Inverted rows can be a helpful row variation for certain situations and people. At the same time, some of its alternatives could be better for you.
This exercise is a great option if you want to strengthen your lats, biceps, trapezius, and to some extent erector spinae and forearm grip muscles without much equipment.
At the same time, inverted rows require specific equipment to add weight and a suited bar to hold.
Luckily, there are plenty of inverted rows alternatives that offer similar benefits. Often to a larger extent because it is so easy to add weight.
1. Bent-over rows
Many people think they absolutely have to do bent-over rows with a barbell so this exercise may seem out of reach at home. However, you can also other back exercise equipment like dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, etc.
Even if you don’t have these more fitness-specific equipment options, you could use a backpack with heavy books and water bottles.
That being said, take the following steps to do a bent-over row with resistance bands:
- Stand up straight with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Anchor the resistance band under your feet and hold it at a point where you already experience some tension in the next step.
- Stretch your legs until they are slightly less than stretched and tilt your upper body back until it is slightly less than horizontal. Keep your spine straight throughout the exercise. Let your shoulder blades and arms hand down for now.
- Slowly move your hands toward your body by pulling your shoulder blades back and folding your arms. Generally, the bigger the range of motion, the better.
- Lower your hands and shoulder blades back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
Bent-over rows are basically the same movement as inverted rows. At the same time, this position makes it easier to add heavier weights.
This makes bent-over rows a great alternative to inverted rows for stronger individuals who want to grow and strengthen their latissimus dorsi, biceps, and trapezius muscles.
Pull-ups are not just a well-known bodyweight exercise, they can be very effective too when you approach them right.
To do this inverted row alternative you do need a doorway pull-up bar or a similar horizontal bar with an acceptable diameter/circumference.
Once you have that, take the following steps to do a pull-up:
- Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward.
- Pull your body up in a controlled motion until your chin is above the bar.
- Slowly lower your body back into starting position.
Compared to inverted rows, pull-ups focus more on the latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back) muscles and less on the trapezius (upper back) muscles.
This different ratio of muscle engagement can be an upside or downside depending on your training goals. If you do a lot of chest exercises it can be a smart idea to still implement some middle trapezius exercises too.
One potential downside of pull-ups is that they are relatively challenging. Not being able to do enough repetitions reduces the effectiveness of your workouts.
You can do the resistance band or machine-assisted versions if this is the case.
On the flip side, more experienced lifters may need to do weighted pull-ups with a dip belt, weighted vest, ankle weights, etc. to see their desired results.
3. Lat pulldowns
This next inverted row alternative typically has its own back machine setup at the gym. This is basically a seat with pads to brace your upper thighs against in front of a cable machine.
With a good anchor at the right height, you may also be able to do this exercise with resistance bands. Take the following steps to do a lat pulldown with the dedicated machine:
- Select the desired weight, grab the handle with your hand palms pointing forward, and take place on the lat pulldown machine seat. Tightly anchor your legs behind the thigh pads and slightly tilt your upper body.
- Slowly pull the bar down to your chest by folding your arms and potentially pulling your shoulder blades back.
- Return the bar to the position of step 1 in a controlled motion.
As the name implies, this exercise mainly focuses on your latissimus dorsi also known as your lats. Even so, you still work your biceps a good amount and potentially your trapezius depending on how you do the movement.
So this is definitely more of an isolated alternative to inverted rows. You typically don’t get the same lower back, glute, hamstring, and trapezius engagement.
Something else to keep in mind is that the equipment requirements for lat pulldown are generally more strict.
4. Single-arm rows
To do single-arm rows you will need one-handed free weights like for example a dumbbell and a flat weight bench or something similar that is strong enough.
Once you have the required gear, take the following steps to do a single-arm row:
- Stand on the side of the weight bench with one dumbbell in the hand farthest away from the weight bench.
- Put the hand and knee closest to the weight bench on the flat surface. Let your arm and shoulder blade of the dumbbell side hand down for now. Keep your spine straight and your shoulders and hips horizontal.
- Raise the dumbbell as far as comfortable in a controlled motion by pulling your shoulder blade back and folding your arm. Keep your upper arm close to your sides and the rest of your body in the same position.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell to the position of step 2.
- Complete your sets on one side and repeat the same number of repetitions on the other side to avoid muscle imbalances.
Single-arm rows mainly focus on the same muscles as inverted rows but there are some differences that could make this alternative a better choice.
First of all, you do the exercise unilaterally, with one side at a time. This helps you work each side to the same extent which can help you avoid muscle imbalances.
Secondly, because you lean against a sturdy surface, it becomes harder to cheat by using other muscles like your glutes or hamstrings to move the weight.
This could make it easier to focus on the target muscles with single-arm rows.
5. Seated cable rows
Similar to lat pulldowns, you typically do seated cable rows with a dedicated machine.
This is a construction where you sit down with your feet on sloping pads to brace yourself against the resistance of the weights.
Similar to other row variations, you pull the handle horizontally toward your body. In the process, you work your latissimus dorsi, trapezius, bicep, and forearm grip muscles similar to inverted rows.
A benefit of seated cable rows is that you can adjust the resistance easily and precisely. This makes it easier to progress and implement training techniques like drop sets.
Additionally, the seated position makes it easier to focus on the main muscles of the exercise. It requires less attention to keep your spine straight.
On the flip side, the cable version of this inverted row alternative does require very specific equipment. Even so, you could also do this exercise with resistance bands at home.
6. Dumbbell pullovers
To do a dumbbell pullover you again need a dumbbell and a flat weight bench. Once you have these, take the following steps to do a dumbbell pullover:
- Lie on a weight bench with your head on the end of the bench and pull your shoulder blades back. Hold one dumbbell in your hands. Both of your hands hold one weight of the dumbbell.
- Keep your arms slightly less than stretched and point them up.
- Slowly move the dumbbell back and down as far as comfortable. To engage your back muscles you want to point your elbows more outward. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the movement.
- Return your arms back to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion.
The dumbbell pullover is an isolated inverted row alternative that focuses on your latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back) muscles.
If you feel your lower chest muscles working instead of your lats, your technique is likely slightly off. You want to point your elbows outward enough to work this back muscle.
This isolated focus could be a benefit or downside depending on why you are looking for a replacement for this row variation.
7. T-bar rows
The T-bar row requires a setup where one end of a bar is anchored close to the ground. There are also often elevated platforms for your feet. You can load the bar with weights on the other side.
This exercise gets its name from the T-shaped handles you hold during the movement. Take the following steps to do a T-bar row:
- Load the bar with the desired amount of weight, stand on the platform with the bar between your legs and face away from the anchor, and hold the T-bar handles. Keep your spine straight throughout the exercise
- Raise the bar as far as comfortable in a controlled motion by pulling your shoulder blades back and folding your arms.
- Slowly lower the T-bar back into starting position.
T-bar rows are similar to bent-over barbell and inverted rows but there are differences that could make this alternative a better choice.
The main one is that the T-handle allows you to go through a slightly bigger range of motion. This is generally helpful for muscle growth and strength progress.
Besides that, anchoring the bar to the ground makes it so you have to pay slightly less attention to balance. This can improve your upper back workout to a small extent.
8. Renegade rows
For this next inverted row alternative, you want a pair of dumbbells of the right weights. Once you have this, take the following steps to do a renegade row.
- Place the dumbbells about shoulder-width apart on the ground with the handles horizontal to each other.
- Put your hands on the handles and sit on your knees.
- Step back with your feet until your body is in a straight line from your heels to the top of your head. Keep your wrists straight and shoulders above the dumbbells.
- Slowly raise one dumbbell as far as comfortable by pulling your shoulder blade back and folding your arm. You may need to put your feet wider apart for stability.
- Lower the dumbbell back to the floor in a controlled motion.
- Complete your sets on one side and repeat the same number of repetitions on the other side.
Renegade rows work similar muscles as inverted rows but because of the plank position, you also work your abs, obliques, and balance a good amount.
Potentially up to the point where it interferes with your upper back workout.
For this reason, you mostly want to see renegade rows as a fun way to switch up your upper back workouts. In terms of muscle growth and strength progress, some of the other alternatives are likely better choices.
9. Meadows rows
To do Meadows rows you need a landmine setup. This is where you anchor a barbell close to the ground and hold the free barbell sleeve to create resistance in exercises.
Once you have the required gear, take the following steps to do a Meadows row:
- Load the landmine set up with the desired number of weight plates. Stand right next to the free barbell sleeve with one side toward the anchor. Put the hand closest to the anchor on the barbell and keep your spine straight.
- Stretch your legs until they are slightly less than fully stretched. Keep your upper body in a horizontal position with your spine straight.
- Raise the barbell as far as comfortable in a controlled motion by pulling your shoulder blade back and folding your arm.
- Slowly lower the barbell back to the ground.
- Complete your sets and repeat the same number of repetitions on the other side to avoid muscle imbalances.
Meadows rows are not the greatest alternative to inverted rows but it does work some of the same muscles.
The main downside of this exercise is that the thick barbell sleeve could fatigue your forearm grip muscles before your upper back and bicep muscles had a good workout.
On the flip side, you may like the unilateral (each side separately) training and the feeling of the landmine trajectory.
10. Endless rope machine
There is a machine that simulates pulling a very long rope. Some models come with a seat. Others require you to stand up. Both types can be used as an inverted row alternative.
For example, you can put the height setting at about chest/shoulder height and start pulling. The motion will engage the same muscles you use in inverted rows.
If the endless rope machine available only has a high setting, you can tilt your upper back to some extent.
One difference with inverted rows is that the resistance on endless rope machines is not always that high.
From a certain strength level on, you will start training muscle endurance instead of growing and strengthening your latissimus dorsi, biceps, trapezius, and grip muscles.
Something else to keep in mind is that endless rope machines are not the most popular pieces of fitness equipment. Many gyms will not have this alternative available.