How to Do Inverted Rows

Inverted Rows
Image credit: Will Heffernan

Barbell Rows are one of the best weight lifting exercises “” when done correctly. The usual problems are tight hip muscles causing your lower back to round or too much hip extension, turning Barbell Rows into Deadlifts.

Inverted Rows are a variation of Barbell Rows that remove the above problems. They’re also one of the few strength training exercises that justify the existence of Smith Machines. Here’s how to do Inverted Rows.

Benefits of Inverted Rows.
Inverted Rows ““ also known as Horizontal Pull-ups or Fatman Pull-ups ““ are an upper-body exercise. Benefits:

  • Back Strength. Inverted Rows work your upper-back, lats & traps. They also work your biceps muscles and several small muscles in your back.
  • Barbell Row Substitute. If your lower back keeps rounding, you can do Inverse Rows while improving hip mobility using dynamic stretches.
  • Improved Posture. Slouching shoulders are often linked with flaring shoulder-blades. Inverted Rows can help realign your shoulder-blades.

How to Do Inverted Rows.
Lie back on the floor inside your Squat Rack with the bar at arms length. Pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar.

  • Pronated Grip. Same grip as for Pull-ups: palms facing away from your body. Grip the bar slightly narrower than on the Bench Press.
  • Elbows Tucked. Not parallel to your torso. Keep your elbows close to your body, about 45° angle at your armpits.
  • Lead with Your Chest. Not with your stomach or head. Keep your chin tucked, chest forward and shoulder-blades back & down.
  • Touch Your Lower Chest. Same place the bar touches your chest on the Bench Press: your xyphoid process.
  • Squeeze Your Shoulder-blades. Lead with your chest, keep your shoulder-blades back & down, tighten your upper-back at the top.
  • Stay Tight. Straight line from shoulders to ankles. Keep your lower back & abs tight from start to finish.

Here’s a video of Joe DeFranco doing Feet Elevated Inverted Rows. – Inverted rows (feet elevated)

Inverted Rows Variations.
Put your feet on the floor if you struggle with Feet Elevated Inverted Rows. Switch to bent knees if these are still hard.

  • Bent Knees Inverted Rows. Knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Use your upper-body muscles as much as you can on the way up.
  • Inverted Rows. Knees extended, feet on the floor. Elevate your feet on a box once these get easy.
  • Feet Elevated Inverted Rows. Moves the center of gravity towards the bar, increasing difficulty. Body parallel with the floor at the bottom.
  • Weighted Inverted Rows. Wear a rucksack filled with plates or Xvest or wrap chains around your body while doing Inverted Rows.
  • Ring Inverted Rows. Harder to stabilize. Touch the Rings or Blast Straps handles with your chest on each rep. Feet elevated or on the floor.

Inverted Rows Mistakes. Make sure your arms are fully extended at the start of each rep and squeeze your shoulder-blades at the top.

  • Elbows out. Increases the torque on your shoulder joint. Keep your elbows tucked: 45° angle to your body.
  • Leading with Your Head. Increases risks of neck injuries. Lead with your chest while keeping your chin tucked.
  • Letting Your Torso Sack. Bad for your lower back. Keep a straight line from ankles to shoulders. Strengthen your core with Prone Bridges.
  • Not Touching the Bar. You lack strength. Switch to an easier version of the Inverted Row while you get stronger.
  • Slouching Your Shoulders. Increases risks of shoulder injuries. Keep your shoulders back, shoulder-blades back & down, chest up.

If you’re a loyal reader, you’ve noticed I’ve given you a substitute for Squats, one for Deadlifts, and now one for Barbell Rows. Subscribe to see where I’m going with this (and get a free eBook).

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