How to do Inverted Rows (And Take Bodyweight Rows to the Next Level)

October 23, 2015 by VAHVA Fitness

Inverted rows or bodyweight rows are the bodyweight equivalent for dumbbell rows, barbell rows and other row variations using weights. Inverted row is one of the best exercises you can do for your back. 


Inverted rows can be done with a low bar, or even using a broomstick at home, but nothing beats the gymnastic rings for inverted rows.

If you don't already have gymnastic rings, I highly recommend them. They are one of the best tools ever invented for training. They are very cheap too.

Gymnastic rings make it possible for you to do more variations and allow your arms to rotate freely, which make them also a more comfortable option to hold onto.

Inverted row is ultimately a back exercise and it will develop both thickness and width in the back. The strength built with inverted rows will directly transfer to other row variations.

One of the reasons why I recommend people to do more inverted rows instead of dumbbell rows or barbell rows is because you will develop a better mobility in the upper portion of the repetition.

The thing is, with inverted rows it's somehow easier to pull yourself up and hold it there. With dumbbell or barbell rows, people often develop a great strength to pull the weight up, but not hold it next to their body.

As a result, inverted row will build superior mobility in the entire range of motion of the row.  

Inverted Row Progressions

The easiest progressions of inverted rows can be approached by anyone.

The easiest variation is much easier than doing pull ups. If you don't have the strength to a proper pull up, then inverted rows will be your new best friend.

A properly done inverted rows will work the same muscles as the pull up. The developed strength in the back muscles, will be beneficial when you are doing pull ups or any other pulling exercise.

Inverted Rows

inverted row
bodyweight row

This is the easiest progression of inverted rows. You can alter the difficulty by just moving your legs back and forth.

The basic inverted row will work your forearms, biceps, rear deltoids, lats, traps, and middle back muscles to a great degree.

A bar can also be used, but like said earlier, gymnastic rings are your best friend.

Bulgarian Rows

inverted rows support
bulgarian row

This is a special variation of the inverted row where you are pulling your elbows completely to the side.

Bulgarian rows are much tougher than the basic inverted rows, but they can be done by beginners by adjusting the difficulty with your legs.

The shoulder articulation is different compared to other inverted rows: in bulgarian rows your shoulders are doing a transverse extension, which mostly works the posterior deltoids. Lats and muscles like teres minor get nicely worked as well.

Inverted Face Pulls

face pull on rings
inverted face pull on rings

Inverted face pull is an amazing compound exercise to strengthen your external rotation and rotator cuff muscles. If you do tons of pressing work like push ups or bench press, then inverted face pull will balance all the pressing work.

Inverted face pulls will also strengthen your posterior deltoids, traps, biceps, and back muscles.

Archer Rows

archer row

Archer rows are an intermediate progression of the inverted row.

In this progression, you are keeping one arm straight while focusing on pulling yourself up using your other arm.

Archer row is a great way to add resistance to inverted rows and will definitely be a challenging exercise for most of us.

One Arm Inverted Rows

one arm inverted rows
one arm row

One arm inverted rows are an advanced progression where you are focusing solely on one arm at the time.

One arm inverted rows will require more stability, which make the exercise a different kind of a beast.

One arm rows will also allow a greater range of motion: you can start your shoulder completely pulled forward (protaction) and then pull up to your chest and pull your shoulder back (retraction).

Front Lever Rows

tuck front lever row
front lever row

Front lever rows are the next step in difficulty. You need to hold the best front lever progression you can, and then do rows with your bodyweight while holding your body balanced.

This is the only inverted row variation where you are pulling your entire bodyweight with every repetition.

As a result, this exercise will require more strength in the back and biceps than a regular row. Your abs will also burn when doing front lever rows.

Likely, you won't be able to perform rows with a full front lever. In this case adjust the difficulty by starting with a tuck front lever and then gradually straighten your legs when your strength progresses.

How to Make Any Inverted Row Progression Harder

There are multiple ways to make any of these inverted rows harder.

  • Alter your leg position. The further back your legs are positioned, the easier inverted rows are. 
  • Add weights. You can easily add plates on your stomach and do inverted rows.
  • Use a weighted vest. Weighted vest is the easiest way to add resistance to the inverted rows. You can even do front lever rows with a weighted vest.
  • Turn inverted rows into decline inverted rows. Elevate your legs with a box or a chair, and you are pulling from a lower position. This means you are pulling more of your bodyweight with each repetition. 

The easy way is also just to try a more difficult progression. You can go from inverted rows to archer rows, and from archer rows to one arm rows. Finally, you should be able to do full front lever rows.

Inverted Row Routine 

You can just do one of these progressions as a part of your workout, but you can also really blast your back doing many of the progressions in one workout. 

Beginner Inverted Row Routine

Beginner Inverted Rows for 5 sets of 5 to 10 repetitions.

Push Ups for 5 sets of 5 to 10 repetitions.

(Alter the difficulty to match your level.)

Beginner inverted row workout is balanced with push ups. You should always aim to balance horizontal pulling exercises with horizontal pushing exercises.

If you do many different inverted row progressions at once, then you will definitely build amazing strength and crazy thickness to your back muscles.

Below is a routine to really over-exhaust your back muscles and cause a great anabolic response:

Advanced Inverted Row Workout

A1 Front Lever Rows: 3 x  5 reps

B1 One Arm Inverted Rows: 3 x 5 reps

C1 Archer Rows: 3 x 5 reps

D1 Inverted Face Pulls: 3 x 5 reps

E1 Bulgarian Rows: 3 x 5 reps

F1 Inverted Rows: Until failure

That's a total of 16 sets for back and biceps. If this inverted row workout doesn't make your back grow stronger and bigger, nothing will.

The great thing about inverted rows is that you can do them almost anywhere. Just get a pair of gymnastic rings and hang them to your doorway pull up bar and you can do inverted row home workouts. 

Train hard, stay safe.


samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

You may also like

These Simple Isometrics & Stability Exercises Unlocked My Agility

These Simple Isometrics & Stability Exercises Unlocked My Agility

Superior Athletic Ankles & Feet (Strength, Mobility, Stability, Power)

Superior Athletic Ankles & Feet (Strength, Mobility, Stability, Power)

5 Ancient Methods For Ultimate Physical Development

5 Ancient Methods For Ultimate Physical Development

The History, Usage and Benefits of Steel Mace Training

The History, Usage and Benefits of Steel Mace Training

Explaining The Internal Frame & Ribcage Expansion

Explaining The Internal Frame & Ribcage Expansion

The 45° Decline Press – Superior Chest & Upper Body Development

The 45° Decline Press – Superior Chest & Upper Body Development
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}