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March 27, 2020 10 min read

Most people think an impressive built-up back has to be the result of hours in the gym, using machines and weights over and over. But this doesn’t have to be the case; did you know you can build fantastic back muscles using only bodyweight exercises at home? You can exercise all the muscle groups in your back using only your own bodyweight, which means you’ll never have to hit the gym or risk missing your back workout again!

We’re going to clearly explain all of the best bodyweight back exercises, so you can start your journey to looking like superman all from the comfort of your home. There’s a whole host of reasons you might want to do this, from saving money on a gym membership to just not being able to make a trip to the gym in the morning. There are a number of different muscle groups in your back; the lats,  rhomboids, and traps all need to be thoroughly put through the paces. Whether you’re suffering from lower back pain, or just want to improve your physique, use our bodyweight back workouts to turn a good morning into a great one! 

A man and a woman working out in a gym.

7 of the Very Best Bodyweight Back Exercises

You have a huge amount of options for bodyweight back exercises, targeting a huge range of muscles in the upper and power body. We’ve compiled seven of our favorite bodyweight exercises to target back muscles here, while also engaging other areas such as your core, legs, arms, and shoulders. Lower back pain affects up to  49% of adults in the US, so these exercises can help to combat this.

1. Hindu Push-Ups

Also known as the dand, or the downward-facing dog, the Hindu Push-Up engages your whole body and is rather more intense than a regular pushup. This bodyweight back exercise primarily hits your triceps, pectorals, and deltoids, however, it has the additional benefit of strengthening your hamstrings, glutes, and back muscles too. That makes the Hindu push up an excellent movement to add to your regular routine. 

It’s important to stretch before performing a Hindu push-up, as otherwise, you might injure one of the many muscles activated by this bodyweight exercise. You can sit on the floor with your legs spread in a V, and stretch for ten seconds each towards your left foot, right foot, and to the middle. Once you’ve safely completed this muscle warm-up, you can get ready to start your exercise. 

  1. Begin in a normal starting push up position. Your arms should be straight, directly down from your shoulders, with knees straight and toes well anchored into the ground, similar to a high plank position.
  2. Now, keeping your arms and legs as straight as possible, begin to gently walk your feet forward to raise your glutes into the air. You should be looking at your toes, with your whole body in an upside-down V position. This is the pose you’ll return to after each push-up rep.
  3. In a careful and controlled way, bend your arms outwards to begin lowering your chest to the floor. You should finish this phase of the exercise with your butt still slightly raised, in a flexed push-up position. Inhale deeply and steadily through your nose throughout the movement. 
  4. Just as your chest is getting close to the ground, arch your back into a scooping motion and lift your head up from the ground. You should exhale from your mouth during this motion. 
  5. Finally, straighten your arms and look upwards, with your upper and lower back fully arched. Your toes should be well dug in, and your hips close to, but not touching, the ground. This is the final position of this back bodyweight exercise. 
  6. Now you need to return to your starting V position, inhaling deeply once more through the nose. Use your abs and glutes to bring your but back to it’s highest point, tucking your head back between your legs. After that, it’s time to exhale, steady yourself, and start the movement once again. 

The Hindu push-up isn’t a completely back-targeting exercise, but it is an excellent all-around bodyweight movement to engage your back muscles alongside others. As with any type of push-up, do as many repetitions as you can without suffering bad form. Beginners may only be able to do 4 or 5 repetitions of this intense exercise, but with more practice, you should be able to do several sets in a smooth sweeping motion. If you need to, take an extra moment's rest at the peak upside-down V position of the push-up, between each repetition. 

2. Reverse Snow Angels

This intermediate bodyweight back exercise works out your trapezius muscles and lower back, as well as the deltoids and rhomboids in your upper back. Your core should be engaged as a stabilizing factor throughout this movement, which may look simple, but actually requires a huge amount of work and control from many muscle groups. 

  1. Start lying face down on a mat or the floor, with your palms facing down by your sides. Use your core and back muscles to flex your chest away from the floor, pulling your shoulders back and elevating your arms. 
  2. Keeping your arms raised from the ground, bring them forward to make an angel shape around your head until your thumbs touch. Focus on a slow and steady movement, feeling each muscle activate and work together. 
  3. Then, simply bring your arms back down in the same way, keeping back muscles tense and your chest remaining elevated from the floor. Make sure your arms remain straight, with elbows locked for the whole movement. 

We recommend doing three sets of five reps of this back strengthening bodyweight exercise. This simple exercise is so easy to do at home, without any special equipment, and it only takes 10 minutes for a thorough bodyweight back workout.

3. Bird Dog

The bird dog is a simple core exercise, but it has many benefits. This bodyweight workout helps improve your stability and posture, as well as helping to relieve lower back pain. Complete this exercise to strengthen the muscles in your hips and back as well as your core, and improve your all-around range of motion. 

  1. Your starting position for bird dog is on all fours, with your knees below your hips, and hands under your shoulders. Engage your core to help your spine stay straight and aligned.
  2. Contract the muscles in your lower back to pull your shoulder blades together.
  3. Then raise your right leg and left arm from the floor into a straight line, ensuring you don’t twist your spine. Your shoulders and hips should stay parallel to the floor. 
  4. Extend the back of your neck, tucking your chin into your chest and hold for a few seconds. 
  5. Gently return to your starting position on all fours, keeping your hips and shoulders parallel with your spine straight at all times. 
  6. Repeat these movements using the opposite arm and leg. 

The bird dog may seem like a simple exercise, but it can work wonders to improve your overall back strength and health, and therefore posture. These improvements will make other exercises more effective, as your posture will be better and so your muscles are better engaged. Complete up to three sets of 10 reps as a part of your bodyweight back workout. 

4. Superman Plank

We all know that a regular plank is an excellent exercise for anyone to practice. However, you may not know about the Superman plank, an even more intense version. The core strength and stability required are even greater for this bodyweight exercise, as you’ll have to hold steady with two limbs instead of four. The Superman plank is also featured in our back and biceps workout, as it’s one of the best to strengthen your lower back. 

  1. Start in a normal plank position, engaging all the muscles along your spine. Try to hold your body in as straight a line as possible, supported only by your forearms and toes. 
  2. Trying as hard as you can to not move the rest of your body, slowly extend one arm out and forward into a superman position. Simultaneously, you should raise the opposite leg off the ground. Keep your leg straight, using your glutes to pull upwards until your foot is level with the rest of your body. Make sure you keep your core and back muscles engaged throughout, to keep your form straight and steady. 
  3. Try to hold the position for a count of five seconds, although you might need to work up to this if you’re a beginner. It’s very important that you continue to operate full control over your movement as you return to the starting position, keeping your body level the whole time. 
  4. Repeat the exercise with the other arm and leg, for a complete repetition of the Superman plank. Be careful that your body remains balanced throughout all of your reps, as leaning to one side can put too much strain on your spine. 

The Superman plank is an advanced exercise, so don’t worry if you don’t quite have the core strength yet. You can practice the bird dog exercise and build up to a Superman, and slowly increase the time you hold the position. This back exercise requires no weights or equipment, yet it’s fully capable of bringing you up to superhero shape! Improve your core, back, abs, and glutes all at once with one of the best bodyweight training exercises. 

5. Scapular Push-Up

Scapular push-ups involve a very small range of motion, the only movement is pushing together with your shoulder blades. However, the benefits of this tiny exercise include a better range of motion in your shoulders and better overall upper body strength. The muscle exercised in this workout is the serratus anterior, which when properly trained will help prevent injuries and improve shoulder mobility overall. 

  1. Start in a high plank position, with your hands directly beneath your shoulders, and toes firmly dug in. Try to keep your whole body in a straight line, including your head on a level with a neutral spine. Keep your core and glutes tight, to help keep your body upright. 
  2. Imagine a pencil sitting between your shoulder blades, and try to pinch them together. Hold this position for a few seconds, and then relax back to starting position. 
  3. Keep protracting and retracting your shoulder blades; this small movement should raise and lower your chest slightly. 

Do at least 10 repetitions of the scapular push up to fully exercise the muscles which stabilize your shoulder. This exercise will not only strengthen your bag but improve the range of motion in your shoulders overall, as well as helping to prevent injuries.

6. Single-Leg Deadlift

This variation of a traditional deadlift involves lifting one leg off the ground and extending it outward to balance. This engages more back and core muscles than a regular deadlift, as well as working out leg muscles. Using a single leg to deadlift is definitely a more intense workout, with much better engagement of your core. As well as strengthening your back muscles, the single-leg deadlift is a great exercise for improving balance. 

  1. Start standing upright, with feet hip-width apart. This is a bodyweight exercise, but you could hold either a kettlebell, barbell, or dumbbells to make it more challenging. 
  2. Lean forward at the hips, putting all your weight on one leg while the other extends straight out behind you. Keep your movements controlled using your core and lower back muscles, shifting slowly to retain balance. Your arms should reach straight down towards your toes, while your standing leg should be slightly bent.
  3. Slowly return to the starting position, and repeat the exercise with the other leg. 

This hip hinge movement is great for your overall mobility and flexibility while targeting your lower back muscles. As well as helping towards a strong back, the single-leg deadlift is a great workout for your glutes, and as always, core control is key. Begin with three sets of 10 reps with this movement, increasing the number of reps, and the time you hold the balance, to make this bodyweight back exercise more challenging. 

7. Bodyweight Row

If you’re just starting bodyweight training, and a lat pull down or pull up is too advanced for you, a bodyweight row is a perfect exercise. Unfortunately, you do need some equipment for this workout, however, it doesn’t have to be in the gym. A dipping bar is ideal, however, any railings such as a bike rack can work just as well. This rowing exercise works all of your pulling muscles, meaning a serious pressure on your upper back. Muscles worked include your traps, biceps, other back muscles, and all the stabilizing muscles too. 

  1. The starting position for bodyweight rows is like an upside-down push-up. Hang from the bar by your arms, while your legs should be extended straight out in front. Keep your hands firmly gripped at about shoulder-width apart, palms away from you. 
  2. Activate your shoulder blades by drawing back your shoulders, like a scapular row exercise. 
  3. Now, keeping your elbows close to your side, pull forwards to the bar until it touches your chest. Hold this position for a few seconds, focusing on tightening muscles throughout the body. 
  4. Slowly and steadily lower yourself back to the starting position. Never drop straight down, as this not only risks injury but removes half of the workout. 
  5. After lowering back down, release your scapula (which should have been retracted the whole time) until you’re relaxed in a dead hang. 

Make sure you follow this range of motions carefully for a super strong upper back workout. Keep your hands at shoulder width and remember to keep your elbows tucked in for full activation of your shoulders. Use your core throughout to keep your body in a straight line, you can use a higher bar to start with if it’s necessary for the correct form. Aim for three sets of 10 reps when completing bodyweight rows, and you’ll work up to a shredded back in no time. 

A group of people working out in a gym.

Why Choose a Bodyweight Back Workout?

There are so many benefits to incorporating a bodyweight back workout into your regular routine. We highly recommend including a variety of these exercises in your schedule, as they can really help on the way to a stronger and healthier back. Many of these exercises are also excellent for improving your balance, mobility, and even flexibility. Bodyweight exercises help to prevent future injury, require no equipment so you can complete them anywhere, and can be done at any time. Got 10 minutes to spare? Why not do a few single-leg deadlifts to exercise your lower back and flex your hip joints.  

These back training exercises are easy to master, and once you have perfect form, you can increase reps and even add weights. Building your back muscles in the right way will improve your posture, help ease lower back pain, and build some serious core strength. Introduce these fantastic bodyweight back exercises into your weekly routine, and start working towards that superhero body