The best back exercise should not only work your back muscles but it should challenge the stability of your spine, hips, and shoulder girdle. Sure, it’s nice to think about having toned muscles as long as the ultimate goal remains being strong, aligned, and injury-free.
And one of my favourite exercises for accomplishing all of this, and what I think is the best back exercise of them all, is the inverted row. When doing a standard standing row — hinged forward at the waist with a flat back and pulling weights up to your sides — you can cheat a lot by lifting with your arms instead of your lats. This can lead to overworked and destabilized shoulders, overworked upper traps, and a weak spine. With the inverted row, it’s nearly impossible to cheat, and you also get to work your lower and mid-traps, biceps, core, and glutes.
The inverted row is also the preparation exercise for doing pull-ups, so if you’ve always wanted to do pull-ups (and if you haven’t, then why not?!), now you know where to start!
In this video, I demonstrate a beginner variation where you’re nearly standing and bending your legs to keep most of your bodyweight on your legs, to the intermediate version placing your body more parallel to the floor with legs extended — thereby sending more of your bodyweight to your upper body, to the advanced with legs tucked in to your body. The inverted row is normally performed on a Smith machine or squat rack at the gym where you can set a barbell at various heights, grabbing it with an overhand grip just wider than shoulder-width, but here you’ll see me using free-moving bands that are anchored to my ceiling.
I do hope to do a more complete back exercise video in the near future, but for now, the inverted row: