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.


  • 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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