The Best T-Bar Row You've Never Done

The Best T-Bar Row You’ve Never Done

Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.

Trap bar rows and T-bar rows are two of my favorite horizontal pulling movements for crushing the upper back and lats while also taxing the glutes and hamstrings.  I’ve recently been tinkering with a new variation that allows you to combine both of these into one movement by creating a trap bar landmine row. 

Besides providing a unique rowing movement that’s incredibly natural and comfortable feeling, there are a few additional reasons why this is such an effective option.

1. Most landmine stations and T-bar rows don’t provide much versatility in terms of grip width and hand placement.  For instance if you’re going to perform a traditional T-bar row you’ll most likely end up using a standard v-grip handle from the seated cable row station and attaching it to the end of the bar. While there’s nothing inherently wrong this this, the closer grip position (typically 4-6 inches apart) can make it difficult to fully retract and medially rotate the scapula as the shoulders can have a tendency to feel overly crowded and stuck. 

The trap bar on the other hand provides the lifter with a number of different options as they can use the outer portion of the bar where it gradually tapers.  This allows the lifter to use a grip placement anywhere from approximately 12-24 inches apart.  Even if you find your perfect grip placement, periodically changing up the hand width can provide a slightly different stimulus for your upper back and lats.

2. One of the most common issues on T-bar rows is the semi-awkward and uncomfortable placement of the bar between your legs while performing rows.  Besides acting as a slight distraction that can quickly cause form to degrade, many lifters will contort their body and excessively rotate their feet and hips to keep the bar away from their groin and torso.  This can also lead to a scenario where the lifter stands too far back and away from their hands to avoid having the bar run into their body which can place further tension on the spine and make it difficult to depress the scapula.

The trap bar allows the lifter to use a more natural stance width while having the hands outside the legs rather than in between them.  This creates a much more comfortable experience for the lifter allowing them to focus solely on crushing their rows and isolating their back without fear of exercise-induced birth control.

3. Most trap bars are approximately 2 feet shorter than traditional Olympic bars.  As a result, using the trap bar for landmine exercises slightly exaggerates the arching motion of the bar as it moves. Ironically, this ends up feeling incredibly natural while also helping to depress the scapula to a greater degree as the hands end up traveling slightly back (i.e. posteriorly towards the hips) towards the lifter when moving into the contracted position.

On a side note, most lifters will need to decrease the load by approximately 20-25% to make up for this change in leverage, as the closer you stand towards the pivot point the more challenging it is to move the weight.

Kickstand Variation

The trap bar t-bar row can also be performed quite comfortably using a kickstand position as shown by two of my NFL athletes including Taylor Heinicke and Prince Charles Iworah.  

Besides providing a very natural range of motion in the shoulders and low-back friendly rowing variation for the spine, this variations absolutely obliterates your entire backside from the hips to the upper back and lats.  In addition, because you’re essentially holding a semi-supported single leg RDL, your glutes get activated quite intensely. 

Lastly, there’s significant balance and stability involved as the kickstand position, while not as unstable as the single leg RDL position still requires significant balance.  If the user performs the row with flawed mechanics or excessive momentum rather than locking the movement in with smooth form, it will be difficult to maintain control without losing balance.