inverted row alternative
Fitness

10 Inverted Row Alternatives For Building Back Strength

The pull up is regarded by many as the daddy of all bodyweight exercises, particularly when it comes to targeting your back muscles, but the inverted row is an often-overlooked alternative. It’s easier to complete but moves you through a similar range of motions to blast your lats, traps, and other areas of your posterior chain.

However, inverted rows aren’t always accessible, or perhaps you’re looking for something with more resistance to help you build muscle mass. Whatever the case, these alternatives to the inverted row will soon become some of your favorite exercises.

1. Barbell Bent Over Row

How To:

  • Your starting position should see your feet in line with your hips before you hinge at the waist to take hold of the bar, with a slight bend in your knees.
  • With an overhand grip, drive your feet into the floor to pick up the bar and bring it to just below your knees. Your arms should be extended.
  • Pull the bar into your midsection by sending your elbows backward. Lower the bar back down to just below your knees and repeat.
  • Reps: 10-12.

Equipment Used:

  • Barbell

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

First off, you only need one piece of kit for this exercise. The main benefit here is that you’re targeting the main muscle groups in the upper section of your posterior chain, just as you would with inverted rows.

Pro Tip: 

When rowing the bar, keep your elbows tight toward your body to ensure proper form – don’t let them flare out to the side. 

2. Pull-Ups

How To:

  • Grab the bar with both hands roughly in line with your shoulders, or slightly wider, your palms facing away from you.
  • Hang from the bar with your arms fully extended. If your feet are touching the floor, bend your knees and pull your feet toward your bottom.
  • Pull yourself up until your chin is just above the bar.
  • Lower back down under control and repeat.
  • Reps: 8-10.

Equipment Used:

  • Pull up bar

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

Undoubtedly the hardest bodyweight exercise out there, this move will get your entire upper body working and help build some serious strength.

Pro Tip: 

If you’re struggling to perform pull-ups, consider using an assisted pull-up machine or resistance bands to build up your strength. Or, begin by hanging from a bar without pulling yourself up.

3. Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

How to:

  • Lay a dumbbell on the floor next to a bench. Put your left leg onto the bench with your knee and shin laying along with it. Your right leg should be extended next to the bench and bend over so your torso is parallel to the ground. Support yourself with your left hand at the upper end of the bench.
  • With your right hand, extend your arm down and grab hold of the dumbbell with your palm facing inward. Lift the weight off of the ground so your back is straight and your right arm is extended while holding the dumbbell.
  • Bend at the arm and pull the weight into your midsection. Hold here for 1-2 seconds.
  • Lower the weight back down under control until your arm is extended again, then repeat for the desired amount of reps and then switch arms.
  • 10-12 reps on each arm.
Related Post:  Barbell Curl vs Dumbbell Curl - Which One is Better For You?

Equipment Used:

  • Bench
  • Dumbbell

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

By isolating one side of your back at a time, you’re working these muscles even harder, but this move’s positioning also means you’re using your core and others as stabilizer muscles.

Pro Tip: 

Like the barbell bent-over row, keep your elbow close to your body when lifting the weight up. Ensure your back is straight throughout the movement.

4. Sumo Deadlift High Pull

How To:

  • Stand in front of a barbell with a wide stance and grab hold of it with your hands close together. Your setup should be similar to a deadlift, with your hips hinged and your bottom sat back.
  • Drive through the entirety of your feet and push your hips forward to stand back up, pulling the bar with you up under your chin. 
  • Lower the bar back down to your hips. under control, and then hinge at the hips to return it to the floor.
  • Repeat for 10-12 reps.

Equipment Used:

  • Barbell

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

This is an excellent exercise that helps improve your power and focuses on the main muscle groups that are worked in the inverted row.

Pro Tip:

Your elbows should point upward above your shoulders at the top of the movement.

5. Push Press

How to:

  • Clean a barbell onto the front of your shoulders so that your hands are underneath the bar, palms facing up.
  • With a slight bend in your knees, push the bar upward until your arms are extended, though avoid locking your elbows.
  • Briefly hold at the top, then lower the bar back to your shoulders and repeat.
  • 10-12 reps.

Equipment Used:

  • Barbell

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

This move torches your shoulders and back muscles and forces you to engage your core to keep things controlled.

Pro Tip:

Poke your head forward through the ‘window’ your arms create at the top of the movement, then move it back slightly as you bring the bar back down.

Related Post:  10 Amazing Bench Press Benefits We Should All Know About

6. Seated Cable Row

How To:

  • Sit on the bench/seat with a slight bend in your knees, roughly 45-degrees. Hold the handle with both hands and your arms out straight in front of you and your back straight.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the handle toward your sternum.
  • Hold this position for a moment, then extend your arms under control to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 12-15 reps.

Equipment Used:

  • Cable row machine

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

Cable rows target your back muscles and build some serious strength in your lats by adding a lot more resistance than you get from bodyweight training.

Pro Tip: 

Avoid leaning back too much and make sure your legs don’t become fully extended. Remember, your back and arms are doing the work here.

7. Upright Row

How To:

  • Hold a barbell in front of you with your arms straight. Hold the barbell with an overhand grip and your hands close together.
  • Engage your core and pull the bar up to your chin, ensuring your elbows rise above your shoulders.
  • Lower the bar back down to the starting position and repeat.
  • Reps: 12-15.

Equipment Used:

  • Barbell

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

Your back and shoulders are getting a great workout here with the rowing movement, with no help from the legs, meaning they’re working extra hard and building strength.

Pro Tip: 

Keep your upper body in the same position throughout; don’t hinge at the hips or bend forward when letting the bar drop back down to your hips.

8. Lat Pull Down

How To:

  • Sit on the seat and adjust the pad so that it sits comfortably on top of your lower thighs/knees to stop movement, but not so close that it’s uncomfortable.
  • Look forward and reach up to take hold of the bar with a wide grip.
  • Retract your shoulder blades and bent at the elbows to pull the bar down toward you until it reaches your upper chest. You should be engaging your lats here.
  • Allow the bar to raise back up, under control, until your arms are extended again and repeat.
  • Reps: 12-15.

Equipment Used:

  • Lat pull down machine

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

Your lats are some of the biggest muscles in your back and this machine targets them directly. The added weight means you’ll also see some excellent gains.

Pro Tip: 

Avoid leaning back as you bring the bar down.

9. TRX Row

How To:

  • Take a hold of the TRX handles in each hand and begin to step away from the anchor point. 
  • Once there is tension in the TRX straps and your arms are extended, shuffle your feet forward and angle your body backward until it is 30-60 degrees. Your arms should be extended while holding the handles and your body in a straight line.
  • Bend at the elbows and pull your torso up, with your palms facing inward and your feet remaining on the ground. 
  • Lower back down and repeat the movement.
  • Reps: 12-15.
Related Post:  15 Easy Back Exercises With Dumbbells You Can Do At Home

Equipment Used:

  • TRX

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

This is a very similar movement to the inverted row with the added challenge of needing to focus on stability and coordination.

Pro Tip:

Keep your back straight throughout the entire movement and your head in a neutral position. Don’t let your back arch.

10. Reverse Fly

How To:

  • Stand with a dumbbell in either hand and hinge forward, bending your knees slightly. The dumbbells should hang in front of you with your palms facing each other, your arms extended but not locked out.
  • Raise the dumbbells out to the side, keeping a slight bend in your arm and pinning your shoulder blades together.
  • Hold for a moment, then bring the dumbbells back in front of you under control and repeat.
  • Reps: 10-12.

Equipment Used:

  • Dumbbells

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

Easy to get the hang of but with the potential for significant strength gains in your posterior chain. 

Pro Tip: 

The key is to get the right starting position. Your body should be at roughly a 45-degree angle with your spine neutral and chest open.

Conclusion

Whether you’re looking for a compound exercise or simple movements to replicate the benefits of the inverted row, you’ll find what you’re after with these alternatives. Though some take you through a different range of motions, they are still targeting your back and upper body.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are inverted rows as good as pull ups?

The term ‘good’ can obviously be subjective here but, by and large, pull ups are more challenging and so will build strength quicker. The key difference is that, with pull ups, you are taking the full weight of your body into your arms and back, whereas your feet are on the floor during the inverted row.

Do inverted rows build biceps?

Your biceps work as more of a stabilizing muscle during the inverted row, however, you can target them more specifically by changing your grip. If you move to an underhand grip with your palms facing up and then perform the row, you actively engage your biceps.

What can you use to execute an inverted row at home?

Your biceps work as more of a stabilizing muscle during the inverted row, however, you can target them more specifically by changing your grip. If you move to an underhand grip with your palms facing up and then perform the row, you actively engage your biceps.

George Gigney

George is a Level 3 Personal Trainer and qualified Behavior Change Specialist. He has been training clients for several years and writing for over a decade, focusing on sport, wellbeing, and fitness.

You may also like...