Do Australian Push-Ups Have Benefits Like Pull-Ups?

Fun fact: Everything in Australia is not upside down, and toilets don't actually flush in the opposite direction in the land down under. But the myth that everything is upside-down in Oz is where the "Australian push-up" — more formally known as the inverted row, body row, incline pull-up or supine row — gets its name.

Inverted rows and pull-ups share benefits, but the devil's in the details. (Image: DeRepente/iStock/Getty Images)

If you imagine a push-up turned upside down, you'll have a pretty good picture of what this pull-up variation actually looks like. Like regular, rightside-up push-ups, the inverted row is a back exercise, but these two workouts differ in the details.

Row, Row, Row Your Back

Since "Australian push-ups" is kind of an obscure term, you may be curious about how to pull this one off. You'll just need your body and a sturdy, fixed horizontal bar to get started.

Step 1

Lie on your back under the bar, so the bar is just about level with your sternum. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip that's a bit wider than shoulder-width.

Step 2

Keep your body extended, back straight and feet just slightly apart. Your arms should be fully extended, so feel free to adjust the bar height as needed.

Step 3

Exhale as pull your body upward toward the bar until your chest makes contact with it. This should put your forearms and elbows at about a 45-degree angle.

Step 4

Inhale as you return to the starting position to complete one rep.

To Pull, or To Row?

Both the pull-up and the inverted row work a whole lot of back muscles — including the traps, lats, rhomboids and deltoids — as well as your biceps and your core. But they engage your muscles just a little differently, and each target different muscles more intensely.

A pull-up encourage greater lat recruitment. (Image: cash14/iStock/Getty Images)

The most clear difference is that, while inverted rows tend to focus on the back in general, pull-ups encourage more muscle activity specifically in the latissimus dorsi, the middle, outer portion of the back just below your armpits.

Meanwhile, inverted rows target more of the "big" back muscles, and the muscles that help you perform scapular retraction (which is moving your shoulder blades toward the spine), like the long erector spinae muscles of the middle back. As an added perk, getting your body stabilized from the slanted position encourages your abs and obliques to feel the burn, too.

Because the pull-up is a vertical pull while the row is a horizontal pull, you're engaging your muscles in completely different ways. When you give both exercises a place in your back regimen, you might just find them ideal complements; when you work your muscles from varying angles, you don't just gain street cred in the gym — you bolster your ability to pull weight from multiple directions in your day-to-day life.

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