10 Bodyweight Back Exercises to Strengthen and Tone

By: Brian Wargula

Why You Shouldn’t Neglect Your Back

Developing strong back muscles is important, because maintaining a strong, healthy back isn’t just for looks. Our back muscles support almost every other movement in your entire body. If you skip back day, it can have serious consequences, like chronic back pain, injury, or spinal issues. Working your back is especially important for those of you working from home or sitting at a desk all day.

Maintaining a strong back is easy if you make sure to keep this core muscle group top of mind. For the best bodyweight back exercises you are going to want to target these main groups in the back:

  • Latissimus dorsi (lats): Located below the armpits down the back of the ribcage, this helps control the retraction of your shoulder blades.
  • Trapezius (traps): Runs from the neck to the middle of the back, controls shoulder blade movements.
  • Erector spinae: These are the muscles that run along your spine, they help moderate and support extension and lateral movement.

When thinking about the benefits of working your back muscles, it's important to know that it doesn’t just strengthen them - it also stretches them and prevents strains and injuries. An added bonus is that a strong back will help reinforce your vertebrae discs and ligaments. Strong back = strong spine, which can add to your longevity and overall health.

 

10 Best Bodyweight Back Exercises

Great News! We’ve rounded up the best exercises you need for a healthy back - and none require getting to the gym. You don’t need any equipment to do these bodyweight back exercises! You get all the benefits, and they’re easy to do whenever and wherever is convenient for you! Do them at home, in the gym, or while you’re traveling. Try these top 10:

1. Pushups

  • The muscles that are targeted by pushups, are varied so try different angles:
    • Wide grip - put your hands out wide and push up
    • Tricep - make a triangle with your
    • 3 Point - lifting one leg can help make it even more challenging
    • T-position - lift up on one arm every rep, literally making a T with your arms every time

    2. Pull-Ups

    • Use a pull-up bar for a more advanced workout. Try to conquer these for the ultimate lat bodyweight workout.
      • Chin-up - bring your body up with just your arms
      • Wide-Grip Pull Up - keeping your arms wide engages your lats in a different way
      • Around the world - easily the most challenging pull up that involves making your way all the way around the bar by a combination of overhand and underhand grip

    3. Superman

    • This static exercise targets a lot! Use a superman hold to engage your whole core. Here are few variations:
      • Arms by your butt, lifting head and legs
      • T-plank with arms by your sides
      • Pullups - bring your body up and down with both your arms and legs; holding at the top

    4. Glute Bridge

    • A glute bridge is a great way to get in your lower back bodyweight exercises and ultimately help support the spine.
      • Here are a few variations to try:
        • Banded - buying a cheap band can help keep your lower back engaged and core working hard
        • Elevated - for a cut body, make it harder by starting elevated
        • Straight leg - straighten your leg out and lift hips one at a time

    5. Inverted Row

    • The inverted row is one of the best upper back exercises because it targets your latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and rear deltoids. Try these variations:
      • Wide grip - keeping your arms wide engages your lats in a different way
      • Inverted Face Pull - get a shredded back workout by placing yourself under the bar to use gravity as even more resistance
      • Underhand - swap to an underhand grip to work new muscles
      • Alternate grip - Switch your hands for more upper back bodyweight exercises
      • Be sure to include these keywords: upper back bodyweight exercises, best upper back exercises

     6. Plank

    • Plank hold is perfect for your whole body and getting in a quick workout. Try these ways to switch up your planks for more upper back bodyweight exercises:
      • Plank row - add a dumbbell for extra challenge
      • Plank jacks - flip in a jumping jack for cardio
      • Low to high plank walk - swapping onto your forearms helps create resistance and build strength

    7. Inchworms

    • This is a fun way to get in a shredded back workout routine. Using your lower back bodyweight to strengthen and tone your core is key inchworm and how to do them
      • Here are a few ways to make it challenging:
        • Add a pushup - at the end of every repp
        • Add a jump - make it like a burpee
        • Add mountain climbers - for that extra burst of cardio
        • Add leg raises - alternate sides

     8. Lunge & Twist

    • A lunge & twist is a dynamic way to get in the best bodyweight back exercises for results you’ll definitely notice later. Take our own twist on the classic:
      • Walking lunge - do at least 2 steps per rep
      • Extreme twist - get more out of every twist by engaging your upper torso more
      • Twist + toe touch - if you can’t reach your toes yet, make it a new goal!

     9. Sliding Leg Curl

    • It's no wonder this is a favorite exercise for how to bulk up at home. You can use anything for your “sliders” including tee-shirts or old wash cloths. Placing your feet on the sliders helps your core search for stability, strengthening it in the process.
      • Here are a few variations:
        • Squeezing a foam roller or med ball
        • Prone - do with a resistance band
        • Seated - helps engage the quads as well!

     10. Crab Walk

    • The amount of muscles that are targeted by a crab walk really depends on how you do it and how active you want to make it. A more static version can make this a great bodyweight back workout. Some versions to try:
      • Crossover toe touch - make sure you get an even number of reps on both sides
      • Bear crawl - basically a reversed crab walk
      • Lateral - stand up for this version

    Support a Strong, Shredded Back with Complete Nutrition

    It’s important to concentrate some of your fitness efforts on developing strong back muscles. Not only will it keep your back toned, lean, and defined but it will also support nearly everything you do. A weak back can lead to chronic pain. There are many killer bodyweight exercises for your back that you can do at home or at the gym. Lat pull downs and row machines are a great option if you have access to this kind of equipment. But don’t let the lack of access to a gym get in your way. Make it a priority with the different workouts you can do from your home. Not only will your back look fit, but it can lead to decreased pain.