bodyweight back exercises
Fitness

16 Powerful Bodyweight Back Exercises You Should Try

A strong, thick, V-shaped back is the epitome of manly power and ruggedness. A lot of guys spend their time pumping heavy iron on moves like deadlifts and lat pulldowns to achieve a back of distinction. But going hard and heavy with raw poundage is not the only or even the best, route to impressive back development.

In this article, I lay out the 16 best bodyweight back exercises to allow you to blast your back at home with nothing but your own body.

1. Pull Ups

Muscles worked

Latissimus dorsi, front deltoids, biceps

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Hang from a pullup bar with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
  2. From this starting position, depress the shoulder blades, engage the lats and pull up to bring your chin over the bar.
  3. Lower back to a dead hang and repeat.
  4. Perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Tips 

Do not swing, kip, or allow momentum to help get your body up.

2. Superman

via Gfycat

Muscles worked

Spinal erectors

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie face down on the floor on an exercise mat with arms by your sides and legs extended, feet together. 
  2. From this starting position,, arch your body to bring your shoulders and legs off the floor. Extend your finger tips back.
  3. Hold this position for a count of 5.
  4. Lower and repeat.
  5. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

Tips 

Tightly contract your spinal erectors in the contracted position.

3. Floor Y Raise

Muscles worked

Spinal erectors

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie face down on the floor on a yoga mat with legs extended and wide apart. Your arms should be extended in a ‘Y’ position with your thumbs up.
  2. From this starting position, lift your shoulders and arms from the floor pushing your thumbs to the ceiling.
  3. Hold for a 3 second count.
  4. Lower and repeat.
  5. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

Tips 

Keep your lower back down on the floor throughout the exercise. Pull in your belly button.

4. Bird Dog

via Gfycat

Muscles worked

Spinal erectors, deltoids, core muscles

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Get down on the floor on a yoga mat in a table top position, with your palms and knees on the floor. Keep your shoulders over wrists.
  2. From this starting position, extend your right leg and left foot out to full extension. 
  3. Hold for 15 seconds.
  4. Lower and repeat with the opposite limbs.
  5. Do 10 reps on each side.
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Tips 

Maintain a tight core and rigid upper body position throughout. 

5. Inverted Row

via Gfycat

Muscles worked

Latissimus dorsi, front deltoids, biceps

Equipment used 

Bar

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Set up a bar about four feet from the floor.
  2. From this starting position, lie under the bar with extended legs, feet together and reach up to grab it with an overhand grip ay just slightly wider than shoulder width.
  3. Pull your torso up until your chin touches the bar. In the top position your body should be at a 45 degree angle.
  4. Lower and repeat.
  5. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.

Tips 

Tightly contract your lats in the top position when doing the inverted row exercise. Be sure to extend all the way down. Tense your abdominal muscles.

6. T Superman

Muscles worked

Spinal erectors, front deltoids

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie face down on the floor with arms by your sides and legs extended, feet together. 
  2. From this starting position, arch your body to bring your shoulders and legs off the floor. Extend your arms directly out to the sides. 
  3. Hold this position for a count of 5.
  4. Lower and repeat.
  5. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

Tips 

Squeeze the life out of your lower back and shoulders during the 5-second hold on each rep. Contract the deep muscles of your lower back.

7. T Push Ups

Muscles worked

Spina erectors, core muscles, deltoids

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Get down in standard push up position. 
  2. Perform a push up by lowering until your chest is an inch off the floor and then pushing back to the start position.
  3. Extend your right arm up to twist your body upward. 
  4. Lower and perform anther push up.
  5. Extend your left arm up to twist your body upward.
  6. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

Tips 

Feel for a strong stretch through your sides as you reach up. Perform this part of the exercise slowly and deliberately.

8. Cobra Pose

Muscles worked

Spinal erectors

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie face down on the floor with your hands at shoulder level with palms down and your legs extended.
  2. Push your palms into the floor as you lift your upper body up into the cobra pose with arched back.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Lower and repeat.

Tips

Push your hands into the floor throughout as you contract your spinal erectors and the deep muscles of your lower back.

9. Snow Angel

Muscles worked

Spinal erectors

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Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie face down on the floor with arms by your sides and legs extended, feet together. 
  2. Simultaneously move your legs and arms apart. Bring your hands together above your head.
  3. Reverse and repeat.

Tips 

Perform this movement in a slow, deliberate manner; maintain a lower back arch bend throughout; contract your deep core muscles.

10. Plank Row

Muscles worked

Core muscles, spinal erectors, latissimus dorsi

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Get down in the top plank position, with the contact points being your palms and toes and hands shoulder width apart, with shoulders over wrists.
  2. Draw your right hand up to the right shoulder.
  3. Lower and repeat with your left shoulder.
  4. Perform 12 reps on each arm.

Tips 

Maintain a  tight core as you perform this exercise. Contract your gluteal muscles. 

11. Band Row

Muscles worked

Latissimus dorsi, front deltoids, biceps

Equipment used 

Resistance band

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Attach a resistance band to a secure upright at waist level.
  2. Stand 3 feet in front of the upright, facing it and grab the band ends with neutral grip (palms facing), hands shoulder width apart.
  3. From a fully extended arm position, row your arms into your rib cage.
  4. Reverse and repeat.

Tips 

Keep a natural arch in your spine throughout this band exercise; fully contract the lat muscle in the end position.

12. Chin Up

Muscles worked

Latissimus dorsi, front deltoids, biceps

Equipment used 

Pull up bar

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Hang from a bar with an underhand grip slightly closer than shoulder width apart.
  2. Depress the shoulder blades, engage the lats and pull up to bring your chin over the bar.
  3. Lower back to a dead hang and repeat.
  4. Perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Tips 

Squeeze your last and biceps slightly in the top position. Do not swing or kip-up to complete your rep count.

13. Wide Grip Pull Up

Muscles worked

Latissimus dorsi, front deltoids, biceps

Equipment used 

Pull Up Bar

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Hang from a bar with an overhand grip abut a foot wider than shoulder width apart.
  2. Depress the shoulder blades, engage the lats and pull up to bring your chin over the bar.
  3. Lower back to a dead hang and repeat.
  4. Perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Tips 

Squeeze your lats in the top position; lower all the way down after each rep. 

14. Band Deadlift

Muscles worked

Latissimus dorsi, front deltoids, biceps, hamstrings

Equipment used 

Resistance band

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Stand with feet wide apart and a loop band under your mid feet. Hold the other end of the band in front of your groin with both hands in an overhand grip.
  2. Hinge at the hips to bring your torso down to parallel with the floor. Return and repeat, maintaining a neutral spine position throughout.
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Tips 

Keep your lower back slightly arched throughout the movement.

15. Band Pulldown

Muscles worked

Latissimus dorsi, front deltoids, biceps

Equipment used 

Resistance band

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Stand with a resistance band in your hands. Raise your arms behind your head so that the band is at the level of the nape of your neck.
  2. Extend your arms out so that they are about a foot wider than your shoulder width.
  3. Now push through the upper back muscles to extend your arms up to full extension. Then contract the shoulder blades to bring the arms back to the start position. 

Tips 

Forcefully contract your lats in the bottom position. Be sure to get a full extension on every rep. Maintain a neutral position through the spine.

16. Banded Seated Row

Muscles worked

Latissimus dorsi, spinal erectors, core muscles

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Sit with your legs extended and slightly apart. Place a thin resistance loop band around your mid foot and hold it with both hands in a palms down grip.
  2. Maintaining a neutral spine, row your arms to chest level, squeezing the shoulder blades together as you do so.
  3. Return to the start position.
  4. Perform 3 sets of 12 reps.

Tips 

Perform this exercise slowly and deliberately, squeezing tightly on every contraction.

Conclusion

You now have overwhelming proof that you don’t need to join a gym to build a barndoor back. These 16 bodyweight exercises provide everything you need to effectively work every area of your back from the traps to spinal erectors.

Choose three or four exercises and combine them into 16 set workout routines with reps ranging from alight 25 down to a super heavy 6. Be sure to add exercises that cover your traps, rhomboids, lats, and spinal erectors. Train your back every 5 days for maximum growth potential. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is a strong back important?

A strong back will provide support for your spine. This can help to prevent the backache that many people suffer. Your large muscle (the lats and trapezius) are also integral to most lifting and pushing movements. Making them stronger will increase your overall body power.

Are planks good for your back?

Yes, planks will help to strengthen the spinal erectors at the base of your spine.

How can I train my lower back without equipment?

The best way to train your back without equipment is by combining exercises such as the superman, snow angel and cobra pose into circuit bodyweight workouts. These are all described above. 

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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