How to do Inverted Rows

If are a beginner or you are trying to get back into shape, pull-ups feel like an advanced movement. Most beginners struggle completing just 1 pull-up with good form, let alone the 8-12 reps that are suggested in most workout plans. A pull-up requires a high amount of strength, balance, endurance and coordination across most of your muscle groups as prerequisites for the movement. And most beginners do not have this level of strength and coordination developed… yet.
So where does a beginner start? Let me introduce you to the inverted row.

What is an Inverted Row?

The inverted row (or inverted pull-up) uses the same muscles as the pull-up, but your muscles bear less weight and therefore the movement is easier. Think about it in terms of a bench press. If a pull-up is like bench pressing two 45lb plates on a 45lb bench press bar, then an inverted row is like removing the two plates and just using the bar.

The following muscle groups are engaged by the Inverted Row:

  • Back
  • Biceps

How to Do an Inverted Row (Instructions):

Start by hanging underneath a lower platform (low bar, picnic table, kitchen table, etc…). Grab the edge of the platform with your hands with your palms facing away from you, and move your feet forward. Keep your knees bent around 90 degrees and pull your body up until your chest nearly touches the underside of the platform, and then with control lower your body back to starting position. Keep your back straight and core tight. Repeat.

Trainer Tips for the Inverted Row: 

  • Progression (make harder)
    • Use a lower platform to perform the movement.
    • Perform the movement with your palms facing towards you.
    • Strap on a weight vest or a toddler.
  • Regression (make easier)
    • Use a higher platform to perform the movement.
  • Application:
    • Do a “Ladder” workout with the inverted row.
      • A “Ladder” is a workout that is comprised of  ascending and descending repetitions. For example:
        • Perform one inverted row, then rest. Perform two inverted rows, then rest. Keep ascending until you feel like you are going to fail. Once you reach the failure point (let’s say 10), rest, then perform nine inverted rows, then rest. Descend until you are back at one.
Inverted Rows are used in the Layman’s Fitness 12 Week Bodyweight Programs, which you can learn more about here.