulder blades together as you stick the chest out. 
  5. Pull the cable with your elbows as you pull them back and keep them close to the body. 
  6. Pull until the elbows hit the lower stomach. 
  7. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Ensure you use proper form and get a full lat stretch at the top of each rep to maximize the benefits. You want bigger lats, right? 

T-Bar Row Basics

Before we get into detail about the top T-bar row alternative exercises, we should look into the benefits of performing the original movement and why it is good for building the size and strength of the back. 

  • Comprehensive Back Exercise
    The T-bar Row exercises a lot of muscles, including your lats, biceps, erector spinae, glutes, hamstrings, quads, core, middle trapezius, rhomboids, and posterior deltoids. It is a very time-efficient exercise.
  • Less Lower Back Stress Than Barbell Bent-Over Rows
    The T-bar row helps to take the stress off your lower back because you can sit back and keep the weight over your feet. The T-bar Row means that your lower back does not have to work as hard as it usually does when you perform the barbell bent-over rows.
  • Easier To Learn Than Barbell Rows
    Bent over Barbell rows help to build a large group of muscles in your back, as most bodybuilders know, but they can also be a challenging exercise to master. You will have to consider your hand position carefully, angle your spine in the right way, and even have to think about the position of your feet. Furthermore, you will have to deadlift the bar off the floor in order to maneuver into the right place for you to start rowing. The T-bar row is a relatively straightforward exercise, it is great for beginners, and it is ideal for anyone looking for a less complicated back exercise.
  • Different Grips Available
    The T-bar row machine offers many different placement options for the hand, including angled, overhand, underhand, wide, narrow, straight, and parallel. If you change the hand position, then it will affect your muscles in a slightly different way, and it will add some variety to your workout.
Man Doing T-Bar Row

What Is So Good About The T-Bar Row?

The T-bar row builds your back muscles while developing explosive power. It's an excellent exercise which trains the biggest muscles in the body, your lats (which give you the V shape everybody wants).

T-bar rows involve a pulling motion utilizing heavy weights. This is why it has such good potential to build huge lats. The T-bar row works your lats, trapezius muscles, rhomboids, and deltoids. You will be able to work all of the big muscles in the upper back and work towards building a chiseled physique. 

It is essential to have a strong back when it comes to performing exercises. You will also be able to hit a number of other muscles by performing the T-bar row, such as the hamstrings, glutes, biceps, triceps, abdominal muscles, and obliques.[2] 

It is a wise move to incorporate the T-bar row, or a T-bar row alternative, into your workout routine if you are looking to achieve excellent results in your upper body. 

deep and superficial back muscles

Common Questions About T-Bar Rows

Which is better, T bar rows or barbell rows? 

The barbell row is better as it requires minimal equipment and can be performed almost anywhere with a barbell. 

Is the T bar row dangerous? 

No, the T bar row isn't dangerous. But, there's a small risk of injury when performing any type of exercise or sport. If you use proper form you'll be fine.


If you want to develop a muscular and strong back, then rows (like the t-bar row) should always be included in your workout routine. 

If you can't perform T-bar rows, there's no need to worry. The exercises listed above like the Kroc row, resistance band row, and more will be more than you need. 

Be sure to choose a few of them for your workout to develop excellent looking lats. 

Who needs T-bar rows, right?




Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.