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A reverse pushup, also called an inverted row, is so named because it looks like a pushup in reverse -- you pull your body weight instead of pushing it. Incorporate reverse pushups with other body weight exercises, such as pushups, squats and burpees, for a full-body workout, or add them at the end of your back workout as a finishing movement.
The reverse pushup targets the back muscles, the opposing muscles to the chest. The main movers are the latissimus dorsi, the largest back muscles and the trapezius muscles, triangular-shaped muscles in your upper back. The reverse pushup is more convenient to do than other back exercises because you do not need any external resistance -- your body weight acts as the resistance. You can easily change the intensity of the exercise by using bars of different heights and changing the position of your legs.
When performing the inverted row, hold your body in a straight line throughout the movement, similar to the proper form for a pushup. Your hips should not sag or rise, but stay in line with the rest of your body. Engage your core muscles by squeezing your buttocks and tightening your abs to maintain the proper body alignment. Grab the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder-width, overhand grip. Position your body under the bar with your legs extended and your weight resting on your heels. Start with your arms fully extended. Exhale, squeeze your back muscles and bend your elbows to pull your chest to the bar. Hold this position for a count before slowly lowering back to the starting position.
The bar should be between waist and chest height. The higher the bar is, the easier the exercise is because your body is more vertical to the floor. A lower bar forces your body into a more horizontal position, meaning you pull more of your body weight. In the horizontal position, if you extend your legs, this makes the exercise more challenging. To make it less difficult, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor close to your buttocks. Change your grip on the reverse pushup to emphasize different muscles. A wide, outside the shoulders grip reduces the work of the biceps, making the exercise more challenging. Bring your hands closer together for an easier modification. An underhand, palms-up, grip increases the involvement of the biceps muscles, making the exercise easier.
When first incorporating the reverse pushup into your workout routine, start with an easier variation and work your way up to more challenging versions. Make sure you can complete at least 12 repetitions with good form before you advance to a more difficult modification of the exercise. At a gym, you can safely perform the reverse pushup on a Smith machine or power rack. Outside of the gym, check the railing or bar you will use to make sure it is secure and will safely hold your weight.