HOW TO WORK YOUR BACK AT HOME
Effective bodyweight back workouts are not very common, at least not those that don’t require a pullup bar.
People say it can’t be done…
That it’s impossible to get a good back workout without equipment.
That you need to use heavy weight to build muscle in your back.
I’m about to show you how to hit your upper, middle and lower back with three bodyweight back exercises that together make up one ultimate bodyweight back workout!
No bars, no bench, no nothing!
You’ll see that it’s totally possible to get a great back workout routine, without machines, without without pull ups and without an inverted row.
Before we get started, let me tell you why incorporating bodyweight exercises into your training plan can actually ACCELERATE your back gains.
Like any muscle group, you want to be sure that you maximize the contraction of the key muscles you are trying to work to get them to grow. In the case of the back muscles, many people tend to heave the weights up using momentum and don’t fully use their muscles to move the weight.
When we switch to upper body exercises with no equipment, we can control them better and ensure a proper contraction, which translates into improved gains.
Let me show you the best bodyweight back exercises of all time using no equipment at all!
BEST BODYWEIGHT UPPER BACK EXERCISE
First we’ll target the upper back muscles including the traps, rhomboids and posterior delts, using what I call the Back Widow.
To do this simple exercise, starting position is face up on the floor and bending your elbows on the ground with fists up in the air. Push hard through the upper back to engage the rhomboids, traps, and posterior delts to get your upper body and spine up and off the ground, and pull your shoulder blades in, keeping your knees bent with feet on the floor. Pause at the top, and then return to starting position lowering your body toward floor, and then push yourself up again.
If you need an easier variation, you can do a self spot by incorporating a bit more push from the feet on the floor. If you don’t need the help, maintain the push through the elbows and contract the back muscles to power off the floor.
The pro tip here is to hold the contraction on each repetition, and make sure you get yourself up by using your back muscles and not momentum!
BEST BODYWEIGHT MID BACK EXERCISE
Next we’ll target the middle back and primarily the lat muscle by performing the Sliding Lat Pulldown.
The lats are challenging to hit with no equipment.
But if you look at your surroundings and use some creativity you can get the job done!
For this, all you’ll need is a pair of pants and a slick floor. I’m doing it on concrete which isn’t all that slick, so it gives me even more friction.
Starting position is with your body outstretched lying facedown on the floor with your feet back behind you, and a neutral spine, extending your arms straight out in front of you, hands shoulder width apart on the floor. Engage your core muscles and initiate a complete total body prone pull down. You’ll pull your chest off the floor by pushing your arms up into plank position and then lower yourself back down, belly toward floor, to slowly return to the starting position.
SLIDING LAT PULLDOWN
You can see that this effective exercise very much mimics a pullover or a straight arm pull down, one of my favorite exercises for lats.
To make this more difficult, try to stay on your toes as you extend out to the start position and remain on your toes as you pull down.
If you need a slightly easier variation, you can unweight some of your body by allowing your knees and shins to drag on the ground for the first one third of the move and lift them when you have the strength to lift.
BEST BODYWEIGHT LOWER BACK EXERCISE
Finally we’ll hit the lower back with the Reverse Superman exercise, which will also incorporate a number of other muscle groups.
When working the lower back, it’s important to train it with the muscles it prefers to work with.
It likes to get some help from the glutes and lower body, and from the lats that tie into your lower back.
This Reverse Superman exercise will incorporate all of these muscle groups, and because it’s done with the arms behind the body, you’ll pull your shoulder blades, rotating them back with each repetition. That means the rotator cuff is getting involved, too.
Start position is lying face down with hands facing up towards the ceiling, elbows tucked into your sides with arms and legs in a straight line. Squeezing your glutes, lift arms and legs simultaneously. Using a rotating motion, pull the shoulder blade in, and as you do so, hands will turn toward the ground.
Aim for a solid two to three second contraction on each rep to really work the strength and stamina of the lower back muscles. Then return to the starting position and repeat.
As you can see, using no equipment doesn’t mean you have no options when it comes to performing back exercises at home. You don’t even have to compromise on the difficulty of the upperbody exercises. In fact, a few of these exercises may even require you to dial them back! Being without access to the gym definitely doesn’t mean you have to give up on stronger healthier shoulders.
If you’re looking for a complete bodyweight workout program that actually helps you to BUILD MUSCLE, look no further! Check our our ATHLEAN-X programs to see which is the best fit for your goals and fitness level.
- Many people think it’s impossible to build muscle in the back with only bodyweight exercises. I’ve shown you that not only is this false, you can actually see better gains by incorporating no equipment options into your back exercise routine, because it is harder to use momentum when you’re doing bodyweight exercises.
- For the upper back, the Back Widow exercise will allow you to hit traps, rhomboids and posterior deltoids.
- The Sliding Lat Pulldown will hit your middle back, and especially the lats.
- The Reverse Superman hits not only low back but also the glutes, lats and even the rotator cuffs, which are weak underactive muscles for many people.
Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS
Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.