Inverted Row Alternatives

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.

TRX® Row

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.

Seal Row

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.

Ring Row

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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Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.