How Arnold Schwarzenegger Used T-Bar Rows To Build His Back

Cory Gregory
Written By: Cory Gregory
September 15th, 2015
Updated: December 17th, 2020
69K Reads
How Arnold Used T-Bar Rows To Build His Back
Want to build a back like Arnold Schwarzenegger? T-bar rows were a staple in his exercise repertoire and they should be for you as well.

One of the classic clips that I always enjoyed from Arnold was the T-Bar row.

It was so epic watching him walk up to the barbell, usually barefoot, stack a huge amount of 45s on there and just pump out a bunch of reps with incredible intensity.

The range of motion he used, the angle he kept his body and, of course, how much he focused on this movement - both for development and how hard he trained it - really stood out to me.

It’s not considered one of the big three movements like bench press, deadlift or squat, but, to me, it’s definitely in that next tier of important exercises when it comes to building size and muscle.

Back Building With The Best

To be honest, T-bar rows are imperative for back development and if you’re not doing them (with proper form) - or at least some version of a heavy row - you’re doing your back a disservice and it will be noticeable.

It’s definitely one of the basic exercises but it’s also definitely becoming extinct in commercial gyms.

Why is that? Well, it’s a little different and it requires you going heavy and going intense. It might just be that simple.

But, truthfully, it’s easy to throw a bar in the corner, pile on some plates and even use a number of different handles, and then get to rowing.

Heck, you can even use the modern day T-Bar row if you can find it in the gym. That one will usually be a chest-supported version, unlike the T-Bar rows Arnold or Franco did, but it’s better than not rowing at all.

What I have always liked about the OG T-Bar row is that it also taxes your lower back to a great extent, which is a entirely different from the chest-supported seated row.

When you go back through all the classic training clips from the Pumping Iron days, the T-Bar row was literally everywhere in the footage. They understood the importance of this movement and it was a major staple in Arnold’s back arsenal.

As you can see in the video, he used quite a bit of roundness throughout the entirety of his spine, but everything was smooth and under control. It was also a testament to just how freaky strong Arnold’s back was at the time. He could deadlift around 700 pounds during this era, which is an impressive number for any era.

There’s no doubt that the T-Bar played a big role in building his deadlift and also his massive back when he stepped on stage.

His willingness to do this movement, do it often, do it heavy and do it intensely made him stand out, and still makes his back look impressive to this day.

If you want a thick, strong back, this has to be a staple for you. If you’re a beginner just trying this movement, I would recommend keeping your chest up a little more until you find your groove with the movement.

Everyone’s angles will be different, but the focus should be on getting a good, smooth range of motion and really feeling it across the entire back, even when going heavy.

If you’re an intermediate or advanced level lifter, be a boss and really get after it on this movement. The big thing is just bringing this movement back into your back day, and keeping it on heavy rotation.

We included a sample Arnold back workout that features T-Bar rows – and barbell rows for that matter – to really give you a sense of a killer back workout.

Row to Grow

It doesn’t matter if it’s a garage gym or commercial gym, I absolutely would not neglect the T-Bar row.

That is, unless you don’t care about making some impressive back gains.

Dustin Lockerman
Posted on: Sat, 03/09/2019 - 13:52

I have been doing T-BAR ROWS practicly the same way as Arnold did them, and all anyone ever says is that I'm doing them wrong some way or another

Malak Youssef
Posted on: Mon, 10/08/2018 - 04:34

i will add this program to my 6th day in my 6 days Pull Push Legs workout !
Push A : chest shoulders triceps
Pull A : back traps biceps
Push B : chest shoulders triceps
Pull B : back traps biceps
legs back of arnold !

Posted on: Wed, 09/16/2015 - 13:55

I am definitively gonna include t-bar raw in my upcoming German volume training starting next week

Posted on: Fri, 10/02/2015 - 09:37

Hey how did the t bar work with your GVT? I just started that yesterday with legs. Let me know, thanks!

Posted on: Wed, 04/28/2021 - 14:16

Hey Ajith, just wanted to post an update. I worked up to 135lbs for 5 reps in the power clean at a bodyweight of 210lbs. Not amazing, but I'm pretty proud with what I accomplished. I then deloaded to 85lbs to work on technique and now can do 135lbs for 3 solid reps, really pleased with the progress. My bodyweight has exploded too, up to 252lbs, been bulking hard lol. Gonna cut for the summer on the beach now and see how ripped I can get.

Posted on: Wed, 12/09/2020 - 16:27

I hear you Bro! Make sure you get dem gainz, get dem I say!

Posted on: Fri, 06/12/2020 - 09:54

Hey man, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I tried t bar rows with GVT, but snapped my shit up for real. Ended up having to take 3 years out of the gym, lost all my gainz. Started back on the elliptical at first, then progressed onto seal rows with a pvc pipe for a while, now back to barbell rowing 500 lbs for sets of 10. But I won't don't bar rows again. Or GVT, haven't decided really.

Posted on: Wed, 11/18/2020 - 14:39

Aw no way man! Good to hear you are back at it, get dem gainz boy! I think I will do power cleans cos Mark Rippetoe says they are great. Gonna start next week!