Bodyweight or Inverted Row

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Inverted Row Exercise (Bodyweight Row)

The inverted row (bodyweight row) is to your back as the push-up is to your chest. Not only is a great for working the muscles of your middle and upper back but it also challenges your core. Bodyweight row is very useful exercise for those wanting to progress to full bodyweight pull-ups as it uses the same muscle groups. It’s a similar movement to the pull-up requiring the same muscles, but is easier to perform as you’re not lifting all of your bodyweight and have assistance with the feet on the ground. Also, if you’ve been doing just push-ups and bench presses, you need to start doing equal work with your back to stay in balance and away from injury.

Inverted Row Exercise Guide

STARTING POSITION: Set the bar of a Smith machine or a power rack, just below hip height. Grab a bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Hang with your arms completely straight and your hands positioned directly above your shoulders. Your body should form a straight line from your ankles to your head (raise the bar and move your feet back to make it easier). This will look like an upside-down push-up position.

Inverted Row Exercise

Inverted Row Exercise – if your body is totally horizontal in starting position

Note: The higher your hands are gripping at, the easier the exercise will be. When your hands grip at a lower height, your body becomes more and more horizontal – this takes away more weight from the feet and therefore increases the weight you actually lift.

Inverted Rows

Inverted Rows – when your hands grip at a higher height in starting position (the line of your body is at 45 degree angle to the floor) – much easier variation

MOVEMENT (ACTION): Initiate the movement by pulling your shoulder blades back, then continue the pull with your arms to lift your chest to the bar. Pause, then slowly lower your body back to the starting position. The bottom of your chest should always touch the bar at the end of the movement.

Other Names for Inverted Row

  • Reverse Push-Ups
  • Bodyweight Rows
  • Supine Rows
  • Body Rows

Additional Tips for Inverted Row Exercise

  • Keep your body rigid for the entire movement (maintain a straight line with the body).
  • Pull in your abs and hold your body in a straight line from head to heels.
  • Pinch your shoulder blades together as you pull your chest up as close as possible to the bar.
  • Movement path: your entire body moves in a single arc with your feet as the fulcrum.
  • Keep your hips, abdominal muscles, and lower back rigid.
  • Try to kip your wrists straight.
  • If your wrists start to “curl” as you perform the movement – that is, if you have trouble keeping them straight, it’s a sign that your upper back and/or your biceps are week.
  • The closer the body is to horizontal the more difficult the exercise becomes.

Inverted Row Variations

  • Elevated-Feet Inverted Row – place your heels on a bench or box, instead of the floor.
  • Underhand-Grip Inverted Row – use a shoulder-width, underhand grip. When you use an underhand grip that’s slightly narrower that shoulder-width you will shift more work to your biceps and lats and away from your scapular retractors (middle traps and rhomboids).
  • Weighted Inverted Row – perform the basic movement with a weight plate positioned on your chest.
  • Inverted Row with Feet on Swiss Ball – instead of placing your heels on the floor, position them on a Swiss ball.
  • TRX Inverted Row. Set the handles of the TRX just below hip height. Perform inverted rows by using your lats to pull your elbows down past your sides, lifting your body up and then slowly lowering your body to the start position.
Elevated-Feet Inverted Row

Elevated-Feet Inverted Row

Muscles Involved in Bodyweight Row

  • An inverted row works your back, biceps, traps, and all the stabilizer muscles in between. More precisely, latissimus dorsi, teres major and minor, brachialis, biceps (short head), trapezius, rhomboids.

Inverted Row Substitutes (Replacement Exercises)

To add variety to your middle back workout routine, replace the inverted rows with a different exercise that works the same muscles. Use dumbbells, cables, barbell, or even a gym machine to perform the rowing motion.

Let’s look at the best middle back exercises with the rowing motion for building muscle and strength.

Closing Thoughts

The inverted row is a staple upper-body pulling movement using body weight. When you gain proficiency, you can elevate your feet on a bench to increase the exercise’s difficulty. The steeper the angle, the easier the exercise. The most challenging angle of performance is achieved when the body is parallel to the ground.

Why rows matter? Roving exercises (such as inverted row) train your trapezius and rhomboids, muscles that help keep your shoulder blades from moving as you lift a weight. That’s important because unstable shoulders can limit your strength in exercises for your chest and arms. For instance, your chest muscles might be capable of bench-pressing 225 pounds, but if your shoulders can’t support that weight, you won’t be able to complete one rep. So boost your strength on rows to boost your strength all over.

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