While almost every guy trains his back with weights, most avoid body-weight exercises because they’re just plain hard. You can’t do pullups, so you simulate them on lat pulldown machines and pretend you’re eliciting the same training effect—even though in reality, you’re not even coming close in terms of effort level and degree of difficulty. Sound familiar?

It works the same way for horizontal pulls. Bent rows and chest-supported rows are great for general lat development, but when it’s time to find your level of relative strength (your strength in relation to your body weight) in the horizontal plane, there’s no substitute for the inverted row.

“When you train using pulling movements,” says New York strength coach Louis D’Agostino, a former NFL running back, “the general idea is to work in multiple planes, especially for athletes, because you’re always pulling in different directions. The inverted row is the single most effective pulling exercise you can do in the horizontal plane.”

If you’ve never done them, start with your feet on the floor and your body at a 45-degree angle, then progress to performing inverted rows with your feet elevated on a bench or stability ball— with your body parallel to the floor. Keep track of where your feet are. Try to move them forward a few inches each week using the same set and rep scheme until you’re finally performing the exercise with your feet off the ground.


THE SETUP The two most popular ways to perform inverted rows.


TRX Straps are perfect for this purpose. Simply set the straps at a height that, when you hang with your body in a rigid position, keeps you a few inches off the ground. The straps allow you to rotate your hands to a neutral grip at the top of the movement—a more natural and comfortable finish position.


Position the rack’s spotter bars at the height from which you want to pull (see above description) then place a barbell across them and pull away. Use a variety of different grips—underhand and overhand—and grip widths.


Exercise Sets Reps
Pullup 3 5-8
TRX Inverted Row 4 10
T-Bar Row 3 10
Face Pull 3 12

Get more features like this for free in the web version of the Muscle & Fitness 2014 Training Trends Special Digital Issue.