My experience: Which is Better for Building Muscle: Barbell Rows vs. T-Bar Rows?

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Written By Samarjit Sinha

Working out for 10 years | Has a home gym | CPD (UK) Certificate holder in Fitness

Barbell Rows vs. T-Bar Rows? How do I use them for back muscles?

Both barbell rows and t-bar rows are great exercises to help you build muscle.

Both types of rows have their own strengths and weaknesses.

This article will help you decide which one is better for you.

Barbell Rows Vs. T-Bar Rows

While both of them use a barbell to add weight, yet so different!

I often do the barbell row or pendlay row since these are compound in nature. I need to work out fast and effectively use my time.My experience: Which is Better for Building Muscle: Barbell Rows vs. T-Bar Rows? 1

Thus, stimulating a lot of muscles seems the way for me.

But I keep the weight low while doing BB row – I have some back problems, so I am very cautious with this. My low back gives up very quickly, so I do a workaround this.

And most of the time I switch to dumbbell row where I can rest on my knee and focus on my back muscles.

With barbell row you are limited by how much weight your low back, hip and hamstring can handle!

Barbell row vs T-bar Row

Also, my skinny buddies, you should do the barbell row first. You need to do all the compound movements to add meat to Your skinny bones. Isolation can come later.

In my experience, if you can do the barbell row, then do it. This is a compound movement, so it will activate more muscles than a T-bar row.

However, T-bar row will put less stress on your lower back or spine, so maybe you can include it as well.

But only do T-bar rows if you can make time for it and want some focused lats development.

Either way, they require the same equipment, a bar, and some weights.

So you can keep your home gym cost low as well.

What is the difference between barbell rows and T-bar rows?

While both of the back exercises will activate most of your back muscles, the barbell row is often picked because you can load a lot of weight using it.

And with an underhand grip you can focus on the lats more rather than the whole back.

barbell row alternativeBut as per many studies like this and in my opinion, this often leads to a sore low back.

Thus, I often pick supported one-arm rows instead.

My goal is to minimise risks first, your approach can be different.

So if you are working out at home then you can opt for T-bar row, this will be low back friendly. T-bar row is also not limited by your posterior chain strength as well.

Thus, for home workout, with safety in mind, you can pick T-bar row/dumbbell row/Chest supported rows.

Barbell rows vs. T-bar rows: Strength

Barbell rows are better for building overall strength and size, while T-bar rows are better for the development of the posterior chain muscles specifically (glutes, hamstrings, quads).

Barbell rows are more versatile, as they can be done with either a barbell or a T-bar.

T-bar rows offer more benefits for strength and muscle growth than barbell rows, due to the added resistance of the tubing.

Both types of rows offer benefits for overall body conditioning, but barbell rows are often favoured for their harder core workout effects.

Barbell rows vs. T-bar rows: Injury Prevention

My experience: Which is Better for Building Muscle: Barbell Rows vs. T-Bar Rows? 2When it comes to injury prevention, barbell rows and T-bar rows are two of the best exercises you can do.

But which is safer?

While they both require high levels of hip and hamstring mobility, the t-bar row is safer.

A safer option will be chest-supported T-bar rows. The T-bar row is safer because it doesn’t require as much hip hingeing.

T-bar’s rows are safer because the weight is directly under our body instead as in the front.

Also, the T bar row uses the neutral grip, so it is less taxing on the shoulders as well.

Barbell rows vs. T-bar rows: Range of motion

The range of motion for a barbell row is greater than that of a T-bar row.

The T-bar row has a shorter range of motion and is better suited for those who are new to rowing or have lower back pain.

More range of motion is better for overall muscle and mobility development.

Barbell rows vs. T-bar rows: Complexity

Barbell rows are very easy to understand and perform, thus coaches often teach them early. BB Rows are excellent to increase your upper back strength.

As per this article, barbell rows are often taught using a bench with your chest supported on it.

I learned it this way, and it is safer for my back as well.

Muscles worked by T bar row
Img source: FitnessVolt

However, the T-bar row is an isolation exercise where the bar is fixed into a landmine attachment.

This makes it easier to maintain good form and technique during the exercise.

Suddenly you do not need to balance the bar anymore.

Thus, the T-bar row is also better suited for beginners because there’s minimal risk of strain or injury.

But the T-bar row is an isolation exercise, whereas the barbell row is a compound exercise because it targets multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

So if you compare barbells with T-bar rows, the barbell rows are more complex than T-bar rows because they involve a greater range of motion.

This exercise is better for developing strength and muscle mass.

The T-bar row is a simpler movement that can be used as an assistance exercise to help build up to the barbell row.

[Can you build muscle with resistance band rows?]

Barbell rows vs. T-bar rows: Muscles worked

Muscles worked by barbell row
Image source: Outlift

Barbell rows are a compound exercise which trains your entire back, even your hips. And T-bar is an isolation exercise which trains your lats.

So if you have the mobility to do barbell rows, then you should do it. You can surely make more muscles with it.

However, T-bar rows are helpful if you want to focus on your lats and want them to grow.

PS: You can do pull-ups as well.

The Different in Lifting Experience

barbell row, a compound exercise targeting many musclesBarbell rows can be loaded heavily and are easy to progress. But barbell rows can be bad for you if you have a bad back.

It can be more dangerous than doing a T-bar row if your form is wrong.

Your range of motion is bigger in the barbell row, thus it will feel more tiring compared to the T-bar row.

All in all, the lifting experience is very different for these exercises.

Muscle Isolation of these back exercises

Tbar rows for Muscle IsolationThe t-bar row is an isolation exercise that targets the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, posterior deltoids, and rhomboids.

The barbell row is considered a compound pulling exercise which actively targets the same back muscles as the t-bar row, while passively targeting the hamstrings and erectors.

The barbell row has greater demand on the lumbar spine and requires greater postural stiffness.

How to properly do a barbell row?

Here is a stronglift guide and a video explaning the same! The BB row is very easy to execute!

How to properly do a T-bar row?

Like this guy on Instagram I also prefer dumbbell row. Because in my home gym that is more attainable.

And I also have some lower back issues, so less strain on back is my no 1 choice when doing back workouts.

What are the pros and cons of barbell rows vs. t-bar rows?

Both the barbell rows and T-bar rows have their pros and cons.

And if you want a bigger and nice looking back then you should do the barbell rows and the T-bar rows.

Also, do the pull-ups, they are awesome as well!

Barbell row will build up your entire back since it is a compound exercise.

And it will train many other muscles as well.

This is good for muscle growth and strength.

But if you want some focus work done on your lats, if they are lagging behind then you should pick up T-bar row.

Back exercises to do with barbell and dumbbells!


Is The T-Bar Row Dangerous?

T-bars row is probably the safest row exercise that you can do. You will miss the benefits of compound exercises like a pendlay row or barbell row. But as far as safety is concerned, T-bar row is your friend.

Are barbell rows better than T bar rows?

T-bar rows can pack some depth and thickness onto your upper back. And the barbell row can give you some serious full back workout so that you can get a strong spine, V-shaped back. Barbell rows are compound in nature, thus they will also work out on your core, leg muscles as well.

What are the benefits of the T-Bar Row?

T-bar rows are great for developing a thick upper back. They are easy on the lower back as well. And since they are an isolation workout, you can focus on the upper back muscles completely.

Do T bar rows build a thick back?

T bar rows train your lat muscles, thus they can help you get a thick back. But to get more muscle mass you should try some form of barbell row or one-arm rows. You should also do pull-ups to counter the effect of overhead press and to build a thicker back.

Should you go heavy on T-bar rows?

Yes, you can go heavy on T-bar rows and target your lat muscles easily. Since this workout does not involve your back or hamstrings, you can really focus on the movement to gain some mass.

Are barbell rows best for back?

As per many studies and as per many fitness gurus, if you can only pick one workout for your back, then you should pick the barbell rows. They activate all the muscles of the back and thus can help you get a bigger and thicker back.

Can you get a big back with just rows?

A good deal of fitness trainers would say yes, but with my experience, I would ask you to do pull-ups as well. Pull-ups are a primal movement, and you should get better with it.

I have not seen anyone who can go really heavy on doing barbell row getting better at pull-ups. Even though they seem to train very similar muscles—it does not help with pull-ups.

In my opinion, you should always be able to manoeuvre with your body more easily than with weights. And pull-ups are no doubt a great workout that many gym bros simply avoid because they can not do it.


I hope you have understood that you should use a barbell row for strength and mass development and use T-bar row for lats development.

Also, a barbell row can put high pressure on your spine, so be careful when adding weight to the bar.

Add weights in small increments, and you should be fine.

Since I have some lower back pain issues, I often pick one arm dumbbell row and pull-ups to minimise the risks.

About The Skinny Author


Working Out for 10 years | Owns a home gym |Certificate course done on Improving Aerobic Fitness, Diet | CPD (UK) Accredited Certification on Fitness

Yo Friends, this is Samarjit! A skinny guy who is building his tiny home gym.

I have successfully gained 10 kgs in 10 months going to commercial gyms. And I have been working out on and off for about 10+ years now.

I have gone swimming, done martial arts, Olympic lifts and body-building-type workouts!

I canceled the gym subscription as I was more into making my home gym for workouts. And getting ready, then getting my cycle and ride to the commercial gym seemed a drag after 10 hours in the office.

Thus, I needed a home that I could access at any moment!
And I started building my home gym!

I had to research a lot to build my home gym and decided to share effective, budget-friendly home gym machines, and nutrition to buy as per your goals here in

If you have question then contact me here

Ps: The author is highly experienced with making small workout routines, understanding and guiding people to get gym equipment, and setting up the home gym as per their Fitness goals.

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