The 5 Best Bodyweight Back Exercises

Training your back muscles can be the single most important thing you can do for your health for so many reasons.

According to the American Chiropractic Association, Worldwide back pain is the single leading cause of disability, preventing many people from engaging in work as well as other everyday activities.

It’s hardly surprising when you consider the amount of time we spend sat in front of a computer, or staring down at our phones like zombies.

Regardless of whether you’re looking to grow some lats that Schwarzenegger would be proud of, or simply strengthen your back so you don’t end up like quasimodo, you need to train your back.

Lucky for you, I’ve compiled the 5 best bodyweight back exercises you can throw into your routine.

The best part?

There needn’t be a dumbbell or machine in sight, because these exercises require nothing more than your own bodyweight. Let’s get stuck in shall we.

#1 – Pull ups

Pull ups are hands down one of the most effective exercises you can do for your back, both upper and lower, but they’re also one the hardest you can do.

To effectively perform a pull up, there are several things to consider:

  • Hand position
  • Control of movement (tempo)

The wider your grip position, the tougher the movement, although you’ll be putting far more exertion through the latissimus Dorsi muscles (your wings).

The other thing to consider if you want to perform the “perfect” pull up is the tempo. The last thing you want to do is use your legs to swing up like monkey, this achieves nothing and builds nothing but your ego.

  1. Grip the bar above you with either an overhand grip (more difficult), or underhand grip (easier).
  2. Pull yourself up aiming to meet the bar with the top of your chest, keeping your head up. Ensure your legs are relaxed as much as possible, and remember to breath out on the “up” phase and in on the “down” phase.

This exercise is also great for anyone who suffers with postural issues, so if you’re a desk jockey yourself, you’ll want to slot this into your routine.

Note – this is a tough exercise to do if you’re a beginner, so it’s something you may well need to build up to.

#2 – Inverted Pull ups

This one’s just a variation of the original pull up, the great though is this is far easier to perform, not to mention it hits the upper back far more than the ordinary pull up, working those Rhomboid muscles and the midline of the trapezius.

There are different ways you can perform this exercise, but I’m going to give you the easiest method that involves nothing more than a broomstick and two chairs.

  1. Place the broom/mop across two chairs to create your own “bar” to pull yourself up to.
  2. Lay under the makeshift bar and place your grip around shoulder width apart.
  3. Pull yourself up until your chest meets the bar.

Rinse, and repeat.. Easy eh?

#3 – Back Extensions

Back extensions are a favourite of mine, mainly because it’s a great way to reverse that hunched position you develop sat in front of the computer for the best of the day. It’s almost a feeling of relief as you open your chest and extend your spine, a bit like that first stretch when you wake up in morning.

Anyway, here’s how you do it.

  1. Lay down on the floor on your front, ideally using a yoga mat for cushioning.
  2. Place your hands on your temples with your elbows facing outwards.
  3. Keeping your spine in alignment (head facing the floor), slowly lift your chest off the floor curling upwards. Here you can pause for a second before lowering and repeating the movement.

This exercise is great for the extensors in the spine and will ensure your posture remains in tact through the years.

#4 – Reverse Snow Angels

I had to stick this one in, and although you might look a bit odd doing this one, especially in the middle of a gym, it’s another great exercise to work your upper back and help “set” your shoulder blades in the correct position.

  1. Position yourself face down with your arms beside you at right angles, palms down.
  2. Reverse snow angel! Keeping your hands a few inches off the ground, raise your hands above your head, remaining in the face down position.

Note – You can really slow this one down and even pause throughout to get stronger burn… if you’re that way inclined 😉

#5 – Reverse Push Ups

Exactly what it says on the tin, although considerably easier to perform than it’s cousin, the reverse push up is great at targeting the upper back muscles and midline fibers of the lats. It’s also very easy to learn so you’ll build strength in your back in a short period of time.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Laying on your back, position your elbows so they are beside you and in contact with the floor with your hands facing upwards.
  2. Putting the weight through your elbows, slowly lift your body (if you can) off the floor. If you can’t lift yourself completely it’s not a problem, just engage the muscles as best you can and continue to build on it.
  3. Hold each rep for at least 3 seconds to get the most from each repetition.

So there you have it, the 5 best bodyweight back exercises that’ll build you a back to be proud of, not to mention one that’ll see your life through without being in pain or discomfort.

Just remember though, as with everything in life, consistency is the key. If you’re integrating these into a workout schedule, you should really be looking at performing these movements at least twice a week.

If you’re ONLY doing these movements and not as part of a routine, you’ll need to be doing them 4-5 days per week. It’s the only way to get any real traction and results.

So go away, practice these bodyweight exercises and build the back of your dreams… or something like that. Don’t forget to leave a comment and let us know how you get on!

Share your love
Avatar photo
Mike Julom, ACE CPT

Mike is an ACE Certified PT and a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. He is an avid lover of all sports. Basketball, tennis, athletics, volleyball, soccer, squash, golf, table tennis, even darts, you name it! He's a very active CrossFit athlete and has been WOD'ing for over 7 years. With such an intense fitness regime, Mike has learned to take care of his body physically, nutritionally, and spiritually. Mike founded ThisIsWhyImFit as a way to share his vast knowledge of exercises, diets, and general fitness advice.

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below and subscribe to our newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Get Insider Tips Straight to Your Inbox!