The inverted pull up is one of the simplest and most effective exercises you can do for your pull muscles. That includes your back muscles, your biceps, and your forearms. Better still, it can be done within the comfort of your own home. All you need is a suspension trainer, bar, squat rack, or something similar.
The exercise falls under the category of horizontal pull exercises, meaning that it activates and targets the muscles differently to how a vertical pull would. It is more often referred to as an inverted row, due to the rowing motion that is undertaken to complete the exercise effectively, or a supine row. Our easy to follow guide shows you how to complete the perfect inverted row.
Setting the bar for inverted rows
The first step in completing the inverted row exercise is to correctly position the bar. To do this, you will need to lie on your back, directly underneath the bar, and reach up for the bar with a full extension of your arms.
You can adjust your feet positioning to reflect the muscle areas you want to strengthen – if your feet are further from the bar in horizontal distance, you will engage the upper back more. If your feet are closer, you will be engaging the lower chest muscles.
If the inverted row is proving to be too difficult at first, you can adjust the bar higher than your waist height, so that when you lean back, your body will be at a 45-degree angle instead of positioned on the ground.
The initial inverted row movement
Once you are correctly positioned under the bar, it is time to begin the inverted row. From a grounded position, push your body up towards the bar by gripping the bar with both elbows and pulling them back as far as you can towards the ground, in order to engage the upper back.
It is important that you lead the pull up movement with your chest, rather than your hips, and engage your back muscles before the upward movement. For a perfect inverted row, you should be aiming to touch the bar with your chest.
From then on, lower yourself back to the ground and repeat – you can also add tempo and rhythm to your movements. It is normally carried out in three to five sets.
Inverted row at home
Whether you are looking to save some money and do you workouts at home or maybe you just don't have the time to make it to a gym every day, at home workouts, if done correctly, can be just as beneficial. But where ever you decide to workout this is an exercise that can be modified to fit any location.
If you already have a suspension trainer at home, you can follow the same steps as above to complete the perfect inverted row. If you have a TRX trainer, you can hook it to a sturdy object, such as a door frame. From there, you should lean your body back at a 45-degree angle, ensuring that your feet remain planted to the ground.
You then need to pull your body up towards the handles of your trainer device in a rowing motion, pushing the handles back towards your rib area. If you want to complete the exercise without paying for the equipment, you can utilize a bedsheet instead. Wrap it around a door frame or similar sturdy object and perform the same actions as in the example above.
Using a bedsheet should provide a stronger test of grip strength, as there are no handles available to hold. Alternatively, you can also complete the inverted row outside or in the garage provided you have a solid object that can accommodate a bar or beam.
Using a resistance band
A resistance band assisted pull up is an alternative to the above method of completing the inverted row. It also exercises the pull up muscles in the same way and is more easily accessible in any location than a suspension trainer or bar.
It can be used in a similar way to a TRX trainer, in terms of hooking it around a door frame and gripping onto one side of the band with both hands. From a sitting position, you can also wrap the band around your feet and knees and grip the other end of the band with your hands.
You will want to make sure you are sat as straight as possible, before squeezing back your shoulder blades in order to push back with your elbows and complete the rowing motion.
The advantage of using a band is the added amount of resistance it can provide compared to a standard suspension trainer or bar setup. You can also modify the amount of tension the band provides by changing size or shape.
Other ways to modify the inverted row
If you want a pull up alternative to the standard inverted row exercise, you can modify it in a number of different ways, whether that be to suit the location or the strength of the workout you are completing.
You can bring your feet in closer to the bar and bend your legs, which means you will be pushing upwards less strenuously and with less force.
You can also change your initial waist height by placing your feet on a solid object, which will in turn elevate your body into a more upward diagonal shape.
What muscles does the inverted row target?
The inverted row, as briefly mentioned at the beginning of the post, works all of your ‘pull’ muscles. It targets your back muscles – particularly in the upper back region – biceps and forearms, as well as the stabilizer muscles that allow them all to work together.
It strengthens all of the muscles involved in scapular retraction and engages several muscles in your back at once. The major back muscles it targets is the latissimus dorsi, your primary back muscles between your shoulders.
The inverted row exercises your back muscles at different angles compared to how the vertical pull up equivalent would do, so it is common to include both types of exercise in any sort of workout.
Why complete an inverted row?
The main benefit of the inverted row is its relative ease of completion compared to other exercises. As it is part of the group of horizontal pull ups, when combined with vertical pulls It helps build strength and muscle in your back, core, biceps and forearms. It also helps with injury prevention.
The skills and added strength you gain from completing the inverted row is also transferable into more complex exercises. Another main strength is that it can be completed almost anywhere, provided that the basic equipment is in place. That can be in your own home, outside or whilst travelling.
It is also relatively light on the body compared to some other rowing exercises, and is suitable for beginners and more advanced lifters.