Inverted Row Exercise Form Guide with Video & Pictures

If you buy through a link on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.
By Alex
Last updated on
Exercise NameInverted Row
Also CalledHorizontal Pull Up, Fat Man Pull Up, Supine Row, Body Row
Primary MusclesUpper Back
Secondary MusclesRear Deltoid
Required EquipmentBarbell, Power Rack (or Smith Machine)
Optional EquipmentChalk
Rep Range5-15
VariationsFeet-Elevated Inverted Row, Bent-Knee Inverted Row, Weighted Inverted Row, Band-Resisted Inverted Row, Ring Row, Thick Rope Row
AlternativesBent Over Row, Cable Row, One Arm Row, T-Bar Row, Pull Up

Inverted Row Instructions

Note: Pictures coming soon!

1. Setup

  • Place bar on rack slightly higher than an arm’s length above the floor.
  • Sit under bar with your legs outstretched.
  • Use an overhand grip with hands wider than shoulder width apart.
  • Straighten body and hang from arms by doing the following:
    • Fully extend elbows
    • Lift butt up
    • Plant backs of heels on floor
    • Space feet shoulder width apart
    • Allow shoulders to be pulled slightly forward
  • Maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.

2. Concentric Repetition

  • Retract scapulae and flex elbows until chest touches bar.

3. Midpoint

  • Pause briefly upon touching your chest to the bar, and flex your upper back with emphasis.

4. Eccentric Repetition

  • Extend elbows and protract scapulae to lower your body back into the starting position.

5. Repeat

  • Repeat the inverted row movement until your set is complete.
  • Anything between 5-15 reps tends to work well for the inverted row. Though, I find that 8-12 reps is closer to optimal.

Common Inverted Row Errors to Avoid

Dropping hipsKeep your body straight and rigid by tightening your core muscles and glutes.
Head forwardRetract your head by tucking your chin back (not down). This puts your neck (and the rest of your spine) back into the neutral position.
Pulling with armsFocus on using scapular retraction to allow your back muscles activate and do the lifting.
Momentum from hipsThis stems from weakness that occurs if you stop scapular retraction partway through the concentric. The fix is to bring your scapulae increasingly closer througout the concentric, until they’re pinched together at the top of the rep.

Inverted Row Tips

  1. Lead with chest as you pull your body up.
  2. Imagine doing the opposite of the bench press if you can’t “get” the technique. Except for differences of body position and back arch, that’s essentially what it is.
  3. Use a smith machine to ensure the bar doesn’t move around.
  4. Adjust grip width to emphasize different muscles.
    • A wider grip increases rear deltoid involvement.
    • A narrower grip works the lats more intensely.
  5. Here’s a couple quick tricks to make this movement easier:
    • Slide your body back so that you pull at an angle. This requires less force than pulling vertically.
    • Increase bar height to increase your body angle. This slashes the percentage of your bodyweight to be lifted.

Is This Exercise Right for You?

The inverted row is a great back exercise for all levels of experience.

It is especially effective for beginners who are too weak for pull ups

…Even if you’re a beginner lacking the strength to do the conventional inverted row technique, there are easier variations that will match your fitness level.

This is also a very useful technique for intermediate and advanced lifters.

If you’re an experienced lifter, you can use the conventional version to warm up or as an auxiliary lift for back training…

…Or do an advanced variation so its challenging enough for a main lift.

Do you have poor hip mobility and flexibility, or a lower back injury that makes it so you can’t do Pendlay rows or other important back exercises?

If so, the inverted row is a top-notch alternative.

Alex from King of the Gym
Hey! My name is Alex and I'm the founder and author of King of the Gym. I've been lifting weights seriously since 2005 in high school when I started a home gym in my parents' basement. I started writing about fitness in 2009. Then, in 2014, I got into writing home gym equipment reviews and I haven't looked back. My current home gym is in my own house and it's constantly growing and evolving. My goal is to help you build the home gym of your dreams! Read more about me here.

Leave a Comment