The Best Ring Row Back Workouts for CrossFit Athletes

Ring rows, also known as inverted push ups, are a great movement to build back, core and general upper body strength. Its variations can make it challenging for both beginners and advanced athletes.

The ring row provides a functional and effective horizontal pulling motion that is hard to duplicate.

“It is such a fantastic and underutilized movement. Most of us would be well served to do more of them,” says Pat Sherwood, owner of CrossFit Linchpin and member of the CrossFit seminar staff.

Ring rows are effective for:

  • Increasing pulling strength
  • Correcting muscle imbalances
  • Improving midline stabilisation
  • Training back muscles

They are also great stepping stones towards harder skills.

Like any other inverted row, the ring row works the lats and erectors, building upper body pulling strength and helping increase stability and strength in your back.


  • Keep your core tight and straight throughout: a stable core is incredibly important when practising ring rows, as it’ll help you build strict strength. Rounding your core can lead to aiding this movement with your hips, when a strict pull is what you should aim for.
  • Active shoulders: just like with push-ups and pull-ups, don’t let your shoulders round, this can lead to injury and will decrease the effectiveness of the ring rows. The pulling motion of the ring rows begins with contraction of the scapulae, drawing the shoulder blades together and the shoulders back.
  • Toes pointed up: keep your toes pointed up so you perform this movement without any assistance from your feet
  • Ribcage to rings: drive your elbows back, keeping them close to your ribcage, and pull with the arms until your chest passes through the rings, all along keeping a tight body.
  • Slowly lower yourself: yes, ring rows are a pulling movement, but performing negatives will help you increase strength and consequently improve your ring rows.
  • Challenge yourself often: move your feet further forward to make this move harder. The farther forward you walk, the more severe angle you’ll have, thus making the pull harder.


You can alter the difficulty of the ring row by changing the angle of the body. As your body angle increases, the difficulty of the movement decreases.

Beginner athletes can perform them almost standing up, while advanced athletes will do ring rows from an almost horizontal position.

Make sure you keep to a level that keeps your core and back muscles engaged.

Scale up difficulty

The elevated ring row makes the movement a lot harder. Raise the feet level or above the rings. To get to an almost horizontal point, put your feet up on a box or ladder, keeping your toes up in the air. Stabilise your body and pull up, bringing the rings towards your ribcage. You’ll now be pulling a greater percentage of your body.

Scale down difficulty

The crunch and row scales down the difficulty considerably while keeping functionality. Instead of standing, the athlete will sit down, legs bent (in a similar position to the sit up), and pull yourself up. Your abs and hip flexors will assist your upper back and arms.

Don’t underestimate ring rows, you can always make them harder.

3 Ring Row Variations to Build Strict Strength


Workout 1 – The More The Easier  

With a Running Clock in 30 minutes

From 0:00-10:00

12-9-6 reps of:

  • Burpee Box Jump Overs (24/20 in)
  • Muscle-Ups

From 10:00-20:00

24-18-12 reps of:

  • Burpees
  • Chest-to-Bar Pull-Ups

From 20:00-30:00

42-36-24 reps of:

  • Push-Ups
  • Rings Rows

This workout moves from complex to simple movements and from lower to higher volume. Try to complete each couplet well before the 10-minute time limit.

Ring row workouts are a fantastic way to help counter the daily hunching over your computer, phone or desk. The movement helps to strengthen the muscles between the shoulder blades and shift the shoulders back into a healthier position.

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