Are Inverted Rows Better Than Pull Ups?

inverted row
September 7, 2022 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “are inverted rows better than pull ups?”. Both exercises are fantastic for building back strength and size.

They are different exercises however, I will explore both in this article and consider various benefits and drawbacks.

Are Inverted Rows Better Than Pull Ups?

Inverted rows are a horizontal pulling exercise, whereas pull ups are a vertical pulling movement. Both are great as you are moving your body through space so they work lots of stabiliser muscles as well.

Overall I would say that inverted rows can be used as a substitute to pull ups and an assistance exercise to improve your pull up strength. Inverted rows work the rhomboids and lower traps more than pull ups. Pull ups will target your lats a lot more.

The big drawback with inverted rows is that it isn’t as easy to load as pull ups. Pull ups allow for a lot more progression and you are stronger on this movement than inverted rows.

Therefore, I wouldn’t say that inverted rows are outright better than pull ups. From my perspective they are just as good in terms of the utility that they serve. A lot will also depend on your individual goals whether you choose to program in one exercise over the other. 

Inverted Rows Can Be Used As A Substitute

If you currently don’t do pull ups or are weak at them, inverted rows can be programmed into your routine to improve your pull up strength.

Inverted rows lend themselves to volume work and can be used to add serious strength and thickness to your upper back over time. Your upper back has to do a lot of work with this exercise.

I would recommend working up to sets of 8-10 on the inverted row and increasing the reps as you get stronger. You can then make the transition to pull ups, you should find that your pull ups will benefit from the additional strength accrued on the inverted row. 

There is a good article from Gym Pact showing some alternatives to the inverted row. You can read the article here

inverted row

Pull Ups Are Easier To Add Weight To

One of the big benefits of pull ups is the scale of progression that is possible with this exercise. You can add loads of weight very easily to pull ups with a quality dipping belt.

This means you can develop a lot of pull up strength over time and gain lots of size in the upper back. The inverted row is more difficult to load. You can use a weighted vest or a backpack and put weights in it.

This is more cumbersome. Alphadestiny in the video below shows some ways to load the inverted row. He prefers to add chains to his backpack and do weighted inverted rows in this way.

Pull ups are also an exercise where you can handle a lot more total weight than the inverted row. This is due to the fact that pull ups involve more total muscle mass than the inverted row. You can cheat more with a pull up.

The inverted row relies heavily on the upper back. There is very little cheating that can be done on this exercise – this can also be a good thing for building a brutally strong upper back. 

Exhaust The Muscles Easily With Inverted Rows

One great thing about inverted rows is it is very easy to exhaust the muscles by hitting the exercise from so many different angles.

The more horizontal you are when doing inverted rows, the more challenging the exercise is. As you become more vertical the exercise becomes easier. 

Therefore it is very easy to do drop sets fast and efficiently with the inverted row from different angles. With pull ups it takes more time to change the weight if you are doing weighted pull ups.

If you are doing bodyweight pull ups then you can do a drop set by doing band assisted pull ups. This will still take longer to do than with inverted rows.

For this setup I would recommend doing inverted rows using the TRX suspension system. It is incredibly easy to hit so many angles with the inverted row using this tool. It also allows more freedom of movement for your wrists.

If you are doing inverted rows using a barbell in a rack, you have less freedom of movement with your wrists. Personally, I think inverted rows using a suspension system is the best way of doing inverted rows. 

Final Thoughts

Are inverted rows better than pull ups? I would say no, they have equal utility in your training as pull ups. You can use inverted rows as a substitute and also as an assistance exercise for improving your pull up strength.

Inverted rows are best done using a TRX or similar suspension system. This allows you to hit the inverted row from countless angles and allow for the most freedom of movement. It is also friendly on your joints.

Both exercises can be loaded, but pull ups allow for a much higher degree of loading than the inverted row. To load the inverted row you can use a weighted vest or backpack full of weights. Therefore, the pull up is better in terms of sheer loading potential.

However, the inverted row done progressively over time will make your upper back very strong. There is a lot less room for cheating with the inverted row.

Your goals should be evaluated when making your decision. If your aim is to focus more on building up the lats, then pull ups would be better. If you want to build more upper back thickness and hit the lower traps really hard, inverted rows would be a great choice.

Let me know in the comments which exercise you prefer and why. Do you currently perform inverted rows in your routine?

As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

>> RELATED: How to get better at pull ups

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