The inverted row is a brilliant upper body exercise that focuses on your lats, traps, rhomboids, and biceps. It’s suitable for all fitness levels and is an excellent substitute if you can’t do pull-ups.

If you can't do inverted rows at home, there are many exercises that build a strong back.

In this guide, I'm sharing with you 10 of the best inverted row alternatives and how to do them.

An inverted row is usually performed with a barbell on squat rack or on the smith machine. Some squat racks cannot be set up low enough for an inverted row, or maybe you can't perform this exercise due to lack of equipment at home. 

Read on for my list of the 10 best inverted row alternative exercises you can perform at home.

1. Barbell Bent Over Row 

Man Doing Barbell Overhand Bent Over Row

The barbell bent-over row is an absolute staple and a fantastic alternative exercise to inverted rows. It’s a classic compound movement that’s been used to develop muscle mass ever since the golden era of bodybuilding. 

Barbell rows targets all the same muscle groups the inverted row does, but with the added benefit that you can overload your muscles with heavy weight. As a result, it's one of the best back builders around. 

While it’s a brilliant movement, some beginners may find it challenging to perform so start with just the barbell if this is you.


  • The bent over row can be loaded heavier for more strength gains.
  • Improves core strength.
  • Improves strength in both the upper and lower back.

How to do A barbell bent over row: 

  1. Set a barbell on the floor with the desired weight. 
  2. Stand in front of the barbell and pick it up using an overhand grip placed shoulder-width apart. (Use an underhand grip to emphasize the biceps and lower lats). 
  3. Hinge from the hips while maintaining a straight back and bring your body towards the floor. 
  4. Draw the elbows back, lift the barbell to your stomach, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and slowly return to the starting position. 
  5. Repeat for several reps and complete your set.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep your core braced throughout the movement to help stabalize your back in the hinge position.  Make sure you keep your chin tucked and your head isn't moving forwards as you row the barbell towards you.

Related Article - Olympic Vs Standard Barbells

2. Seated Cable Row

Man Doing Wide Grip Seated Cable Rows

The seated cable row is one of the best horizontal rowing movements you can do to develop lat strength. It allows you to place more stress on your back muscles than the inverted row, making it ideal for increasing upper-body mass.

It’s excellent for beginners as it allows you to practice scapular retraction while building up your base strength, making it one of my favorite alternatives for inverted rows.

However, if you don't have access to the cable machine - I suggest you take a look at seated cable row alternatives for similar effects.


  • Great exercise for those with back injuries who cannot hold a hinge position.
  • The cable machine increases time under tension.
  • Very effective exercise for muscular hypertrophy and strength.

How to do a seated cable row: 

  1. Set a suitable weight on the seated row cable machine.
  2. Set a suitable weight on the seated row cable machine.
  3. Grab the handle with an overhand grip.
  4. Sit upright, drawing your shoulder blades back and down.
  5. Pull the handle towards your chest, squeezing your lats together at the end of the movement.
  6. Slowly return to the start (don’t round your shoulders).
  7. Repeat for desired reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

You can change the handle attachment to target your muscles differently on a seated cable row. A close grip attachment will target more latissimus dorsi and biceps, whilst a straight bar with a wide grip will target the trapezius and rhomboid muscles. 

3. Pull-Ups 

Man Doing Pull-Ups

The pull up is one of the most underrated back exercises you can perform. Not only does it recruit all of the same muscles as the inverted row, but it’s one of the most impressive body weight exercises.

It’s easily performed in the house or home gym and doesn’t require much room at all, just a pull up bar. It’s a difficult exercise to perform, and even some advanced weight lifters can struggle with this inverted row alternative.

If you don't have access to a pull up bar, there are many alternatives to pull ups. For example, you can perform pull ups using a resistance band.


  • Challenging bodyweight exercise that will build a very strong upper body.
  • Can be modified to suit beginners.
  • Can be modified to increase the challenge to those who are advanced.

How to do a pull up: 

  1. Stand under a pull-up bar or frame. 
  2. Place your hands on the bar shoulder-width apart using an overhand grip. 
  3. Remove your feet from the floor, so your body hangs from your arms. 
  4. Create tension in your shoulder blades, so they’re stable. 
  5. Pull your body up to the bar until your upper chest (collar bone region) reaches the bar. 
  6. Hold for a second and slowly return to the bottom of the movement. 
  7. Repeat and finish your set.

Tips From A Trainer!

Initiate the movement by engaging your lats and lean back slightly whilst keeping your core tight. Make sure your arms are completely straight between reps to be counted as a full pull up. 

4. Sumo Deadlift High Pull 

Man Doing Sumo Deadlift High Pulls

If you want to develop your overall power, the sumo deadlift high pull is fantastic. It’s an outstanding inverted row alternative exercise that focuses on most of the same muscle groups worked during inverted rows.

It’s best suited for intermediate to advanced gym-goers as it’s a complex movement for beginners to learn. This exercise is also a great alternative to upright rows.


  • Builds full body strength.
  • Improves power generation and perfect for increasing explosive power.
  • Improves coordination and core strength.

How to do a sumo deadlift high pull: 

  1. Place a barbell on the floor with a suitable weight. 
  2. Stand in front of the barbell with your legs in a wide (2x shoulder width) stance. 
  3. Bend your knees and hinge your hips backwards slightly. 
  4. Hold the bar with both hands using an overhand grip. 
  5. Create tension in your body, brace your core and explosively fire your hips forward. 
  6. As the barbell reaches hip level, draw the elbows upwards and lift the barbell to below your neck (make sure your elbows are above your shoulders). 
  7. Slowly lower the barbell and reset so you’re ready for your next rep.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep your back straight when you are in the sumo deadlift position, don't let yourself round forwards. You can adjust feet width as needed and go wider if you have longer legs. 

5. Push Press 

Man Doing Push Press Exercise

The push press is a full-body compound movement that requires a lot of force generation coming from your glutes, triceps, deltoids, pecs, quads, and lower back [1]. It also heavily engages your core muscles, ensuring your body is kept under control.

This alternative to inverted row doesn’t work your lats as much as the inverted row. It would be good to pair this movement with another inverted row substitute that focuses on the lats, such as the lat pulldown or bent over barbell row.


  • Builds explosive power.
  • Builds a strong upper body and strong shoulder.
  • Teaches balance, coordination and timing.

How to do a push press: 

  1. Place a barbell across your shoulders with your hands under the bar with your palms facing upwards. 
  2. Slightly bend your knees and quickly straighten them in an explosive fashion. 
  3. As your knees straighten, use the force generated to help push the barbell straight up above your head. 
  4. Push your head through the gap in your arms so the barbell is directly above you. 
  5. Reverse the movement until the barbell is back at the starting position.
  6. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Ensure that as you dip you keep your weight towards your heels and you're not dipping forwards. Your body should stay vertical in the dip drive to help keep the bar moving in a vertical line. 

6. Single-Arm Dumbbell Row 

Man Doing Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows At The Gym

This alternative exercise for inverted rows is a fantastic back builder that isolates one side of your back at a time. As this movement is iso-lateral, it causes your core to work extra hard to stabilize your body.

It’s also beneficial for ironing out any muscular imbalances you might have developed from performing bilateral movements using a barbell.


  • The single-arm dumbbell row is an excellent staple for beginners.
  • Great muscle isolation exercise
  • Develops strength and muscle mass in your upper body.

How to do a single-arm dumbbell row: 

  1. Set a bench to a flat position. 
  2. Place a dumbbell on the right-hand side of the bench. 
  3. Place your left knee on the bench and have your right leg straight and slightly back. 
  4. Take your left hand and place it on the bench to support your upper body. 
  5. Pick up the dumbbell using your right arm. 
  6. Square your shoulders and flatten your back. 
  7. Lift the dumbbell towards your stomach, squeezing your lats together at the top of the row.
  8. Slowly straighten your arm and repeat. 
  9. Swap sides once you’ve completed your reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

Make sure that you are rowing your elbow back and not directly upwards. This will ensure the lat is doing the work and the traps and shoulders don't start taking over.

7. Dumbbell Upright Row 

Man Doing Dumbbell Upright Rows

This inverted row alternative is fantastic if you want to develop impressive shoulders. During the movement, your traps, front and middle heads of the delts, and biceps work incredibly hard to lift the weight.

You can adjust this exercise to suit your goal, as a wider grip increases the amount of work your deltoids do, and a narrower grip targets your traps more [2]. I love super-setting this exercise with a push press; it exhausts your shoulders and encourages muscle growth.  


  • Improves upper body stability.
  • Increases unilateral muscle development and addresses imbalances.
  • Improves posture.

How to do a dumbbell upright row: 

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands with an overhand grip. 
  2. Place them in front of your hips with your arms straight. 
  3. Draw the shoulder blades back and open the chest. 
  4. Lift the dumbbells to your neck height, leading with your elbows. 
  5. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Avoid shrugging the shoulders upwards, initiate the movement by pulling the elbows upwards. 

8. Lat Pulldown 

Man Doing Lat Pulldown Exercises

The lats form most of your back muscles and one of the best ways to develop the lat strength and size is to perform the lat pulldown.   

The lat pulldown is a fantastic inverted row substitute that works your back and biceps in a similar way the inverted row does.

However, if you don't have a lat pulldown machine available - try out lat pulldown alternative exercises that don't require a lot of equipment.


  • Helps you develop the strength needed for pull-ups.
  • Easy to perform and great for beginners.
  • Number of variations can be performed to target different muscles.

How to do a lat pulldown: 

  1. Sit on a lat pulldown machine and adjust the knee pad, so it’s tight against your legs. 
  2. Reach up and grab the handle using an overhand grip a little wider than shoulder width. 
  3. Create scapula tension by drawing the shoulders back and down. 
  4. Pull the handle towards your collar bone and squeeze your lats together. 
  5. Slowly straighten your arms back to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Initiate the movement by leaning slightly backwards with your torso to increase the range of motion and get the full benefits from this exercise. 

Related Article - Benefits Of Lat Pulldown

9. Reverse Fly 

Woman Doing Dumbbell Reverse Flys

This movement is a brilliant inverted row alternative for at home as it barely takes up any room and requires very little equipment.

Unlike the inverted row, which primarily targets the lats and biceps, the reverse fly mainly hits the rear deltoids and rhomboids [3]. It’s perfect if you’re looking to develop shoulder stability, as it works two of the most neglected muscles in the body.  


  • Improves posture and helps maintain a more upright position.
  • Helps reduce chronic neck pain.
  • Helps reduce risk of injury.

How to do a reverse fly: 

  1. Pick up a pair of dumbbells and hold them with your palms facing your sides. 
  2. Keep a straight back and hinge from your hips. 
  3. Let your arms hang out in front and keep a slight bend in your elbows. 
  4. Draw the shoulder blades back and create scapula tension. 
  5. Raise the dumbbells to the side and squeeze the shoulder blades together. 
  6. Hold for 2 seconds and slowly return to the beginning. 
  7. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Do this exercise with as much control as possible, keeping your core tight and back straight. 

10. Chest Supported Row 

Man Doing Chest-Supported Incline Dumbbell Rows At The Gym

The chest supported row is one of the best back building exercises around, and it helps you develop thickness in your lats and works them through an extensive range of motion similar to the inverted row.

As a bench supports your upper body, your core doesn’t need to stabilize your body during the movement, and less pressure is placed on your lower back.  


  • An ideal inverted row substitute for anyone with lower back problems who want to develop a strong upper back.  
  • Removes momentum meaning better muscle development in the upper back and lats.
  • Strengthens upper back and improves posture.

How to do a chest supported row: 

  1. Place a flat bench on two elevated platforms or steps (one under each end of the bench). 
  2. Put a set of dumbbells under the bench. 
  3. Lie face down on the bench. 
  4. Pick up the two dumbbells and let your arms hang vertically. 
  5. Draw your shoulder blades backwards. 
  6. Lift the dumbbells towards the bench and squeeze your lats together. 
  7. Reverse the movement and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Complete this movement with control and really think about squeezing your lats at the top position.  

Benefits Of These Exercises Over Normal Inverted Rows

The inverted row alternatives mentioned above are perfect for developing upper body strength and muscle mass. They work muscle groups such as the lats, traps, biceps, and rhomboids, placing them through a vast range of motion promoting muscle growth.

They’re ideal for beginners to develop the strength needed to perform complex movements like pull-ups.

Not only do these movements help with muscle size and strength, but they help improve your posture by stabilizing the scapula and shoulder joint.

Along with increasing your grip strength and recruiting your core muscles, these alternatives to inverted rows are fantastic to perform in your home or garage gym.  

Inverted Row Alternative FAQs

Are inverted rows as good as pull-ups? 

Yes, inverted rows and pull-ups work the same muscles and can be performed by most people, even beginners. Even though pull-ups are great, not everyone can do them.

What muscles do inverted row substitute exercises work? 

The inverted row substitute exercises primarily work your lats, traps, rhomboids, and your biceps. But, your core and posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, and spinal muscles) need to work incredibly hard to keep your body straight. 

Are inverted rows as good as barbell rows for building mass? 

While I’m a massive fan of the inverted row, I find the barbell row is best for developing muscle mass. The barbell row allows you to load the bar with far more weight to overload the muscles resulting in muscle growth. Combining both of these exercises is the sweet spot if you ask me.


If you’ve wanted to perform inverted rows but don’t have the space or equipment, then the inverted row alternatives in this guide are what you’ve been looking for. 

Build your upper body strength and muscle mass by adding a couple of these exercises into your upper body day.





Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website