Build a Chiseled Back with the Inverted Row


The Inverted Row  

The Inverted Row is one of my favorite back exercises! It is second to pull ups and chin ups. Unlike pull ups or chin ups the inverted row can be performed by beginners and with a few modifications it can even challenge advanced trainees.

Don’t Underestimate Body weight Training 

Many people automatically assume that bodyweight exercises are inferior to weight training exercises. I don’t know where they get this idea from. It is probably because they feel that body weight exercises are ‘easy’ and can only be done for high reps. With a little imagination you can take any bodyweight exercise and make it more challenging. One thing I love about bodyweight training is that it is entirely closed chain. By this I mean that your hands are fixed and your body moves towards and away from your hands (example – push up, dip, inverted row, chin up). Weight training for the upper body is entirely open chain – your hands are free move towards and away from your body (example – bench press, barbell row, biceps curl). I have always found that closed chain exercises like inverted rows activate more muscle than open chain exercises. In addition closed chain exercises like push ups and inverted rows are much great for strengthening the small muscles of the shoulders to reduce the chance of injury. This just doesn’t happen with open chain exercises.

How to perform the Inverted Row 

Inverted Row Workout
The Inverted Row is performed by fixing a barbell in a power rack. You want to grab the barbell slightly wider than shoulder width, keep your entire body in a straight line and pull your body up until your chest hits the bar. You then want to hold the top position for a second and then lower back to the bottom position.

How to make the exercise easier? 

1. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground

Inverted Row Beginner Variation

2. Put the barbell higher in the power rack.

How to make the exercise harder? 

1. Elevate your feet on a box

Inverted Row Feet Up

2. Perform the exercise by pulling your body to your left arm and then pulling your body towards your right arm. This will force one of your arms to work much harder than your other arm. This is a good variation to focus on to build up to a one arm inverted row.

3. Perform the exercise with one arm.

How to Incorporate Inverted Rows into Your Workout Routine?

Option 1: 

One workout technique I love to to do to save time is alternating antagonistic exercises. Think Push/Pull or Flexion(curl)/Extension. You can alternate feet elevated push ups with inverted rows or dumbbell bench press with inverted rows.


Bench Press or Push ups x 6-10 reps

rest 30-60 seconds

Inverted Rows x 6-10 reps

rest 30-60 seconds and repeat for the desired number of sets

Option 2

Another workout technique that I love to use is super setting inverted rows with a rear delts exercise.


Inverted Row x 12-15 reps

Bent Over Flyes x 12-15 reps

This is a wicked workout technique that will destroy your upper back and rear delts. I love to do 2-3 sets of the superset as a finisher for my chest and back workout.

Option 3: 

The obvious option is to perform the inverted row in a straight set fashion. This is where you perform a set of the exercise, rest and repeat.