Today, I want to show you some highly effective alternatives to the inverted row that you can use to build a bigger, more muscular back.
8 of the Best Inverted Row Alternatives
- Barbell Row
- Single Arm Dumbbell Row
- Chest-Supported Dumbbell Row
- Landmine Row
- Meadows Row
- Seated Cable Row
- Chest Supported T-Bar Row
- Resistance Band Row
First up is the bent-over barbell row. This is an ideal substitute for the inverted row if you want to train at home, and all you have is a barbell and some plates.
Like the inverted row, the bent-over barbell row targets mainly your back and biceps.
However, you can shift the emphasis from one muscle group to another depending on how you do the exercise.
A more lat-focused row involves keeping the barbell closer to your legs, rowing towards the lower part of the stomach, tucking your elbows in, and using a relatively narrow grip. This type of row is sometimes done with an underhand grip.
On the other hand, if you want to focus more on the muscles in the upper back, use a wider grip, bring the elbows out to the side rather than tucking them in, and row the bar closer to the upper region of the stomach, nearer the chest.
- Stand with your feet flat on the floor, roughly shoulder width apart.
- Bend forward at the waist while pushing your hips back, adopting a hinged position.
- Keep your knees slightly bent throughout the exercise, and maintain a slight arch in your lower back.
- Your upper body should be positioned at an angle slightly above horizontal to the floor.
- Take hold of the barbell with an overhand grip, with your hands a little wider than shoulder width apart.
- In the starting position, your arms should be fully extended, with the barbell off the floor.
- Pull the bar towards your rib cage, feeling your shoulder blades squeeze together as you lift the bar.
- Pause briefly at the top, then lower the bar under control back to the starting position, just below the level of the knees.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
If you find that the bent-over barbell row causes fatigue in your lower back, try the single-arm dumbbell row (my favorite dumbbell-only lat exercise).
It’s one of the most effective substitutes for the inverted row, mainly because your body weight is supported on the bench.
As a result, you won’t end up having to terminate a set because of fatigue in the spinal erectors, which can sometimes happen with the bent-over barbell row (especially if you’ve done squats or deadlifts earlier in the workout).
FREE: The Muscle Building Cheat Sheet. This is a quick guide to building muscle, which you can read online or keep as a PDF, that shows you exactly how to put on muscle. To get a FREE copy of the cheat sheet emailed to you, please click or tap here.
Because you’re hitting one side of the body at a time, the single-arm dumbbell row can also help to eliminate any strength imbalance that might exist between your left and right side.
- Put a dumbbell on the floor at one end of a bench.
- Put your right knee on the bench, then lean forward and put your right hand on the bench to support your body weight.
- Reach down, grab the dumbbell and hold it just off the floor.
- In the starting position, your palms should be facing your torso, rather than forward or back.
- Leading with your elbow, pull the dumbbell up and slightly back.
- The dumbbell should move in a slight arc, rather than straight up and straight down.
- Keep your torso roughly parallel to the floor. Your lower body and trunk should remain relatively still as you lift the dumbbell.
- Pause briefly at the top of the movement, then lower the dumbbell under control to the starting position.
Chest-Supported Dumbbell Row
If you’ve got an incline bench, you can also do chest-supported dumbbell rows using both arms at the same time. All your weight is supported by the bench, so lower back fatigue isn’t an issue.
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie face down on the bench.
- Hold the dumbbells directly below your shoulders with your palms facing each other.
- Leading with your elbows, pull the dumbbells up and slightly back.
- Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top.
- Lower the dumbbells until your arms are straight.
While you can use a V-handle (normally found on a seated cable row machine) to do landmine rows, you can also pick up a landmine row handle attachment (see video below).
- Secure one end of a barbell to a landmine attachment.
- Attach a V-handle or multi-grip handle to the other end of the barbell.
- Face away from the landmine attachment and straddle the bar.
- Bend forward at the waist, and grab the handle with both hands.
- In the starting position, your torso should be slightly above horizontal, with a slight arch in your lower back and your arms fully extended.
- Pull the barbell towards your torso, pause briefly at the top of the movement, then lower the barbell under control to the starting position.
Named after bodybuilder John Meadows, who popularized the exercise, the Meadows row is a modified version of a single-arm dumbbell row, done with a barbell rather than a dumbbell.
- Stand in a staggered stance, with your right foot roughly in line with the barbell.
- Lean forward and grab the end of the barbell with your left hand.
- Rest your right arm on the front leg to support your body weight.
- Pull the barbell up towards your torso, leading with your elbow. Avoid using large diameter plates, as this has the effect of reducing the range of motion.
- Rather than keeping your elbow close to your body or flared out to the side, it should be somewhere in between.
- Keep your torso roughly parallel to the floor. Your lower body and trunk should remain relatively still throughout the movement.
- Lower the barbell under control to the point where you feel a slight stretch in your lats.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps, then repeat the process on the other side.
Seated Cable Row
- Take hold of the handle and push your body back with your feet.
- In the starting position, your arms should be extended, knees slightly bent and your torso inclined back slightly so your shoulders are positioned slightly behind your hips.
- Pull the handle into your abdomen, arching your back slightly as you pull your shoulders back and slightly down.
- Avoid letting your elbows rise as you pull the handle into your stomach. Your elbows should go down ever so slightly as you bring your shoulder blades together.
- Hold the contraction briefly, then allow your arms to straighten as you return the handle to the starting position.
- Allow a little forward movement of your torso as you straighten your arms, rather than trying to keep the upper body perfectly still. However, don’t lean too far forward and allow your back to round.
Chest Supported T-Bar Row
If you struggle to maintain a neutral spine during other rowing movements, the chest-supported T-bar row is an excellent alternative.
Because the pad supports your weight, you can focus on training your back without lower back fatigue forcing you to cut the set short.
The chest supported T-bar row typically has two sets of handles. The handles you use depends on which back muscles you want to work.
If you want to focus more on the lats, use the neutral grip handles (i.e. your palms face each other), and keep your elbows close to your torso as you row.
To focus more on the muscles of the upper back and rear deltoids, position yourself so the pad sits a little higher on the chest, use a wider grip and flare your elbows out to the side as you row.
The neutral grip lat-focused row is typically the more shoulder-friendly variation of the two.
- Position yourself so the top of the pad lines up roughly with the lower part of your chest.
- Grasp the handles, take the T-bar off the pin and extend your arms.
- In the starting position, your arms should be straight.
- Pull the handles up towards your torso, feeling your shoulder blades squeeze together as you lift the weight.
- Pause briefly at the top, then lower the handles under control back to the starting position.
- While you should feel a slight stretch at the bottom of the movement, avoid relaxing the shoulder joint completely. You want to maintain a degree of tension in the shoulders and upper back in order to keep the shoulders healthy.
Resistance Band Seated Row
If you don’t have any barbells or dumbbells, the resistance band seated row serves as an adequate substitute for the inverted row.
However, resistance band rows suffer from one major limitation, and they tend to be less effective at stimulating muscle growth than a similar exercise done with barbells, dumbbells or an exercise machine.
What is that limitation?
When you do inverted rows on a Smith machine or suspension trainer, you’ve got a constant level of tension throughout the entire exercise.
That matters, because one of the things that makes your muscles grow is challenging them with high levels of tension in a lengthened position, a phenomenon known as stretch-mediated hypertrophy.
But you don’t get that with the resistance band seated row.
The band provides more resistance when it’s stretched and your arms are closer to your body than it does when your arms are straight. This means there’s very little tension in the end range of motion.
That doesn’t mean the resistance band seated row is a waste of time. It’s still a decent alternative to the inverted row, especially if you’re training at home without barbells, dumbbells, or a suspension trainer.
But all things considered, I think you’ll see better results with rowing movements done with barbells or dumbbells rather than resistance bands.
If you're overwhelmed and confused by all the conflicting advice out there, then check out The Muscle Building Cheat Sheet.
It's a quick guide to building muscle, which you can read online or keep as a PDF, that shows you exactly how to put on muscle. To get a copy of the cheat sheet sent to you, please enter your email address in the box below, and hit the “send it now” button.