How The Horizontal Row Enhances Solid Back Development

inverted row

This exercise can seriously increase your pulling power.

When it comes to the movements we as athletes need to master, two come to mind: pressing and pulling. Virtually all movements are either pressing or pulling oriented and what you will find is that pressing motions tend to be quite common in training. The bench press is the easiest example off the bat to use for a pushing exercise, same as a push-up. It’s literally in the name.

But for our back muscles and our attempts at getting as wide of lats as possible, sometimes we need to emphasize more of those pulling motions. What the horizontal row can do is really boost your pulling capabilities so you never lack in pulling ability and the risk of a muscle imbalance is greatly reduced.

Let’s take a look at the horizontal row and see what benefits this exercise has on all our gains, especially when it comes to pulling and getting the most out of our back muscles. From what is it, to muscles worked, and the benefits of this exercise, you will most likely want to add this to your routine.

We’ll show you steps on how to perform it and some of the best alternatives for those days you feel like changing it up. With the results to prove it, this exercise just found a home in your workout routine.

What Is The Horizontal Row?

The horizontal row exercise is also commonly referred to as the inverted row, bodyweight row, horizontal pull-up, and a host of other names. With this exercise being one of just bodyweight, it only requires a bar as your point of contact. Training many upper body muscles, it is a great pulling enhancer when it comes to your pulling capabilities in terms of strength and overall stability (1). As a great dynamic exercise, athletes of all levels can enjoy this in their workout and really benefit for back building and overall balance work.

Muscles Worked

For this exercise, your entire upper body gets some good work done which will prove to be great in the long run for all your gains. Plenty of back muscles will feel a burn including your rhomboids and upper back, mid traps, and lats. For those other upper body muscles, your biceps, forearms and other gripping muscles, and your core will all be needed to not only effectively perform this exercise, but also act as essential movers. Your core will be a primary point of engagement as that is where much of your balance and stability will come from.


Benefits Of The Horizontal Row

Build Foundational Strength

When it comes to building strength, we often focus on those exercise that give our muscles a serious pump. But what we often neglect is the functional strength required to really boost our everyday lives, not just those in the gym. Functional strength allows us to live more positive lifestyles as everything we do in the gym translates over into our everyday activities (2). As a great way to eliminate muscle imbalances, for those who do a lot of pushing exercises, look to build functional pulling strength to counteract any imbalances you may have.

Helps Promote Posture & Good Technique

This is a hard exercise to perform and an even harder one to cheat on. Don’t try and cheat yourself with this because your form won’t allow it. This requires you to have an engaged core and flat back and anything less than that will ultimately hurt your gains, and quite negatively. Since this exercise allows you to form good technique and have good posture, this will translate nicely into other areas of your training.

Round Out A Stellar Physique

As mentioned earlier, this is a great exercise to help tackle any muscle imbalances by counteracting those dominate pushing exercises. But what this can do is really widen your lats and give your back a stellar physique you want most. As bodybuilders, we need a well-rounded physique to show off and by tackling both muscle imbalances and building a great base of functional strength, you will be more than ready to take the stage.

back workout

How To Perform The Horizontal Row

Here are the steps to performing the horizontal row:

Grab the bar around shoulder width apart in grip as you lay on the ground. The bar should be directly over your chest and your legs will be extended out in front of you. Your heels are the only point of lower body contact. Engaging your core and glutes, lift yourself towards the bar off the ground and touch your chest with the bar. Slowly lower yourself to the starting position and repeat for your desired number of reps.

Horizontal Row Alternatives

For those who want to mix things up a bit, these alternatives are great to still provide similar benefits and work your body just as well as the horizontal row.

Pull-Ups: A staple exercise for many, pull-ups work for back development and can lead to that desired V-shape we all know and love (3).

Seated Cable Row: A great pulling exercise that enhances upper body growth, but provides less stress on the low back.

Barbell Row: Works to develop a strong back, improve posture, and increase the amount of weight on your deadlift as it really challenges your pulling ability.

Wrap Up

For those of us lacking in pulling strength, it is important to focus on these movements to enhance that area of our gains. With muscle imbalances being all too common, unfortunately as a result of our massive pushing exercises, working to tackle and eliminate those will only help work out that well-rounded physique we want to see most. With great benefits to back growth, wide lats, posture, and physique, this exercise should be in your routine as soon as possible to get you competition ready. Check out the horizontal row, watch how the pros do it, and put this in your back day, for those wide lats will thank you in no time.

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*Images courtesy of Envato


  1. Hori, Naruhiro; Kawamori, Naoki; Chiu, Loren Z. (2009). “Pulling movement in weightlifting exercises from a biomechanical standpoint”. (source)
  2. Weiss, Tiana; Kreitinger, Jerica; Wilde, Hilary; Wiora, Chris; et al. (2010). “Effect of Functional Resistance Training on Muscular Fitness Outcomes in Young Adults”. (source)
  3. Ronai, Peter; Scibek, Eric (2014). “The Pull-up”. (source)
Austin Letorney
Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.