Lower Back Injury from the T-Bar Row Exercise

The T-Bar Row exercise is one of the biggest mass builders for the back. It recruits the big muscles of the lats, traps and the rhomboids. It is a pulling exercise that allows you to lift heavy weight.

Although T-Bar row machines do exist, most bodybuilders who train at home simply use a plain straight barbell. One end is loaded with the barbell plates and the other end is simply stuck or jammed to a corner on the floor.

There are several ways of gripping the loaded barbell for the T-bar row exercise. Bodybuilders typically use an attachment bar of some sort to grip the bar.

The hand grip on the attachment handle can be overhand (as shown in the thumbnail photo), underhand or parallel. When I finished assembling my homemade parallel grip bar, the T-bar row exercise is one of a few exercises I thought of.

Back Pain from Improper Form

Barely has the paint dried on the parallel grip bar handles that I decided to try out my new homemade gym equipment. Excitement took the better of my judgement though.

A 25 lb. barbell plate isn't heavy at all and so I loaded that on one sleeve of the barbell. The parallel grip bar held up really well and was practically begging for more weight. In my eagerness with this newfound exercise, I heeded the call and added another 25 lb. barbell plate.

Realize though that I was just getting back to a regular fitness training routine after a foot injury. That means I haven't had strength training exercises for a long time.

Effect of Additional Weight Plates

Again, 50 lbs. isn't heavy but requires just a little more "oomph" than the 25 lb. plate. I was aware of improper form. But because I was trying out new equipment and exercise, I also explored possibilities in performing the exercise.

Playfully, I tried heaving and jerking the 50 lb. weight as I performed the T-Bar Row exercise. This time, the quads or thigh muscles were aiding the lift because of the jerk. Heck, it was only 50 lbs. I thought.

Well stupid me, I realize my lower back was getting stressed in short bursts because of the jerking motion. After putting down the bar, I felt a slight discomfort.

There was no pain, just a slight discomfort. It was only the following morning that I knew I whacked my lower back from the improper form.

Treatment for the Low Back Injury

The pain and discomfort I felt in the following days quickly reminded me of another lower back injury that I endured 6 years ago (2004). That was when I hurt my lower back after a set of heavy deadlifts at our old house. The weight was my all-time heaviest and I stupidly hyperextended my back at the last rep. Yup, another improper from.

That particular incident really scared me because of the thought that I might not be able to walk again. It was THAT painful.

The lower back pain that resulted from the T-Bar row exercise's improper form was lesser though similar. I still remember the physical therapy performed by the physiotherapists on my lower back rehab.

These were the modes of treatment advised by the rehab doctor at the rehabilitation clinic six years ago. And so I felt I could confidently treat this lower back injury on my own. And I did.

Steps for Treating the Lower Back

Here are the steps I did to treat my low back pain:
  1. Ice the area immediately. Lie face down and rest the icebag on the lower back. Do this twice a day for two days.

  2. Take a pain reliever or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) as needed only, i.e., when you feel pain.

  3. Completely rest for the following three weeks or more (depends on the persistence of pain). There should be no lifting whatsoever.

  4. In the morning, apply warm compress on the lower back. Lie face down and rest a hot water bottle on your lower back. You may have to put a towel or handkerchief between your back and the hot water bottle if the hot water bottle is too hot.

    The heat should be high enough to be comforably bearable but not high enough to burn your skin. Do this for 15 to 20 minutes.

  5. After the warm compress, perform the Williams Flexion exercises for the back. Do this slowly and carefully at low intensity for the first week, gradually increasing intensity in the following weeks.

Lower back pain from injury is always bad news. The pain limits your day-to-day functions. The modalities of treatment like the warm compresses and Williams exercises can be time-consuming.

And the setback can derail your strength training goals. Just take it easy for the next few weeks and treat this hiatus as a needed and welcome break.


If there is unusual persistent pain, consulting with a doctor would be the best thing you could do. The Medical Departures link below will let you find the best and affordable doctors in the field. Find one now!

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