Awhile back I wrote an article showing 5 awesome inverted row variations to take spice up your training. I was curious what kind of reception it would get because I think inverted rows often get poo-pooed by stronger athletes as being too easy. After all, it’s only “bodyweight” right? Well, much to my surprise, I actually received an overwhelmingly positive response, and even as late as yesterday, I was still receiving comments from people who have tried out some of the variations I introduced and love them. That’s great to see. With that in mind, I thought I would up the ante and provide you with 5 more challenging and fun variations to add to your arsenal.
1. Thick Rope Rows. This is a great variation to build bigtime grip strength. Simply drape the ropes (the thicker the better) over a power rack or strong beam and start rowing. You can easily adjust the setup based on your current strength level; the higher up you hold the ropes, the easier it will be. You may also want to start with your feet on the ground and progress to elevating them on a bench as you improve. You can also add a weigh vest once bodyweight is not enough. When you are done with these, your forearms will feel like someone pumped them up with a tire compressor.
2. 1 Leg Rows. This is a great way to get in some extra core work. Setup as you would for a regular inverted row and pull yourself into position. Before you begin the first rep, pick your left foot up off the bench, keeping the leg extended out straight. As you do this, squeeze your core, your right glute, and your left quad. From there, begin rowing as usual. Lessening your base of support automatically forces you to engage your core in overdrive since your entire body must remain tight to avoid flopping around. While it is not completely essential, I recommend doing these with blast straps , the TRX suspension trainer, or something similar to allow your shoulders to rotate through their natural range of motion.
3. Band-resisted rows. This is a great exercise to build explosive strength. Set up with the bands pulled tight across the bottom of the power rack going across the upper part of your chest. From there, pull as hard as you can, and make it FAST. Bands provide accommodating resistance, meaning the tension increases as you get further into each rep. Therefore, you must pull each rep fast to avoid getting pulled down at the top as the tension increases. The goal of this exercise is not so much about loading it heavy as it working as speed and acceleration. As such, you won’t need a ton of band tension. I like to use the Elitefts light bands or monster minis .
4. Plate-loaded rows. No weight vest? No problem. Here is a variation if you do not have a weight vest available to you. Simply put a plate across your abdomen and go. This system only works with your feet elevated, and the straps or bar must be placed at a level where your torso is parallel to the floor at the top of the rep. If it is any higher, the plates will slide down towards your feet. This variation also works much better with the rubber coated plates. The setup is admittedly a bit cumbersome with heavier weights, but I actually like it because it forces you to keep your core extremely tight throughout the entire set. If you sway at all, the plates will fall off. It is also cool because it allows you to load the exercise beyond the weight of even the burliest weight vests.
5. “1.5” Reps. This is one of personal favorites. I have seen the 1.5 rep method used a lot for different lower body exercises but learned it specifically for rows from Dante Trudel, the founder of DC training. It is typically done with T-bar rows or machine rows, but I tried it out on inverted rows and it works great as well. The 1.5 rep method is pretty self-explanatory. Row up, come halfway down, row back up, and come all the way down. That’s one rep. I like to do these for sets of around “10” reps, which is really feels more like 15. This is typically seen as primarily an advanced variation, but I actually think it can be beneficial for anyone. For new lifters, it can be a great way to teach proper rowing form and develop a mind-muscle connection. Newer lifters tend to struggle to feel their back working on rowing movements and fail to retract their scapula, so this variation can really help with that. Of course, in this case it will probably be necessary to regress the exercise by using a higher strap height and placing the feet on the ground. For stronger lifters, this is a great technique to increase time under tension and really focus on the contraction. This can be great for shoulder health, posture, and building up the upper back. I warn you though: Beware of the pump as it can get pretty intense.
Between these 5 variations and the exercises in the previous article, that should keep you busy for awhile.