Among other stupid injuries a year ago I got wrist tendinitis after trying negative and chair-assisted pull ups, and so those things are out of the menu. My road towards pull ups must cross either the Lat Pulldown Machine village, or the Inverted Rows progression. I am doing the latter by means of the adjustable bar of a Smith machine (yes, I know Smith machines are the devil, but I don't use it for squatting).

The Inverted Row progression feels good and seems to be strengthening my back, though I usually see that intermediate gymnastic routines trend to split the exercises, with one day of vertical push & pull (e.g. Pull Ups & Dips) and a second day of horizontal push & pull (e.g. Inverted Rows and Push Ups) thus considering the two exercises different and on an equal basis. That makes me wonder if my Inverted Rows are the right exercises in order to help me do Pull Ups in the future.

The famous book claiming to have been written by a convict says Inverted Rows are the preliminary step to Pull Ups, but I would like to have some other reasonable confirmation.

Remark: Nope, I don't like elastic bands and I have only access to a gym with a nice pulldown machine and a Smith Machine I am using as an adjustable bar to hang from during the Rows. It is either the Pulldown machine or the Inverted Rows.

3 Answers 3


I'm sure in a round-a-bout way they do since they're both compound arm/back exercises. But the angles are pretty different, the inverted row targeting the traps a bit more so than the pullup (or chinup) which targets the lats (and biceps, if you're doing chinups.

Inverted (or supine) rows I generally recommend as a warmup for back exercises, or for folks who are pretty new to training. Once someone can do barbell rows around ~100lbs I'd grab the barbell and toss some 25's on. A general problem with bodyweight training (like supine/inverted rows) is that you can only really only change up reps and sets; the weight stays constant. Pullups/chinups are in a different category because they are terrific exercises, so adding weight (chain belt, plates hanging off) just makes them that much better.

Inverted/supine rows though don't really need to be weighted since there are superior exercises (cleans, barbell rows, etc).

If you want to take negatives and band-assisted off the table, I'm sure you'll eventually get to pullup status by continuing with what you're doing. I have a hard time seeing someone who can do 100 near-horizontal inverted rows not able to knock out a single pullup.

  • Then, why not the pulldown machine? I know Nautilus-alike machines are nowadays regarded as medieval instruments from an obscure past, but the bar in a pulldown machine hangs from a cable, and so the movement pattern is not fixed, there is room for stabilisation muscles, individual movement pattern differences and so on.
    – Mephisto
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 11:25
  • 1
    The load can be easily changed (at least for inverted rows) by simply setting a higher/lower position of the Smith machine bar. In fact I started with a nearly vertical body position (Grandma Inverted Rows, so to say) and have progressed by lowering the bar twice, so that now my body is about 45 degrees above horizontal.
    – Mephisto
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 11:26

I had a problem with negative pull ups in the past. I also had wrist issues when doing the band assisted pull ups.There are three main grips to doing pull up exercises, overhand, underhand, parallel grips (neutral). The overhand is the hardest and it didn't take along for me to have tendinitis. The underhand grip the chin up version was just as hard on the joints. The Neutral grip palms facing each other was the best for me. Its far less stress on the the joints and I achieved good pull up strength from doing just that grip to start. You just have to be careful of how much you do and keep the volume reasonable. Eventually as you get stronger with neutral grip negative pull up, you will also get good at other grips as well. That is how it worked for me. I do inverted rows because it is easier on the lower back compared dumbbell rows. Everyone is different, I am just explaining what has worked for me in getting to doing pull ups. Good luck!

  • This doesn't seem to address Inverted Rows at all.
    – Sean Duggan
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 15:10

Inverted rows do help but it will not get you to doing pull ups by itself. The negative pull ups have to be thrown in there as the next step. I can do inverted rows before doing eccentric pull ups and I still had struggles with regular pull ups. If you really want to get good at pull ups then you will have to incorporate the eccentric pull ups which is just the lowering phase of the pull ups. The reason why I am recommend the neutral grip because it is easier than the other grips and it is safer on the joints.

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