Inverted Rows are a great horizontal rowing back exercise to build size and strength. They’re a extremely versatile body weight exercise that requires minimal equipment and has tons of variations.
However, you may find yourself needing an alternative for Inverted Rows.
Maybe you don’t have a setup that allows for Inverted Rows or maybe you’re just looking to add some variety to your training program.
Whatever the reason, in this guide I’m going to share with you 10 of my favorite Inverted Row alternatives. I’ve included exercises that uses different equipment, different variations and a couple out-of-the-box options that can definitely change up your workout routine.
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Table of Contents
Variations for Inverted Rows
Before we get into completely different exercises, I want to briefly mention some Inverted Row variations that can add both challenge and variety to your workout.
Inverted Rows with Feet Elevated
Elevating your feet onto a bench or box can substantially increase the difficulty of the exercise. The more you change the angle of the body the more you can alter the amount of weight your arms have to pull.
If you want even more of a challenge, elevate your feet on a stability ball. This adds the dynamic of balance into the movement making your core have to work much harder to stabilize the body while rowing.
Weighted Inverted Rows
Adding a weight, typically a weight plate or a chain across your chest will add resistance and increase the challenge of Inverted Rows. You’ll also have to stay more in control of your movement and tempo so that the plate stays balanced on your chest and doesn’t fall off.
Tempo Inverted Rows
You can alter the difficulty of any exercise by slowing the tempo and Inverted Rows are a great example of this. Try your rows with a 1-1-3 tempo. That means 1 second pulling up, 1 second pause at the top and a three second eccentric coming back down.
You might be surprised how much harder this kind of tempo can make this bodyweight exercise.
Inverted Row Alternatives
TRX Rows, or Ring Rows if you have a set of gym rings, are very similar to Inverted Rows. It’s primarily a bodyweight exercise where you can increase or decrease the difficulty of the exercise by changing the angle in which you work.
If you take a TRX strap with you on road trips, this should be your go-to alternate for Landmine Rows. (If you don’t already have a TRX Strap, you can pick one up from Amazon here.)
The king of all bodyweight exercises would be my first suggestion to replacing Inverted Rows. In fact, Pull-Ups are generally one of my first suggestions when it comes to anything regarding developing upper body strength.
Some even look at Pull-Ups as the ‘next progression’ once you’ve become proficient at Inverted Rows, but I think that does Inverted Rows a disservice because they are an extremely effective exercise regardless of whether or not you can do Pull-Ups.
Barbell Bent Over Row
Now let’s get into some non-bodyweight rowing exercises.
The first alternative I would turn to using a barbell is Barbell Bent Over Rows. This Inverted Row alternative allows a good amount of weight to be used which is key for packing on mass.
The drawback to Barbell Bent Rows is you’re unable to brace yourself which means the low back has to work hard to maintain posture. This can be utilized as a positive, you just have to make sure to manage how much posterior chain work is included in your program so you don’t overwork this area.
DB One Arm Row
Another popular alternative to Inverted Rows is the Dumbbell One Arm Row. One Arm Rows work as a great substitution for multiple situations.
If you have dumbbells, but not a barbell (or a rack for that matter) they are an obvious choice. And, because you can brace with your off-hand they’re also much more forgiving to the low back than other rowing options. Finally, they’re simply a solid movement to add variety to your workout.
Renegade Rows, or Prone DB Row, is another dumbbell rowing exercise, but one that is much different than One Arm Rows.
Renegade Rows involves grabbing a dumbbell in each hand, assuming a push-up position with feet shoulder-width apart and rowing one dumbbell at a time. You’ll use less weight than with other types of rows, but there are plenty of benefits that come with this exercise.
For starters, the core is going to be hard at work to stabilize the trunk while you row. Next, shoulder stability is also tested because you’re holding yourself up with one arm at a time. If you’re looking for something a little different, Renegade Rows are a great option.
Hex Bar Rows
If you have a Hex Bar (or Trap Bar as they are also called) and you’re not already doing Hex Bar Rows then you are missing out. Simply stand inside your hex bar, grab the handles and row exactly the same as you would for Barbell Bent Rows.
The same thing that makes a hex bar great for Trap Bar Deadlifts also makes them great for rows. Because the weight on the bar sits back closer to your midline it will take a little of the stress off the low back compared to a traditional barbell row.
Plus, just a simple change of equipment can add some much needed variety to a workout program.
Pro Tip: Hex Bars can vary quite a bit in weight. Take that into consideration when planning on how much to load onto the bar for rows.
Hammer Machine Rows
Ah, the Seated Hammer Row machine. I have zero machines in my garage gym, but the one machine I would buy if I ever find one at a decent price is a Hammer Iso Row Machine. It is hands down my favorite.
You can sit or stand, have your chest supported and row ridiculously heavy weight. What’s not to love? If you have access to one of these machines (or a regular T-Row machine works well too) they can serve as an excellent sub for Inverted Rows.
Chest Supported Rows
Set up a bench at a 30-degree angle. Grab two dumbbells and lay on the bench on your stomach with your head over the edge of the bench. You can use a bar for Chest Supported Rows as well, but the setup is a bit more awkward and works best if you have a partner.
Keep a good posture (don’t let your shoulders hang forward off the bench) and row.
Keeping the chest supported takes almost all of the strain off the low back and allows the lifter to focus solely on the row.
Band Rows aren’t going to replace Inverted Rows for developing strength, but they can work great in a pinch if you’re traveling. Even if you don’t have something sturdy you can attach the resistance band to, you can always wrap them around your feet if need be.
The other place Band Rows can work well is as at the end of a workout to get a good burnout set in to end the day.
If you have access to a Lat Pulldown machine, you can slightly modify Lat Pulldowns to work as a solid horizontal row option.
Lean back slightly more than you normally would for a Lat Pulldown and row. You’ll have to really focus on controlling the weight back to the top of the rep so you don’t end up rocking all over the place.
I love Inverted Rows as a back development exercise, but sometimes these rows just aren’t an option.
Whether you’re lacking proper equipment or are just looking for a different movement to add some variety to your program, I hope at least one of these alternatives I’ve listed here is a good fit for you.
Featured Image Photo Credit: MDV Edwards / shutterstock.com