Barbell Row vs. Inverted Row

Barbell Row vs. Inverted Row

Are inverted rows as effective for building wide, thick lats as standard barbell rows?

Opening Argument:

  • Defense – For decades the bent-over barbell row, has been the mass-building back exercise, because it allows you to overload the lats with the most weight.
  • Prosecution – The inverted row mimics the barbell bent-over row. With the inverted row, the bar is stationary while the body moves. It should be just as effective as the barbell row.


  • Lat muscle actively during the inverted row is about 60 percent greater than during the barbell row, which means it stimulates more muscle fibers to grow bigger.
  • The inverted row does not stress the back as much as the barbell bent-over row. This is great news for those with lower-back issues.

Verdict: Inverted Row

Since the inverted row activates more lat muscles fibers while also reducing stress on the lower back, it’s the better option.

Sentencing: Although inverted rows may stimulate more muscle fiber than barbell bent-over rows, your best option is to incorporate both movements into your back training. However, if you cannot perform the barbell row due to lower-back problems, then inverted row is your go-to exercise. To perform inverted row, lower the bar on a Smith Machine to just higher than arm’s length from the floor. Get under the bar and hold onto it with an overhand grip. Hanging with your body straight and your heels on the floor, pull your chest to the bar and then slowly lower back to the start position. You can create the same setup in a power rack. If your body weight it not heavy enough to keep you in the 6-to-12 range, wear a weight vest or use a weight plate on your chest.

barbell-row elevated-inverted-row


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