Inverted Rows

Inverted Rows

Inverted rows are the less popular cousin of the pull-up. They don’t look as cool as grabbing a pull-up bar, suspending yourself in the air, and pulling yourself up through sheer strength and power.

That said, inverted rows are still highly beneficial for trainees of all levels, and a fantastic bodyweight exercise for your back. Let’s discuss what makes them great.

Table of Contents

What Are Inverted Rows?

Inverted rows are a bodyweight exercise where you grab a horizontal bar, walk your feet forward to angle your body, and pull yourself up. Unlike pull-ups, your feet stay in contact with the ground.

The more upright your body is, the easier each rep feels. In contrast, a more horizontal position makes the movement more challenging.

Benefits of Inverted RowsA notable benefit of inverted rows is that it works for beginners. Trainees can adjust the difficulty by using a more vertical or horizontal body position. 

Being more horizontal (more parallel to the floor) makes the exercise more challenging, whereas staying more upright is beginner-friendly.

Another benefit of inverted rows is they strengthen multiple upper body muscles, primarily the upper back, shoulders, biceps, forearms, and midsection (abs, obliques, etc.).

Muscles Worked

Primary Muscles Worked 💪

  • Lats
  • Upper Back 

Secondary Muscles Worked 💪

  • Biceps
  • Shoulders
  • Forearms
  • Midsection (abs, obliques)

How to Perform Inverted Rows

Things to keep in mind:

  • Keep your body straight and your abs engaged
  • Avoid arching your lower back
  • Wrap your thumb over the bar
  • Do reps slowly and through a full range of motion

Step-by-Step: Performing an Inverted Row

  1. Grab a sturdy horizontal bar with an overhand grip (palms facing down).
    (you can also use cables)
  2. Engage your core and walk your feet forward to lean your body back into a more horizontal position. The ideal position will depend on your familiarity with the movement and strength. Start with a more upright position to get used to the exercise.
  3. Retract your shoulder blades, squeeze your glutes, and take a deep breath.
  4. Pull yourself up to the horizontal bar and hold for a moment.
  5. Slowly extend your arms as you exhale.

Inverted Rows: Variations & Tweaks

As mentioned above, the primary way to tweak inverted rows is by adjusting your body’s position. A more upright position is beginner-friendly because you lift a smaller percentage of your body weight. (1)

In contrast, a more horizontal position means you must pull more of yourself, making each rep more difficult.

More advanced trainees can go as far as to elevate their feet on a sturdy object, such as a plyo box or gym bench. Doing so would make the movement even more difficult.

Inverted Rows: Wide to Narrow

Here is a nice variation of the standard inverted row. You start with your grip very wide on the bar, and gradually move your hands to a more narrow position. This works your back at different angles, and slightly varies the muscles worked.

Inverted Bodyweight Row

Final Tips and Recommendations

The beauty of inverted bodyweight rows is that trainees can adjust the difficulty to fit their current strength. Because of that, we recommend positioning your body at an angle that allows you to do 10 to 15 smooth and controlled reps through a full range of motion.

Gradually become more horizontal, but take your time to build strength and focus on proper form and a stable body position.

Additionally, take your time to warm up through a combination of some light cardio (jumping jacks, jogging in place, incline treadmill walking), dynamic stretching (arm swings, elbow rotations, wrist twists, torso rotations, etc.), and a couple of warm-up sets, where you do just a few light inverted row reps.

And one last safety and obvious focus is to make sure your bar can easily support your body’s weight. This might sound really obvious, but there are many accidents that occur with exercises involving body weight.

Taking the time to prepare will promote safety, improve your performance, and get you in the groove for inverted row success. (2)

Also check some other great bodyweight exercises:

Click for more bodyweight exercises, and also to see our video library of bodyweight workouts.

Philip Stefanov

Philip Stefanov

Philip is a fitness writer, blogger, certified personal trainer, and the founder of ThinkingLifter.com. He has spent the last nine years writing fitness content and training men and women in the gym, as well as online. His passion is fitness and exercise, and helping others improve their fitness and wellness.

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References

  1. Boulter, S. (2017, July 25). Body row variations for pulling strength. Medium.
    https://medium.com/@thesimonboulter/body-row-variations-for-pulling-strength-c496a2f85616
  2. Elizabeth Quinn, M. S. (2020, March 13). Prevent injuries. Verywell Fit.
    https://www.verywellfit.com/how-to-warm-up-before-exercise-3119266 

Click to see our medical disclosure.