Pulling movements are important for building your back, biceps, and forearms while increasing your overall upper body strength. Although sometimes neglected because the more popular pressing movements like the bench press take precedence, it’s as crucial to pull as it is to push. Chances are you’ve opened a door or two today, and you can thank pulling exercises for making that task easier.
The inverted row is one of those pulling exercises that can help balance muscle strength between your front and your back and can help posture and stability. Not to mention, it’s a great exercise for beginners or for anyone without access to the gym since you can perform it almost anywhere. If you’re still not convinced on why you should be turning your workout upside down, check out more benefits of the inverted row below.
Benefits of the Inverted Row
- A Larger Upper Body
- A Stronger Grip
- It’s Beginner Friendly
- It’s a Pull-Up Progression
- You’ll Improve Stability
- It’s a Compound Exercise
A strong back is essential for posture, stability, and can aid in injury prevention, so exercises like the inverted row that work the back muscles should be in your workout regimen. The lats, traps, rhomboids, posterior deltoids, and erector spinae are just some of the bigger muscles the inverted row works, although it also targets the biceps, forearms, abs, and even the hamstrings and glutes.
You can make the inverted row easier or harder, so it’s functionally like any other exercise in existence. Even if you can rep out pull-ups for days, the Inverted row works the back from a unique angle and allows for more volume (as it’s generally easier). This is a great movement to perform at the end of a back workout to really finish off the muscles fibers (so to speak).
The biceps and forearms are two muscles that contribute to grip strength, and the inverted row works these muscles — hard. By strengthening your gripping muscles, you can increase your weight load and as studies suggest, may decrease your mortality risk. (1) T
he inverted row also allows you to use multiple grips, including the overhand, underhand, and mixed grip, each of which reap their own benefits. The overhand grip is good for building grip strength and is typically recommended for lighter loads. An underhand grip typically brings the biceps more into play. A mixed grip allows for less grip fatigue (just be sure to switch hands each set) so you can perform more relative volume.
As a beginner lifter, there’s no better place to start than calisthenics. The inverted row uses your own body weight, so there’s a potential for less risk of injury 9comared to loading up your joints and tendons with weight) and a great way to build the muscles necessary for more advanced exercises like the bent-over row and the pull-up.
Since one can perform the inverted row almost anywhere, you don’t necessarily need to be at the gym to do it. So if home workouts are more your style, this is a great option.
One of the more challenging bodyweight exercises is the pull-up. The pull-up requires an immense amount of relative bodyweight strength, control, and stability. Performing a pull-up requires a lot of strength as well as progression and practice.
Since the inverted row mimics the pull-up at a less intense angle (in between horizontal and vertical as opposed to completely vertical), it can be a beneficial progression exercise. The inverted row helps strengthen the back and arm muscles, which are the primary muscles used in a pull-up.
Stability is essential for safe and efficient weight lifting as well as improved day-to-day life. Core stability provides support for the spine, and shoulder stability aids in overhead lifting, both of which are improved by performing the inverted row.
Compound exercises are exercises that use more than one muscle group at a time instead of isolating one muscle group like the biceps curl. Research suggests that performing compound exercises over isolation exercises have significant benefits in improved VO2max, physical performance, and general fitness. (2)
Since the inverted row is a compound exercise that targets the back, biceps, forearms, glutes, and hamstrings, by the suggested study, you can benefit more from performing this exercise because of the recruitment of multiple muscle groups.
How to Do the Inverted Row
The benefits of the inverted row may have taught you how to help build your upper body strength or at least given your workout some variety. Either way, let’s break down how to perform it in this step-by-step guide.
- Find a barbell or a stable apparatus to set yourself up on. Get underneath the barbell.
- Grab the barbell with the grip of your choice (overhand, underhand, or mixed) with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
- Extend your arms so you’re hanging low, almost parallel to the ground and extend your legs, so they are straight and only your heels are on the ground.
- Keep your body in a straight line with your spine in neutral and core tight. Use your back and arms to pull your chest up to the bar.
- Once you’ve reached a full range of motion, slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.
Inverted Row Variations
It may surprise you that the inverted row is more difficult than it looks, especially after a few reps. There are plenty of different variations that allow for progression, provide challenges, or just change up the exercise. Check out some of the best ones below.
The ring row is extremely similar to the inverted row but is performed with gymnastic rings instead of a barbell. This variation can be more difficult since you must work to stabilize yourself on the unstable rings. Same as the inverted row, the more your body is angled in this movement, the more aggressive this move will be.
Bent-Knee Inverted Row
This variation is exactly what it sounds like: an inverted row with your knees bent. Bending your knees takes the pressure off your low back and makes the standard inverted row less challenging.
The bent-over row looks different than the inverted row, but it works similar muscle groups. Instead of facing towards the ceiling, you’re hinged at your hips with your eyes looking at the ground. Typically, this exercise is done with a heavier load for more experienced lifters. It can also be done by novice lifters with lighter weight.
Once you’ve mastered the inverted row, the pull-up is a natural next step. Working similar muscle groups, the pull-up is more challenging because your feet leave the ground, and it’s up to you to pull your entire body weight up. This advanced pulling movement works the back, biceps, shoulders, and core.
Elevated Inverted Row
Whichever inverted row variation you choose, remember that pulling is just as important as pushing and should not be neglected. By performing pulling exercises, you can even increase your overall strength on your pushing exercises. The inverted row increases your ability to perform more advanced exercises as well as build strength, posture, and stability. So wherever you are, try the inverted row and experience the benefits for yourself.
- Perna, Frank M., Coa, Kisha, & Troiano, Richard P. Muscular Grip Strength Estimates Of The U.S. Population From The National Health And Nutrition Examination Survey 2011–2012. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2016; 30(3). doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001104
- Paoli, Antonio, Gentil, Paulo, & Moro, Tatiana. Resistance Training with Single vs. Multi-joint Exercises at Equal Total Load Volume: Effects on Body Composition, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Muscle Strength. Frontiers in Physiology. 2017;8 doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.01105