Row T-Bar Standing

Start Position
End Position

Starting position:

  1. Place feet on the designated platform(s).
  2. Flex your knees and bend forward at the hips until your torso is just above parallel to the floor.
  3. Grasp the handles with a closed grip. If grabbing the horizontal handles, the grip will be closed and pronated. If grabbing the vertical handles, the grip will be closed and neutral (palms facing inward).
  4. Fully extend elbows (keeping a slight bend in them) allowing the bar to hang.
  5. Keep your head in a neutral position and in line with the vertebral column while looking at the floor just ahead of you throughout the entire movement.

Upward movement/concentric phase:

  1. Pull the bar upward toward your torso. If grabbing the horizontal handles, your elbows will flare to sides as the shoulders horizontally abduct. If grabbing the vertical handles, your elbows will remain close to torso as the shoulders extend.
  2. Maintain the torso in a rigid position with the back flat and knees bent.

Downward movement/eccentric phase:

    1. In a controlled fashion, slowly lower the bar by allowing the elbows to extend back the to the starting position.
    2. After the set is complete, slowly lower the T-bar to its holding position.
Do not hold your breath. Exhale during the concentric/phase phase and inhale during the eccentric/lowering phase.


Exercise Data

  • Primary Muscles: Latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius, rhomboids, teres major
  • Synergists: Posterior deltoid, biceps brachii, brachialis
  • Stabilizers: Quadratus lumborum, iliocostalis, longissimus, spinalis, semispinalis, biceps femoris, rectus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique, transverse abdominis, hamstrings, quadriceps, wrist flexors, rotator cuff muscles
  • Type: Strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance
  • Mechanics: Shoulder extension/horizontal shoulder abduction, elbow flexion, and scapular retraction
  • Equipment: Standing T-Bar Row machine
  • Lever: 1st class lever
  • Level: Intermediate to advanced
  • FAQ'S & FACTS ABOUT Row T-Bar Standing

    What Is A Machine Standing T-Bar Row?

    A standing T-bar row is a compound resistance exercise, which targets the upper and middle back including the latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius, rhomboids and teres major. It is a variation of the two-arm long bar row and the T-bar row with provided chest support. This exercise is performed at a standing T-bar row machine. It is performed standing with the torso in a flexed position.

    The concentric portion of the lift is scapular retraction, shoulder extension/horizontal shoulder abduction, and elbow flexion. The eccentric portion is scapular protraction, shoulder flexion/horizontal shoulder adduction, and elbow extension as the bar is lowered.

    The purpose of the standing T-bar row is to strengthen the latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius, rhomboids and teres major while also promoting the hypertrophy (increases in size) of these muscles.

    Why Do A Machine Standing T-bar Row?

    Standing T-bar rows strengthen and develop muscles of the upper and middle back. This exercise requires greater stabilization from the erector spinae muscle group (i.e. spinalis, semispinalis, iliocostalis, longissimus, quadratus lumborum), abdominals, and legs compared to other back exercises.1,2 This is because the torso is in a flexed position as the shoulder and elbow joints extend and flex, respectively, as the scapula retracts.

    Standing T-bar rows allow the lifter to execute scapular retraction with the option of a wide or narrow grip via two different handles. The narrow grip, on the perpendicular handles, places greater emphasis on shoulder extension. This places greater emphasis on the latissimus dorsi. The wide grip, on the horizontal handles, places greater emphasis on horizontal shoulder abduction, placing increased emphasis on the posterior (rear) deltoid as the back muscles symmetrically work in unison to retract the scapula.

    In addition to serving as an exercise that enhances the aesthetics of the upper and middle back, standing T-bar rows also complement weightlifting and sport performance.

    Fenwick CM, Brown SH, McGill SM. (2009). Comparison of different rowing exercises: trunk muscle activation and lumbar spine motion, load, and stiffness. JSCR. 23(2):350-8.

    Saeterbakken A, Andersen V, Brudeseth A, Lund H, Fimland MS. (2015). The Effect of Performing Bi- and Unilateral Row Exercises on Core Muscle Activation. Int J Sports Med. 36(11):900-5.

    Anatomy Of A Machine Standing T-Bar Row

    The latissimus dorsi is a broad, flat, and triangular-shaped muscle of the lower back. When defined, the “lats” form a “v” shape of the torso as they angle toward the waist. The latissimus dorsi is a primary shoulder adductor and shoulder extensor. In this exercise the latissimus dorsi is responsible for extending the shoulder as the bar is lifted upward (with both hand positions). Its origin is located along the spines of the lower six thoracic vertebrae, lower 3 to 4 ribs, and iliac crest of the pelvis. Its insertion spirals around the teres major as it inserts into the intertubercular groove of the humerus.

    A flat and triangular muscle, the trapezius is the most superficial muscle of the posterior thorax. The middle fibers run horizontally to the scapula. Its origin is located at the occipital bone, ligamentum nuchae, and spines of C7 and all thoracic vertebrae. Its insertion is located along the acromion and spine of the scapula and lateral region of the clavicle. The middle trapezius retracts the scapula. As a superficial muscle, developing the middle trapezius contributes to the overall aesthetics of the upper back.

    The rhomboids are two rectangular muscles that lie underneath the trapezius just below the levator scapulae. The rhomboids consist of the rhomboid minor and rhomboid major. The rhomboid minor is located above the rhomboid major and is more superficial. The origin of the rhomboid minor is located at the spinous processes of C7 and T1. The origin of the rhomboid major is located at the spinous processes of T2-T5. The insertion of both rhomboids major and minor is located at the medial border of the scapula. The rhomboids are synergists with the middle trapezius when retracting the scapula.

    The teres major is a thick muscle located underneath the teres minor. It helps to form the posterior wall of the axilla. A synergist of the latissimus dorsi, the teres major extends the shoulder in this exercise. Its origin is located at the posterior surface of the scapula at the inferior angle. Its insertion is located at the crest of the lesser tubercle on the anterior humerus (its tendon fused with that of the latissimus dorsi).

    The deltoid is a thick, multipennate muscle that forms a curtain around the shoulder. It is the primary muscle involved with arm abduction. When developed, the deltoids give the shoulder their round shape. The extension of the shoulder joint, as the T-bar is lifted, activates the posterior fibers of the deltoid when grabbing the perpendicular handles. When grabbing the horizontal handles, as with a wider grip, the posterior fibers of the deltoid horizontally abduct the shoulder joint. The origin of the deltoid is located at the insertion of the trapezius, lateral third of the clavicle and the acromion spine of the scapula. Its insertion is located at the deltoid tuberosity of the humerus.

    The biceps brachii consists of two heads, the long head and the short head. The long head tendon helps stabilize the shoulder joint and its origin is located at the tubercle and lip of the glenoid cavity of the scapula (shoulder blade). The short head origin is located at the coracoid process of the scapula (shoulder blade). The long and short head unite as the muscle bellies run down the front of the arm. Both heads merge, sharing insertion into the radial tuberosity of the elbow joint. The biceps brachii flexes the elbow joint as the T-bar is lifted upward.

    The brachialis lies underneath the biceps brachii, originating at the front of the lower end of the humerus bone. Its insertion is located at the coronoid process of the ulna at the elbow joint. The brachialis is a primary elbow flexor.

    The quadratus lumborum, iliocostalis, longissimus, spinalis, and semispinalis play an essential role in stabilizing the neck and upper and lower regions of the back during this exercise as the torso is in a flexed position.

    The abdominal muscles, rectus abdominis, external oblique and internal oblique also play an important role in stabilizing the torso.

    The hamstrings (i.e. biceps femoris, semitendinosus, semimembranosus) and quadriceps femoris (i.e. rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis) assist in stabilizing the torso from the lower extremity.

    The rotator cuff muscles help stabilize the shoulder joint as the scapular retract and the shoulder extends or horizontally adbducts. The wrist flexors maintain the wrists rigid and stabilized throughout the exercise.

    Variations Of A Machine Standing T-Bar Row

    T-bar row (with chest support pad), two-arm long bar row, one-arm long bar row, barbell bent-over row, dumbbell bent-over rows, one-arm dumbbell bent-over rows, bench rows, seated rows, standing one-arm low-pulley rows, machine rows.

    How To Improve Your Machine Standing T-Bar Rows

    Performing other variations of the T-Bar row (e.g. two-arm long bar row, T-bar row [with chest support pad]), in a strategic and periodized fashion, optimizes row performance and strength of the upper back muscles.

    Performing row exercises with varying grip widths and positions optimizes muscle fiber activation of the muscles involved. Over time, and strategic variation with your back training regimen, this enhances muscle hypertrophy and strength of the upper and middle back.

    Because this exercise is performing with the torso flexed forward, the lower back muscles may fatigue quickly for some individuals. This can increase negative stress on the lumbar region among individuals with a compromised lower back. Other alternatives of T-bar rowing exercises may be best suited if the lifter fatigues quickly or has prior back injury. Alternate exercises include the T-bar row (with chest suppot pad) bench row, incline bench row, and seated row.

    Focus more on the shoulder extension/horizontal shoulder abduction and scapular retraction to lift the T-bar upward as opposed to focusing on the hands dominating the effort of the lift. This will not only optimize muscle activation, but also prevent strain on the biceps brachii that could increase the risk of injury.

    Focus on the concentric portion of the contraction, concentrating on “squeezing” as the handles are lifted upward and scapula are retracted (“shoulder blades” are squeezed together).

    Emphasis on eccentric contractions, prolonging the eccentric portion of the contraction, may also be incorporated in a training program focused on increasing strength. This should be implemented accordingly and with adequate muscle recovery as eccentric contractions cause substantial damage to muscle tissue.

    It’s important to note that your repetition and set volume will depend on your goals (e.g. strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance). It is also important to allow adequate recovery days in between back, shoulder, and biceps training days to allow muscles to repair.

    Common Mistakes When Doing Machine Standing T-Bar Rows

    Using momentum to lift the bar (e.g. jerking the torso for assistance) minimizes the potential of force production of the involved muscles and can increase the risk for injury. It is important that both the eccentric and concentric phases of the exercise are controlled.

    Injuries Or Ailments & Their Effects Regarding Machine Standing T-Bar Rows

    If the lifter has a compromised range of motion with the back or shoulder joint and/or performs this exercise incorrectly, this exercise can increase the risk of injury and/or exacerbate a previous injury.

    If proper technique and recovery are not adhered to, impingement syndrome, rotator cuff injuries, and/or lower back injuries may occur.