The Inverted Row is one of our favorite back exercises.  Not only does this exercise give you an awesome looking back, it also helps keep your shoulders and low back healthy and pain free.

When we’re designing our programs, we generally like to see almost twice as much pulling versus pushing.  Most traditional strength programs are completely backwards.  Most of them tend to steer towards pushing and pressing while limiting the amount of pulling being performed.  Our programs are not like many traditional programs you see, and that’s one unique thing that helps separate us from the crowd.

With that in mind, we want to bring you another Foundational Exercise that we use at Complete Fitness Results on a regular basis.  If you’ve trained with us over the past few years, odds are in your favor that you’ve at least performed a handful of reps doing the Inverted Row.  So what exactly is the Inverted Row?

The Inverted Row is a rowing exercise that will train the musculature of the upper back.  Basically, the Inverted Row is just like a push up, only done in reverse.  Rather than pushing your body away from the floor, you’re pulling your body towards an apparatus.  This exercise is generally done from a suspension trainer like the TRX or Jungle Gym; however, you can also perform this exercise by positioning yourself underneath a barbell in a squat rack if you don’t have a suspension trainer handy.

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Performed properly, the exercise will train more than just your upper back and shoulders.  If you perform this properly, you’ll work on good posture, hips, and core all at the same time.  The pictures above are great examples of how to perform this properly.  However, we rarely see this being done properly without a little coaching to help clean things up.  With that in mind, I want to go over some of the common errors we see in the Inverted Row:

It’s All Arms and Shoulders, Not Back! – Outside of posture, this is by far the most common error I see with the Inverted Row, or rows in general.  What do I mean by this?  Basically, when I see people row, I see a lot of pulling done with all arms and shoulders and very little, if any, back.  When the shoulder blades become stuck on the back of the rib cage and don’t move, your upper body mobility will become limited, and the chances of sustaining a shoulder injury will go up dramatically.  If you’re perform

ing this exercise properly, you should feel a lot of movement with the shoulder blades.  The shoulder blades should be gliding on the rib cage each and every rep.  As you pull your body up, make sure your shoulder blades begin to glide on the rib cage and squeeze them together at the top position.  While lowering your body back to the starting position, the shoulder blades should still be gliding on the rib cage, but only this time, they’ll be gliding the opposite way and wrapping around the ribs towards the chest.  Notice the shoulders in the picture to the side.  The shoulders in this picture are rolled forward, not back.  If I see the shoulders in this position, I can guarantee you that your shoulder blades aren’t moving properly on the rib cage.  Try to watch this shoulder position the next time you perform a row.

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Shrugging or Forward Head Posture – These two usually go together.  More often than not, we’ll see a forward head lean if we see someone shrugging their shoulders.  It’s really hard to keep your head and neck in good alinement if you’re shrugging while doing push up’s or inverted rows.  In order to keep the head and neck in a good position, we need to minimize the shrugging while performing this exercise.  A good cue to think about while rowing is to keep your shoulders out of your ears.  By simply pulling the shoulders down while rowing, you’ll start to feel this in a different area.  When we’re performing a horizontal row, like the Inverted Row, we want to feel it in the low traps.  The low traps are basically the area around the bottom of the shoulder blades for those of you not accustomed to anatomy.  If you’re feeling this in the upper traps (neck/high shoulders), chances are you’re shrugging while performing this.  Do your best to keep your head in a neutral position, shoulders low, and try to feel this in between your shoulder blades and low on the shoulder blade region.

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Forward Head Posture

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Sway Back and Rib Flare – This is the final common error I want to explain.  This error is very common in a lot of exercises, not just the Inverted Row.  Simply put, if you have sway back and you’re flaring your ribs out, you’re not using your core.  What happens when the low back arches in this manner is that the core muscles shut off and don’t have the ability to work.  By looking at the picture below, notice how the abs are stretched out when we see the ribs flare out.  When muscles get stretched and are long, they don’t have the ability to contract.  Also, by holding this position, you’re going to put a lot of stress on the shoulders as well.  If the core can’t do it’s job properly, than the shoulders and back are going to take more of the toll.  Watch the ribs and position of the back while doing this exercise and you’ll notice huge difference.  It may shorten your range of motion, but it will keep everything in your body working the way it should.  Don’t allow this major compensation to happen to increase your range of motion or to do a couple extra reps.

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Sway Back / Rib Flare

Get strict with your form and try to watch all four of the errors we listed.  If you want any help improving your form on some of these exercises of the week, be sure to give us a call at 314-402-2238.

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