10 Ways to Intensify an Inverted Row

STACK Expert Jim Carpentier offers 10 Inverted Row variations to strengthen your grip, core, back, shoulders and arms.

Inverted Rows are an all-around beneficial upper-body exercise, building grip and core strength along with back, shoulder and arm muscles.

Below are 10 creative ways to make the Inverted Row more challenging.


Inverted Rows are an all-around beneficial upper-body exercise, building grip and core strength along with back, shoulder and arm muscles.

Below are 10 creative ways to make the Inverted Row more challenging.


  • Squat rack or Smith machine with a barbell. Set the barbell waist-high on the rack or hook. Or use a stable, sturdy waist-high horizontal bar (e.g., in a park or playground).
  • Two medicine balls
  • One Swiss ball
  • Timer
  • Water bottle

RELATED: Improve Your Back Strength with the Inverted Row


  • Choose five of the following 10 Inverted Row exercises and perform one set per exercise during your normal workout.
  • Rest 30-60 seconds between exercises and hydrate before, during and after each workout.
  • Do a dynamic upper- and lower-body warm-up and finish with cooldown upper- and lower-body static stretches for greater flexibility.

1. Rows with heels atop a Swiss ball

Rows with Heels on Swiss Ball

  • Take a shoulder-width overhand or underhand grip on the bar with your legs extended, back straight, hips off the floor and heels atop a Swiss ball.
  • Perform 10 reps (one second up, pause and squeeze shoulder blades together for one second, then lower in two seconds).
  • Balance comes into play during each rep, engaging core muscles in the abdomen, lower and middle back and grip strength as you struggle to hold tightly to the bar.

RELATED: TRX Inverted Row With Kevin Durant

2. Rows with heels atop two med balls

Rows with Heels on Med Balls

  • Assume same position as in Exercise 1, but place your heel on two separate med balls, set a few inches apart.
  • Perform 10 reps.

3. Slow Rows with one foot off floor

Slow Rows with One Foot Off Floor

  • With your legs straight, lift one foot off the floor and do five reps—10 seconds pulling up, five seconds lowering.
  • Without pausing, switch feet and perform five slow reps.
  • This is another intense core and grip-strengthening exercise—particularly when the rep tempo is slowed.

4. Isometric Row

Isometric Row

  • Perform one long rep for as long as possible—heels on the floor/legs extended.
  • Pull up and hold (prone or supine grip).
  • Squeeze your biceps in the contracted position and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • This optimally tests forearm and biceps strength and muscle endurance as well as wrist, hand and core strength/endurance.

RELATED: Inverted Row on Physioball with TRX Straps

5. Moving heels during Rows

Moving Heels During Row

  • This exercise also tests lower-body endurance.
  • Alternately move your heels wide apart and then together (inward and outward) for 30-45 seconds while performing 10 up-and-down reps.

6. Single-Arm Rows

Single-Arm Rows


  • This exercise effectively tests balance and core and arm strength.
  • Attempt one, two or three reps (or more, depending on arm strength) with your right arm (left arm off the bar hanging to the side or extended at shoulder level).
  • Without pausing, switch arms and repeat.

7. Endurance Rows

Endurance Rows

  •  To enhance upper-body muscle endurance, perform as many reps as possible in 60 seconds.

8. Mixed-Grip Rows

Mixed-Grip Rows

  • Do five reps with an alternate grip, one hand prone and the other supine.
  • Switch hand positions for five more reps.

9. Moving hands on bar

Moving Hands on Bar

  • From the bottom position of the Row (legs and back straight, balanced on heels, hips off the floor and using a shoulder-width prone or supine hand grip on the bar), keep your arms extended as long as possible while moving your hands together and apart for 30-60 seconds.
  • Another endurance tester for hand, forearm and wrist strength.

10. Moving heels backward and forward during Isometric Row

Moving heels during Rows


  • This exercise tests upper- and lower-body muscle endurance and especially strengthens the lower abdomen.
  • Assume a contracted Isometric Row position (pulling up and holding).
  • Alternately walk your heels toward and away from you for 60 seconds.

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