Inverted Rows vs Chest Supported Rows (Which is Better?)
Inverted Rows and Chest Supported Rows are both exercises that target the muscle groups in the upper back.
Inverted rows, also known as Australian Rows, involve hanging from a bar and pulling your body upward. This exercise can be done using a variety of grips and can easily be modified to increase or decrease the difficulty.
Chest Supported Rows, on the other hand, involve using an adjustable bench or machine with a chest pad to support the body while you perform the rowing movement. This exercise allows you to focus on the rows without using your arms or core to support your body weight.
Both exercises can be effective for building strength and improving hypertrophy, but is one exercise better than the other?
In this article, I’m going to go over how to do each exercise and then compare how they stack up against one another depending on an individual’s specific goals.
Author’s Note: This article will focus specifically on Chest Supported Dumbbell Rows. However, a T-Bar Row could also be considered a Chest Supported Row. For more info on T-Bar Rows, go here.
- Squat Rack
*I generally do Inverted Rows with a barbell in a rack, but if you have rings they work great as well.
- Start by placing a bar on the rack about waist height.
- The higher the bar is placed, the easier the rows will be. The lower the bar is placed, the harder the rows will be. (Just make sure to leave yourself enough room to fully extend your arms at the bottom of the rep)
- Set the bar on either the J-Hooks or the Safety Bars
- Lay down underneath the bar.
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip, brace the core and make sure your body is fully extended – including your legs.
- You should be positioned to where when you pull yourself up towards the bar, the bar touches the same spot on the chest as it would for bench press. Slide up or down to adjust accordingly.
- Now, keeping your body in a straight line, pull your chest up to the bar and lower back down until your arms are fully extended.
- Repeat until all reps are completed.
There are two common mistakes that I see all the time when it comes to Inverted Rows.
One, athletes I coach love to either pull their face to the bar or even raise their chin up and over the bar like a pull-up. These are both wrong.
You should think of the Inverted Row like a reverse bench press. Keep your head back, chest out and pull your chest directly to the bar. Pull the shoulder blades down and back at the top of the rep and squeeze the back.
The second mistake I see all too often is tired athletes that start to look like they’re doing the worm. They start rocking and rolling their entire body to try to get their chest up to the bar. Don’t do this! Maintain a rigid body posture and continue pulling yourself as high as you can each rep.
Inverted Rows are sometimes referred to as Inverted Pull-ups and/or my personal favorite, Aussie Pull-ups. If you see one of those names in a program or workout, they are most likely referring to the same exercise.
Chest-Supported Dumbbell Rows
- Adjustable Bench
- Back (Lats, Rhomboids, Traps, Infraspinatus)
- Biceps (Biceps Brachii, Brachialis, Brachioradialis)
- Shoulders (Posterior Delt)
- Set up an adjustable bench at a 45-degree angle.
- Lay on your stomach with your head hanging just above the edge of the bench.
- Grab a dumbbell in each hand and set up with a good posture – core and lats engaged and shoulders neutral.
- Row the dumbbells toward the top of the stomach and squeeze the back at the top of the rep.
- Finally, lower the dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat until all reps are completed.
Make sure to maintain good posture while doing Chest Supported Rows. Oftentimes I see athletes who allow their shoulders to slouch forward and drape over the edges of the bench.
Don’t have an adjustable bench? No worries! Here are 10 alternatives for Chest Supported Rows that you may be able to do instead.
Inverted Rows vs Chest Supported Rows: Which is Better?
Now, let’s compare how these two exercises stack up depending on specific goals.
Better For Developing Strength: Inverted Rows
This one is pretty close, but I’m going to give the edge to Inverted Rows, but with an exception.
Overall, Inverted Rows get more muscle groups involved in the movement because the body is having to brace and stabilize as you row. The more muscle groups that have to get involved the better the movement generally is for improving strength.
Having said that, if a lifter gets to the point where Inverted Rows no longer become challenging then the edge would swing to Chest Supported Rows.
I’ve seen athletes who could elevate their feet, put on two weight vests and lay a 45-pound on their chest and still knock out 10 to 15 reps with ease. This is when Chest Supported Rows (especially T-Bar Rows) have an advantage because bigger dumbbells are always available to increase the challenge of the exercise.
Better For Beginners: Inverted Rows
Both Inverted Rows and Chest Supported Rows are very beginner-friendly exercises. So, the advantage here is not the fact that one exercise is easier to learn how to do over the other. I think a beginner can pick up both exercises very quickly (if not immediately).
I believe Inverted Rows have more benefits for beginners than Chest Supported Rows. Because the lifter needs to brace their core to hold their posture and stabilize themselves through each rep’s range of motion I think Inverted Rows provide much more of a functional benefit.
Inverted Rows can also be easily modified as the lifter gains strength to keep them challenging without the need to grab heavier dumbbells. For more info on Inverted Row variations, check out my 13 Alternatives and Variations For Inverted Rows to Build a Strong Back.
I’ve just spent an entire article comparing which is better – Inverted Rows or Chest Supported Rows. However, the truth is, there is no reason you shouldn’t have both exercises in your strength training program.
Both are excellent exercises for building upper-body strength and hypertrophy. Incorporating both into your training program can also add much-needed variety and keep your plan from getting stale.
So, my suggestion would be instead of trying to decide between the two exercises, figure out how you can utilize both Inverted Rows and Chest Supported Rows in your training plan.