How to Do Reverse Pushups


The classic pushup, performed by Olympic athletes and recreational fitness fans alike, works the muscles of the chest, arms and shoulders without the need for exercise equipment. In contrast, reverse pushups work the opposing muscles and can help keep your upper-body muscles in balance. Reverse pushups, also known as body rows or inverted rows, are so-called because they resemble regular pushups but with your body positioned in reverse. Reverse pushups require nothing more than a sturdy bar that is set to around hip height. They are done with your chest facing up and your feet on the ground.

Before You Start

  • Before performing reverse pushups, or any other demanding exercise, make sure you prepare your body and mind by warming up. Do a few minutes of light cardio followed by some dynamic stretches and mobility exercises focusing on your arms, shoulders and back. Make sure the bar you are using is strong enough to support your weight many times over because it if fails you could fall and land on your back.

Correct Technique

  • Lie on your back beneath a sturdy, horizontal bar, such as a barbell in a squat rack or a Smith machine. The bar should be set at arms' length. Reach up and grasp the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Extend your legs and, with straight arms, lift your hips off the floor so your body is ramrod-straight -- this is your starting position. Keep your legs, butt and core tight and bend your arms. Inhale and pull your chest up to lightly touch the bar. Keep your wrists straight and lead with your elbows to keep the stress on your muscles and off your joints. Slowly exhale and extend your arms to return to the starting position and then repeat. Do not relax between repetitions but, instead, keep your body straight and tight.

Muscles Used

  • The reverse pushup is not only the mirror image of a regular pushup, it also uses the opposite muscles. Regular pushups target your pectoralis major, anterior deltoids, triceps, chest muscles and muscles on the front of your shoulders. Reverse pushups work your middle trapezius and rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoids and biceps. These are the muscles on your upper back, side back, rear shoulders and upper arms. Working the muscles of the upper back can help prevent and even correct poor posture.


  • There are several variations of the reverse pushup. To make this exercise easier, bend your legs to reduce the amount of weight on your arms or raise the bar to increase the incline of your body. To make the exercise more demanding, elevate your feet to make a more horizontal body position, wear a weighted vest or carefully rest a weight plate on your abdomen. Choosing a wider grip also makes this exercise more demanding. You can also perform reverse pushups using a gymnastics ring-like device called a suspension trainer.

Repetitions and Sets

  • Select the number of repetitions you perform of this exercise according to your training goals. For strength, perform sets of one to five repetitions. For muscle growth, perform sets of six to 12, and for muscular endurance, perform sets of 13 to 20. Adjust the number of sets -- which is a group of repetitions -- to reflect your current fitness level. One to two sets is sufficient for beginners, and three to five sets works for more advanced exercisers. Always stop your set before your technique breaks down since poor technique can lead to injury.

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