Inverted Rows

Nov. 9th 2014 | by Matt Bembridge (AKA Gym Professor)

Inverted Rows/ Horizontal Barbell Rows

There are many variations of a row exercise in the gym environment - Bent-Over Barbell or Dumbbell Rows, T-Bar Rows, Seated Rows, Prone Bench Rows, Seated Row Machine, etc. – all with the common denominator of bringing your hands toward your torso against resistance. In recent years though, mostly thanks to the increased popularity of suspension training, like TRX, a very basic exercise has made a comeback in to the mainstream – an Inverted Row. In essence, it’s holding on to something stationary (a bar) or semi-stationary (a suspension trainer or gym rings) and assuming a horizontal position (facing upwards) and pulling your chest toward your hands. Aside from general variety within training being a good reason to give this exercise a go, it’s also a great way to work the Lats (major muscles of the back) if you have lower back issues. I’ll explain: The assumed position of exercises like Bent-Over Rows, T-Bar Rows, and Seated Rows require bending of the lumbar region and holding that position static whilst load is far away from this lever point; this requires tremendous strength from the Erectus Spinae muscles of the lower back and is often the weak link as load is increased, leading to bad form e.g. rounding of the spine, leg drive. Alternative chest supported rows, such as Prone Bench Rows and Seated Row Machine, remove the lower back as a significant stabilising muscle during the exercise, which is not really what we want either. This is where Inverted Rows come in; your core’s still having to work hard to stabilise your neutral body position – consider the body posture like an upside down plank – and yet the stress on the lower back will not be increased with exercise difficulty. This combination provides a great way to hit the major muscles of the back, help avoid against cheating, and is a comfortable and sensible progressive option for those with lower back issues. 

Here’s the step-by-step to performing Inverted Rows correctly:

Position a free bar or smith bar in a rack at a suitable height for your required level of difficulty.

With your heels on the floor, take a wider than shoulder-width grip of the bar and hang from it, horizontally. Your body should remain straight/ neutral with your arms fully extended.

Adopt a slight kink in your elbows and assume the load of your bodyweight with your lat muscles. This will be your starting position. 

Begin by flexing the elbow, pulling your chest towards the bar. Retract your shoulder blades as you perform the movement.

Pause at the mid-position and, with control, lower yourself to the start-position.

Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Easy progression can be achieved by altering the fixed bar/suspension trainer position. A simple method to increase difficulty further is to elevate your feet; thereby adding even more of your bodyweight to the pulling movement. Your bodyweight can be added to with weights, if necessary, but be careful that this does not detract from your good-form.

TRX Rows.

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