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6 Dumbest T-Bar Row Mistakes Sabotaging Your Back Growth

Stop Doing These!

Posted by Scott_Herman - February 23rd, 2018

Welcome back to the DUMBEST MISTAKES SERIES! If you missed my last video “7 Dumbest Pull-Up Mistakes” you can check that out by clicking on the blue text in this paragraph. But today, we are going to go over the 6 Dumbest T-BAR ROW mistakes sabotaging your back growth, and to be honest, so many of you are not taking full advantage of the MASSIVE GROWTH POTENTIAL this exercise has to offer because of these mistakes.

This is because the T-Bar Row combines the compound nature of rowing with its massive capacity for overloading in a safe and effective manner. Therefore, it is CRUCIAL that you learn how to execute the movement correctly to get the most out of it without getting injured in the process.

MISTAKE #1 - Keeping Your Legs Straight During The Lift

As with every rowing movement, I see many people in the gym NOT bending their knees, and often times getting injured because of it. But it goes beyond just injuring yourself. If you are not bending your knees during the movement, then you don’t have a solid base to hold yourself in place to lift the maximum amount of weight. It’s that simple. Bending your knees allows you to push your hips BACK, so that the weight is directly underneath your center of gravity as opposed to in front of you.

This is physics 101 and it’s called a lever. The longer the lever, the harder it’s going to be to lift the weight. And when I say harder, I don’t mean you’re overloading your lats and upper back more. In fact, if you have lower back pain from this exercise this is why, because your lower back has to work TRIPLE OVERTIME when your legs are straight. So if you enjoy lower back pain, keep those legs straight!  If not…bend them!

MISTAKE #2 - Not Bending Over Enough During The Movement

Proper form with this movement calls for your upper body to be PARALLEL to the floor and for every extra degree of “less parallel” you are, you’re shifting the emphasis from your lats and middle back to your upper back and traps. Now don’t get me wrong, if you want to work upper back and traps you should be more upright. But if the main reason you’re doing a T-Bar row is to target the lats, you need to be bent over as much as possible.

The only exception to this rule would be if you’re using my Cheat & Recover style of training, or you’re following my new Cheat & Recover program. During the cheat reps, it’s OK to be a bit more upright and use some momentum to jerk the bar to the top and then try to control the negative as much as possible as you return to the parallel position. By overloading the movement with so much weight, your entire back is going to be activated regardless of the angle of your torso in relation to the floor. However, after your cheat set, you will still perform 8 recover reps with proper form to fully activate those areas that you’re neglecting during your cheat set.

MISTAKE #3- Not Taking Advantage Of Multiple Attachments & Grips

The back is a fairly massive muscle group with many different muscles, insertion points and functions. Therefore, it makes sense to target it from different angles from time to time and not stick to the same old rowing variation!

The T-Bar Row is truly a versatile exercise so treat it as such! You can use the normal V-handle or you can use the straight bar handle. From there, you can perform an overhand or an underhand-grip row, or you can even avoid the use of any attachments and grip the bar with your hands directly. This will place uneven stress to your back which is great for stabilization and further muscle damage. Just be sure to alternate your grip with every set to always maintain balance.

MISTAKE #4 – Using 45lbs Plates Instead Of 25lbs Plates

Why is this a mistake? Well, it’s not exactly a MISTAKE but you can certainly upgrade the exercise and your muscle building potential if you use 25lbs plates instead of 45lbs. The 25s are much smaller in diameter, so they allow for a bit more range of motion. What I’m saying is that the 45s will hit your stomach area FASTER than the 25s, which allow the bar to move a greater distance. And remember…More Range Of Motion (ROM) means more Time Under Tension (TUT), which means more muscle damage and more strength gains and muscle gains.

Now, if you’re a really strong dude who rows 5 or 6 45lbs plates when T-Bar rowing, obviously it doesn’t make sense to swap those for 10 or 12 25s. However, I know most of you are in the 2 – 4 plate range, which means you’ll greatly benefit if you switch to 25s instead.

MISTAKE #5 – Maintaining The Wrong Posture While Doing The Lift

One of the worst things you can do during this movement is place too much tension in your neck and upper spine. When performing ANY rowing exercise, you want to keep your neck and spine as neutral as possible to avoid any kind of excess tension which can cause a strain in the muscles in the area or even worse, a tension headache. This means that if your upper body is parallel to the floor, then your face should be as well. The biggest reason most gym goers keep their head up during this movement is because they want to look at themselves in the mirror. Well, DON’T. The gains don’t come until AFTER the workout is over so there is no need to admire yourself during your repetitions!

MISTAKE #6 – Pulling With Your Biceps Instead Of Your Back

Ever feel like you’re getting more of an ARM WORKOUT than back activation when doing a row?  Well this is due to a few reasons. Reason number 1 is that you probably are not retracting your scapula at the top of the movement. In order to fully engage your back during every repetition, your scapula should be fully retracted at the top of the movement and fully stretched at the bottom. In fact, a one second hold at the top is optimal to ensure you’re squeezing the muscles in your back as hard as you can, especially if you need help improving your mind muscle connection!

The second reason is that you might be gripping the weight so hard that you instinctively activate more biceps and forearms. But what you need to do is envision pulling the weight with your back, and you can achieve this by imagining your hands as hooks and pulling with your elbows.  This way the weight is just passing through the biceps, but not necessarily being lifted by them. OR, last but not least, you can just use wrist straps!


I know that compound movements like this take time to master, but as long as you’re aware of what not to do, you will see significant muscle gains in no time!  One final thing to keep in mind with this movement, is once you are able to lift some HEAVY WEIGHT, make sure you toss on a belt to help stabilize your core!

Related Videos:

5 Dumbest Dumbbell Bicep Curl Mistakes Sabotaging Your Bicep Growth! | STOP DOING THESE!

8 Dumbest Bench Mistakes Sabotaging Your Chest Growth! | STOP DOING THESE!

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