An inverted row, known also as a body row or supine row, looks like an upside-down pushup. This back-friendly exercise provides a full body workout that targets your upper back, arms and forearm muscles. Like many body-weight exercises, inverted rows also work your core, including your spinal muscles, abs, glutes and hamstrings.
Inverted Row Technique
To set up for an inverted row, grasp a horizontal bar with an overhand grip. Your hands should be a little wider than shoulder-width. Hanging with straight elbows, extend your hips and legs on an angle until your entire body forms a straight line. Pivoting on your heels, pull your chest toward the bar, then lower yourself until your arms are fully extended. Keep your body straight throughout the exercise, engaging your abdominal, hip and lower back muscles. Adjust the height of the bar and the angle of your body to match your strength level. The higher the bar and the greater the angle of your body, the easier the exercise will be. The more horizontal you are, the more challenging it will be.
Back, Shoulder and Arm Strengthening
Inverted rows target your back and arms. They work the rhomboid and trapezius muscles that pull your shoulder blades back, making them an antidote for slumped shoulders. Inverted rows are a powerful strengthener for the latissimus dorsi muscles, or lats, which pull your arms back and down. They engage the muscles on the back of your shoulders, including your rotator cuff muscles and your rear deltoids. They're a bicep blaster too, targeting the muscles that bend your elbow.
Your lower back and abdominal muscles work hard to keep your body aligned during an inverted row, making the exercise a great core strengthener. Your derriere gets a workout, too. Your glutes, including the gluteus medius muscle on the side of your hip and the gluteus maximus muscle of your buttocks, engage to keep your hips in line, as do the hamstrings on the backs of your thighs.
Lower Back Issues
Because they strengthen your upper back without straining your lower back, inverted rows are an ideal back exercise if your lumbar spine is feeling cranky. A 2009 study in "The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research" found that, unlike other rowing exercises, inverted rows place little stress on the lumbar spine. If you have a back injury, consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program and work with a qualified trainer who can teach you proper technique.
Joe Miller started writing professionally in 1991. He specializes in writing about health and fitness and has written for "Fit Yoga" magazine and the New York Times City Room blog. He holds a master's degree in applied physiology from Columbia University, Teacher's College.