Exercise Video of the Week: The Inverted Row

by Jordan Syatt January 9, 2013

My recent post Exercise Video of the Week: How to do a Push-up received a far better response than I initially expected. Consequently, I’ve decided to devote the majority of my upcoming Exercise Video of the Week segments to relatively basic, albeit important, compound movements that are so often performed incorrectly.

This week I’ll be featuring the Inverted Row:

The Inverted Row is a fantastic drill for improving – among other things – upper back strength, scapular stability, posture, and shoulder health and function. Performed correctly it should demolish your entire back but place a significant emphasis on the lats, low/mid traps, rhomboids, and even the rear delts.

In other words…the benefits of Inverted Rows are endless and nearly everyone should incorporate some variation of them into their training regimen.

Having said all of that, this is how to perform a well-executed Inverted Row:



Unfortunately, Inverted Rows are pretty easy to mess up and, when performed incorrectly, they can actually do more harm than good.

Generally speaking, the most common errors I see in regard to the Inverted Row are:

  • Not Going High Enough

In the video I said it may not be necessary to touch the bar to your chest, but it is necessary to achieve full scapular (i.e. shoulder blade) retraction. Generally speaking, those with shorter arms relative to their torso should be able to touch (or come very close to touching) their chest whereas those with longer arms have a little bit more wiggle room. Regardless, don’t skimp on range of motion. Get as high as possible without compromising form and shoulder health.

  • Letting the Hips Sag

See in the video how my body maintains a straight line from my feet all the way to my head? That’s how you should do it as well. Doing so will require you to squeeze your butt and keep your abs tight the entire time. If you allow your hips to drop then your butt definitely isn’t squeezed and you’ll be missing out on some of the core stabilization benefits of the drill.

  • Hyper-extending the Lower Back

Often times people will attempt to touch the bar by sticking out their chest and hyper-extending the lumbar spine (lower back). Don’t do this! Keep your spine neutral, ribs down, and abs tight. Again, you may not need to get your chest to the bar as long as you achieve full scapular retraction.

  • Going Down too Fast

The eccentric (downward) component of the lift is just as – if not more – important as the concentric (upward) portion. As such, do not allow yourself to effortlessly drop down to the bottom of the movement between each repetition. Rather, lower yourself in a slow and controlled manner which can take anywhere between 1-6 seconds depending on your goals. 


Finally, Ben Bruno wrote a fantastic 3-part series for EliteFTS called Awesome Inverted Row Progressions. Needless to say, it’s chalk-full of awesome Inverted Row Progressions and I highly recommend you check it out here.

I hope you enjoyed this post and, as always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, leave them in the comments section below.

Never Minimal. Never Maximal. Always Optimal.


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