How Arnold Schwarzenegger 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.