How To Properly T-Bar Row via the Tutelage of Joe Bennett

After the movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem was released in the USA in August 2023, the crimefighting, pizza-eating, jacked reptiles have seen a resurgence. Aside from the comparable aesthetics of developed musculature, perhaps that’s why renowned trainer Joe Bennett describes using the chest-supported T-bar row as a way to build the upper back like a turtle shell.

In his May 20, 2024, YouTube video, Bennett takes IFBB Pro John Ballard through a T-bar row workout. Bennett’s goal was to aid Ballard in building his back and demonstrate cues and lifting principles applied in real-time.

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What Muscles Does the T-Bar Row Target?

The T-bar row is one of the best exercises for targeting the latissimus dorsi, the large muscles covering most of the back. These lats flare and give the appearance of “wings” during front and back posing.

The T-bar row also targets the traps. Bennett discusses at length contracting the traps at the top of each rep to acquire the benefits of the exercise. The traps span from the upper to the mid-back.

Although not the main target, the rear delts are also taxed during T-bar rows. Located on the posterior of the shoulder, rear delts are typically engaged in pulling movements, especially those that use a wider grip.

Step-By-Step Break Down of T-Bar Row Form

In a one-off training session, Bennett aims to provide proper cues and form and show Ballard what proper T-bar rows should look and feel like. To do this, Bennett breaks down the entire movement from positioning to the full range of motion.

1. Lean Against Chest Pad

Most chest-supported T-bar row machines have an adjustable footplate that can be customized based on height. Bennett doesn’t use the footplate; rather, he has Ballard keep his feet firmly on the ground to focus on where his chest leans against the pad.

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Bennett quickly dispelled the misconception that if the legs are too far in front of the chest pad, the lifter cheats by using their lower body for leverage. Bennett says the lower body can’t be sufficiently engaged if the chest is the main contact point against the pad.

Once Ballard leaned against the chest pad to pull the T-bar, Bennett told him not to hunch over. He should stick his chest out and straighten his back with a slight arch at the bottom.

2. Get a Wide Overhand Grip & Squeeze at the Top

Bennett didn’t discuss the different grips one could use on the T-bar row, but he did instruct Ballard to take a wider grip. He wanted the bodybuilder to protract the lats so that they could fully lengthen.

Bennett also kept an eye on a full retraction of the scapula at the top of the pull — something Bennett emphasized during warm-ups. The Hypertrophy Coach urged Ballard to remember that fully retracted feeling when training with heavier weights during working sets. Bennett was not shy to remind Ballard to keep squeezing even when fatiguing toward the end of a set.

Bennett recommended not using lighter weights during working sets to achieve that squeeze at the top. Lightening the load solely for peak contraction would harm the lengthened position of this exercise. Bennett said a training partner can be helpful to assist in achieving a full range of motion when fatigue sets in.

3. Pause at the Bottom

Lower the weight slowly by maintaining control over the entire lengthening and flaring of the lats. Once the arms are fully extended, pause at the bottom of the movement before pulling the bar back up to the chest.

Pausing at the bottom ensures a full lengthening of the lats. This pause will also prevent any bouncing of the weight, which could create momentum and make it easier to pull the T-bar.

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4. Use Controlled Fluidity

The overall goal is to have fluid motion throughout the entire T-bar row. From a full contraction of the traps and retraction of the scapula to lengthening the lats, Bennett’s goal is always to maintain control and fluidity.

A spotter can be a huge help to assist in completing the full range of motion, prevent undertraining, highlight sticking points, and help finish reps to failure.

If you cannot find a spotter, write down how many reps were full and how many were partial. This distinction can help progress future workouts.

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Featured image: @hypertrophycoach on Instagram

The post How To Properly T-Bar Row via the Tutelage of Joe Bennett appeared first on BarBend.


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