Introduction to Calisthenics – Inverted Rows

The Inverted Row is a great exercise for strengthening your back.

Furthermore, it can be used as a precursor to working on full pull-ups.

To progress to this you may need to start off with some upright rows first.

Alternative Names

Australian pull-up
Horizontal pull-up

Form


Here are a few pointers to look out for when performing your rows:

Elbow Position

You should ensure that your elbows stay tucked in, close to your body through the rowing motion; letting your elbows flare out to the side will put unnecessary pressure on your shoulders.

Keep Your Body Straight

Your entire body should be in a straight line from head to toe, throughout the movement; if you fail to do so then regress the exercise and try again.

A common mistake I see is bobbing of the head forward to try and get a little closer to the bar, don’t do this it will put strain on your neck; keep your head straight with the rest of your body.

Hand Position

Keep your hands shoulder-width apart, close hand rows can come later; your hands should be level with your shoulders so that the bar ends up at the lower point of your chest.

Squeeze Your Shoulder Blades Together

When pulling yourself up, you really want to squeeze your shoulder blades together and down; imagine there’s an apple between them, your goal is to crush it with your shoulder blades.

This will help engage your rhomboids.

Cadence

I recommend at least a 2-1-2 cadence for the rows, that is two seconds to pull, one second hold, two second back down.

Breathing

Before starting the exercise, take a deep breath in, then let it out as you pull yourself up (concentric phase). On the way back down (eccentric phase), take another deep breath in.

Try to breath with your stomach rather than your chest as this will engage your diaphragm, intercostals and abdominal muscles to get more strength from your core.

Muscles Worked

Primary

Trapezius
Latissimus Dorsi
Biceps brachii
Rhomboids
Deltoid posterior (back)

Secondary (Synergists)

Teres major
Infraspinatus
Teres minor
Brachialis
Brachioradialis
Pectoralis major, sternal (lower)

Stabilizers (Fixators)

Erector spinae
Hamstrings
Gluteus maximus

Progression / Regression

Foot position

Starting with your feet directly under the bar makes the exercise easier

Starting with your feet directly under the bar makes the exercise easier

You should start this exercise with your feet as close to the point below your hands as required to perform a strict rep.

Once you can perform the required number of reps and sets, you should then make it more difficult.

If you fail to complete a perfect form inverted row at the current foot position, then regress the exercise.

Bent Knees

You can regress the exercise by bending your knees

You can regress the exercise by bending your knees

Another way to regress the exercise is by bending the knees, this distributes less weight through the upper body.

  1. Prelude – My “Gym”
  2. What is Calisthenics?
  3. Incline Push-ups
  4. Inverted Rows
  5. Bodyweight Squats
  6. Lying Leg Raises
  7. Short Bridges
  8. Training Plans
  • Mauricio

    Hello Dave. Thank you for this incredible tutorial. I have a row in my hallway but is higher than me so I can’t do this exercise as a beginner. Do you have any tips for a beginner who doesn’t have a row lower than his head? Thank you again 😉

    • Hi Mauricio, glad you’re enjoying the tutorial.

      Okay a couple of options you could try:

      If you have a chair you could place in front of the bar, you could elevate your feet with that and do rows that way.

      Another option is to hang two towels from the bar, hold onto those and row from them. This will be a lot harder on your grip though, so will find it harder to progress at first, but will give you awesome grip strength in the long run.

      • Mauricio

        Awesome! You’re the best! Greetings from Argentina ;D

        • No worries mate 🙂 Let me know how you get on.