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How to Build Incredible Back Muscle and Strength with the Inverted Row (For ALL Athletes)

Build a better back.

This complete guide will teach you everything you need to know about the Inverted Row Exercise.

What Is the Inverted Row?

Also known as the Bodyweight Row, the Inverted Row is a back focused pulling exercise.

In the inverted position, the athlete must hold their body straight and pull it up to the bar whilst their feet are on the ground.

What Muscles Does the Inverted Row Work?

The exercise mainly activates muscle groups in your upper body, these include:

Additionally, the stabiliser muscles that work in conjunction with these muscle groups are also tested and improved.

Benefits of the Inverted Row

There are many benefits to this bodyweight exercise.

Best Rear Delt Exercises t bar row Upper Body Workout for Max Muscle Growth Fastest Way to Bigger Rear Delts Is 3 Sets of 12 Reps Killing your Gains Inverted RowSource: Nigel Msipa

Great Warm Up Exercise

The movement is an excellent way to warm up for other back based exercises such as bench presses, pull-ups and deadlifts.

Build Upper Body Muscle

This Row variation can help pack on muscle mass for your upper body.

Improve Upper Body Strength

You will challenge and enhance your back and upper body pulling power and strength with this exercise.

A More Injury Resistant Back

Stronger backs lead to reduced chances of back pain, bad posture, poor stability and weak core strength.

The traps, lats, rhomboids and erector spinae all contribute to a more powerful back, and are all worked by the Inverted Row.

Easy to Scale Up or Down

The exercise is easy to scale up (make harder) or down (make easier) depending on your aim and fitness level.

The lower your body position, the harder it will be.

You can even add a weights vest to raise the difficulty level as well.

An Excellent Finisher

If you want to sap every last drop of energy from your muscles at the end of a workout then add the Inverted Row in as a finisher.

Try 2 – 3 sets to failure to maximise the pump.

It Builds a Stronger Grip

This movement will help you to build a vice like grip.

Grip the bar as hard as you can at all times to help activate the forearms as well during the full range of motion.

Flexible Grip Variations

You can easily switch up your grip to keep your body guessing. Try an underhand mixed grip if you want to change up the stimulus for your body.

Beginner Friendly

Calisthenics are an excellent place for new lifters to start.

They provide a safe place to learn movements and generally start to develop better proprioceptive abilities.

There is also much less chance of injury.

An Excellent Pull-Up Progression

If you’re struggling with full pull ups then the Inverted Row is a good way to build up more upper body strength.

Over time, you will feel stronger and more confident, and this will carry across to pull ups.

Inverted Rows vs. Pull-Ups: 3 Essential Differences

There are 3 main differences between the Inverted Row and Pull Ups.

DifferenceEffect
Range of MotionPull Up has a greater range of motion
Movement PatternRow is horizontal, Pull Up is vertical
Muscles WorkedRow places more emphasis on the rhomboids, Pull Up targets the lats to a larger degree

How to Do an Inverted Row

Set up a barbell on a squat rack at roughly waist height.

Use the following instructions to perform this exercise correctly.

  • Lie on the floor beneath the barbell
  • Reach up and grab the barbell with a pronated grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart
  • Rotate your shoulders outwards to engage the lats
  • Straighten your whole body so that it rests in a completely straight line
  • Breathe in and tense your core, glutes, grip and back
  • Activate your lats and pull your body upwards towards the bar
  • Rise until your chest touches the barbell. Your arms should be at a roughly 45-degree angle
  • Pause at the top and tense your lats as tightly as you can
  • Slowly lower your body back to the starting position
  • Exhale
  • Repeat the desired number of reps

Training Tips

Make sure to allow your shoulder blades to retract as you pull your body toward the barbell.

Your upper arms should always be in line with your body.

Inverted Row Variations

Add these variations into your training if you want to switch up the stimulus.

Tempo Inverted Row

This variation introduces a tempo to increase time under tension and force the lifter to move with rhythm and consistency.

Legs-Bent Row

Great option for beginners. You make it easier by bending the legs.

Feet-Elevated Row

Use a box or set of bumper plates to elevate your feet. This will increase the range of motion and make the movement harder.

Inverted Row Alternatives

If you can’t (or don’t want to) perform the original version, then these are all intelligent alternatives.

Ring Row

This adds instability to the movement which will make the core work harder.

TRX Row

Similar to the ring row, this allows you to keep the “bar” grip bur combine it with the instability of the straps.

Chest-Supported Row

This allows you to support your chest on a bench and eliminate the momentum. This allows you to really feel and activate the back muscles.

Learn More

Add these effective press alternatives to your training:

Or build leg strength with Nordic Curls and a better upper body with Chin Ups.

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