In an earlier article we discuss the inverted row and everything it has to offer. While the inverted row is a valuable training exercise for nearly every goal and athlete, varying one’s training could be a great way to diversify fitness and increase long term development.
In this article we will go over some variations and alternatives to the inverted row that can be done with most fitness levels and goals, as well as briefly describe any differences between them as well.
Inverted Row Alternatives
Below is a list of alternative movements and exercises one can do if they are choosing to diversify their back training.
The TRX row uses the TRX® Suspension Trainer with a simple way to quickly varying the degrees of inversion for fast modifications in most settings. The TRX row allows lifters to vary their grips, pronation/supination, pulling height (face pull vs body row), angles, and even row unilaterally (which is very hard with a bar). The straps increase a lifters need to remain in control and to stay balanced so that their is no slack or swaying of the lifter throughout the movement.
Band Assisted Pull Up
In most gyms and group training settings, the inverted row and it’s modifications are used to scale movements like pull ups. While this can be a good general scalable option, they do not 100% transfer over to the pull up movement, leaving a wide gap that will eventually need to be filled. Instead of always opting to have athletes take a very easy way out by performing inverted back rows (at any angle), perform banded strict pull ups so that the joint angles and lines of force match those of the pull up.
Back Extension Row
This is a great movement to teach glute, hamstring, and lower back control during a plank like rowing movement. Instead of the athlete facing upwards (supinated), they will be parallel to the floor with their body facing downwards (pronate). This will increase the need drastically for core strength and bank stabilization. This is a much more advanced way of training the entire back and posterior chain, and can be don with barbells, kettlebells, and dumbbells.
Similar to the back extension row, the lifter is facing downwards (prone) while supported on top of a bench. This will ensure only back strength is used, limiting a lifter’s ability to drop the hips and/or excessively arch the lumbar back to make it look as if they row. This also allows a lifter to not be limited by a weak core and/or poor body awareness, which at times may stand in the way of developing a back. I feel it is best to attack the back with movements like this, and use other movements that require control and total body awareness such as the ones above.
This is similar to the TRX row, just that it is done with gymnastic rings, which are a common variation done in most gyms. They are versatile and easily adjustable. Additionally, they allow athletes to develop their monkey grip and wrist strength, both needed for specific training on the rings (muscle ups, dips, skin the cat, etc).
Standing Double Cable Row
This is a very challenging movement on the core and body awareness, one that entails a cable system (one or two handles). The cables produce a constant amount of loading that stays constant throughout and challenges a lifter throughout the entirety of the movement equally (unlike free weight movements that have strength curves and more advantages leverages). This movement can be done to develop greater body awareness and core strength.
Try out these Alternative to Your Favorite Exercises!
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