…continued – Upper Back – Lats

T-Bar Rows

This movement is similar to barbell rows in effect. T-Bar rows are an excellent exercise for back thickness. Primary muscles involved are the lats. Secondary muscles used are the biceps, forearms, shoulders, lower back, quads, hamstrings, and a little bit of chest.


There are many different T-Bar row machines – if you want to call it a machine. Some are real good and some really suck. The movement should be natural. This is key. If the T-Bar row puts you into a position that is awkward it will probably do more harm than good. Remember, Max-OT works with the natural biomechanics of your body and not against them.

Grip the handle (I like a close grip with my palms facing each other) and pull the handle toward the bottom of your ribcage. Keep your head up. At the top of the movement – expand your chest and flex your back. Keep your knees bent and your lower back straight – do not “round” your lower back. Lower the weight twice as slowly as you raise it and stretch at the bottom

One Arm Dumbbell Rows

Typically one arm movements are considered very inefficient. They require almost twice the energy and take twice as long to complete. So from an overload and efficiency standpoint I would certainly choose Barbell Rows over One Arm Dumbbell Rows. However, Dumbbell Rows are such a good exercise I will at times make an exception. Primary muscles involved are the lats. Secondary muscles used are the biceps, forearms, shoulders, lower back, and a little bit of chest.


Use a flat bench and place one knee on the bench and one hand on the bench so that your back is flat and parallel to the floor. Grip the dumbbell and pull it to the lower part of your ribcage. Make sure you pull the dumbbell to your lower ribcage and keep your elbows in close to your side the entire movement. Flex your lats at the top and stretch them at the bottom.

Max-OT Tip:
On all rowing movements pull the weight to your lower ribcage and not to your chest. This directs almost all the overload to your lats and away from your shoulders

These are the most effective movements for building a thick, wide, and strong, upper back. There are many different machines available for training back, but none are better than the exercises I just outlined. We do have two pieces of equipment in our performance lab that stand out. One is a Magnum plate load bi-angular pull down machine that simulates pull-ups very closely. The other is a bi-angular plate loaded row machine that’s pretty good.

Remember, overload, intensity, contract and flex, and stretch. You can pack a lot of muscle and size on your upper back, but it takes overload. Max-OT overload.

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