How to Do a Bodyweight Row or Inverted Row: Step By Step.

The Inverted Bodyweight Row is one of the BEST, simple, most effective exercises you can do for your “pull” muscles:

Your back, your biceps, your forearms, and your grip.

If you’re trying to get to your first pull-up, or even if you are already doing pull-ups, adding bodyweight rows to your routine is a great idea.

As part of our Strength 101 series, this guide will cover:

Let’s get to pulling!

What is an Inverted Bodyweight Row?

If you have gymnastic rings you can do an inverted bodyweight row like Staci here.

So what the heck is an inverted bodyweight row you ask?

Great question!

I’ll be using “bodyweight row” and “inverted row” interchangeably in this article. To-may-to, To-mah-to.[1]

You’ve probably heard of the regular barbell row. You pick up a barbell, bend over at the waist (keeping your back straight), and pull the weight up towards your chest.

This can be a great exercise, but improper form could cause complications or you might not have access to a barbell.

Luckily, the inverted row takes care of all of that.

You get to use your body weight, and there’s no extra stress on your back. As an added bonus, you get a decent core workout too.

This exercise has been referred to as the “reverse bench press” too, as you grab a bar like you were getting ready to bench press it, but instead of lifting the weight down towards you, you’re pulling your body up towards the bar.

Think of it like this: “benchpress” is to “pushing” as “inverted row” is to “pulling.”

Balance FTW!

Why the inverted bodyweight row is so great: I’m a huge fan of compound exercises (like the squat and deadlift, pull-ups and push-ups), and I’m also a huge fan of exercises that don’t require expensive machines or lots of extra bells and whistles.

An inverted row works all of your pull muscles:

  • All of your back muscles
  • Your biceps
  • Your forearms
  • Your grip
  • All the stabilizer muscles in between that make those muscles work together.

You also need to keep your body tight, working your core muscles too.

If you’ve been doing bench presses regularly, start doing an equal amount of work with your pull muscles to stay in balance and away from injury.

Oh, and if you want to eventually be able to do pull-ups, THIS is the exercise you need to add into your routine until you can do a full pull up.

Speaking of which, if you are just getting started with bodyweight rows and want to one day do a pull-up, download our free, comprehensive guide, Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know. 

In it, we have workout plans to follow whether you’re at home doing bodyweight training or at the gym with weights. Put your email in the box below and I’ll send you the guide free so you can get started today!

How To Do An Inverted Bodyweight Row

Let’s start with the people who have access to a gym (see a variation for No-Gym people here). 

You know I hate machines for pretty much every exercise, due to the fact they restrict your body’s natural tendency to move.

I grabbed a video of Lead Female Instructor Staci from Team NF demonstrating a bodyweight row with gymnastic rings from our premium course (The Nerd Fitness Academy), but don’t worry if you don’t have rings – you can see how to do them with a Smith Machine or barbell under this demonstration.

How to do a bodyweight row with explanation:

If you don’t have rings, here’s Staci demonstrating the same movement, just with an anchored barbell in a squat rack:

How to do an inverted row:

  1. Set the bar (or your rings) around waist height. The lower the bar, the more difficult the movement becomes.
  2. Position yourself under the bar lying face up. Lie on the floor underneath the bar (which should be set just above where you can reach from the ground).
  3. Grab the bar with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder width (palms facing AWAY from you).
  4. Contract your abs and butt, and keep your body a completely straight line. Your ears, shoulders, hips legs, and feet should all be in a straight line (like you’re doing a plank).
  5. Pull yourself up to the bar until your chest touches the bar.
  6. Lower yourself back down with proper form.

If this movement is TOO difficult, no big deal, we just need to back up a few steps. Set the bar higher so that when you lean back, your body isn’t down on the ground; maybe it’s only at a 45 degree angle.

Here’s Staci again demonstrating it at a higher angle:

By setting the bar higher, it takes more of your body weight out of the equation. As you get stronger (and/or lose weight), you’ll be able to drop the bar until you’re parallel when pulling yourself up.

Here are some tips and tricks for doing a proper inverted bodyweight row:

  • Don’t let your butt sag (squeeze your buttcheeks, flex your stomach, and keep your body rigid from head to toe).
  • Don’t flail your elbows. Grab the bar with your hands a little closer than you would if you were doing a bench press, and keep your elbows at that angle from your body.
  • Pull the bar towards the middle of your chest. Don’t pull the bar up towards your throat, or down towards your belly button. Right in the middle!
  • Keep your abs tight. Keep your abs tight throughout the whole routine. Your body should be a straight line the whole time, and the only thing moving is your arms
  • Pull your shoulder blades down and back towards each other through the movementDon’t shrug your shoulders. Imagine you’re trying to pinch a pencil between your shoulder blades to keep it from falling!
  • GO all the way. Don’t half-ass it. Lower yourself until your arms are completely extended, and raise yourself until your chest touches the bar.

When Should You Do Inverted Bodyweight Rows?

When I go into a gym, my time is extremely limited, and I’m working towards developing strength. I’ll try to do one leg exercise (either squats or deadlifts), followed by a pushing exercise (either bench press or overhead press), and then a pulling exercise (pull ups or inverted rows). Here’s a sample two day split for me:

  • Day A: Squats, bench press, inverted rows, dips
  • Day B: Deadlifts, Overhead Press, Pull-Ups (or chin-ups), Planks (Floor Swipes).

Both days work my full body, I can do a full routine in less than 40 minutes, and I’m building strength. If you can’t do dips on Day 1, you can do pushups. If you can’t do pull-ups on day 2, you can substitute assisted pull ups or lat pull downs (although I don’t like lat pull downs very much).

On the rows, aim for 3 sets of 10. We cover this in our “sets and reps” article, but you can never go wrong with 3 sets of 10!

If you can’t do that, do 3 sets to however many reps you can do, and build your way up to 3 sets of 10.  Once you can do that, put your feet up on a chair, throw some weights in a backpack, put it on reverse (so the bag is hanging in front of you), and then do the rows.

You got this.

Overwhelmed? I personally know how that feels. It can be scary embarking on a strength training practice for the first time.

Are you doing your moves correctly? Should you be lifting more weight or less? What do you eat to reach your goals?

We created the Nerd Fitness Coaching program to tackle these questions directly. Your own coach will get to know you, build a program based on your experience and goals, and check your form on each movement (via video). Plus they’ll keep you accountable and on track!

You can learn more about our coaches and schedule a free call with us by clicking the image below:

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HOw to Do Inverted Bodyweight Rows at Home

Just because you don’t have access to a gym doesn’t mean you can’t work out your back, you just need to get VERY creative.  

Here’s how you can do Inverted Bodyweight Rows at Home:

  • Get a really thick wooden dowel or pipe, something strong enough to support your weight. Lie it across two of your kitchen chairs, and then lie down underneath it. Make sure it’s sturdy, and the bar isn’t going to break/move on ya, and pull yourself up.
  • Use your kitchen table. Or your desk (if it’s in the middle of the room and doesn’t have a back). Be very careful with this one. Lie underneath your table so your head and shoulder are sticking out above it. Grab the table edge with an overhand grip, and pull yourself up (just like it’s explained above). Warning, don’t pull the table over with you, and make sure you’re not gonna break the thing. Obviously this is a pretty crude way to get the job done, but it works.

Don’t forget, you want to stay in balance. Don’t just do push ups at home if you can help it, try to work out your back too. If you don’t have a pull up bar, find a way to do some bodyweight rows whether it’s between two chairs or under a table. You’re smart, get creative.

Here’s a video of me explaining how to do Inverted Body Weight Rows using just my kitchen table:

This is a great movement that can help you get started to building up your often ignored pull muscles. If you have poor posture, and spend all day at a desk hunched over a keyboard, mixing in bodyweight rows to your routine can be incredibly beneficial!

This should allow you to start mixing in bodyweight rows into your Strength Training Routine!

Any more questions about the inverted bodyweight row? Leave em below!


PS: Still here? Still lost? No problem!

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PPS: Be sure to check out the rest of the Strength Training 101 series:

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