9 Bodyweight Exercises To Build Your Back

Brad Robinson
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Bodyweight Exercises To Build Your Back

Back is the part of the body we often neglect even though back health is an important part of overall health.

Back health is critical because the spine is the centerpiece of the skeletal system. If the bones are not in a proper alignment, it can disrupt the nervous system which can lead to reduced physical activity, loss of mobility, and possibly pain.

It is important to acknowledge that back pain is a very common health complaint, particularly in women .

Either way, back musculature is necessary not only for removing pain but also for performing daily functions such as sitting, standing, and lifting .

Bodyweight workouts are simple and easy-to-perform exercises that can be done anytime and anywhere.

They are a preferred option for those who are looking for a low-impact training and for those who can’t perform traditional weight-lifting exercises.

The bodyweight exercises for the back are mostly done through a multi -joint concept which involves the participation of a lot of muscles in the back. Although there’s a high-level of muscle activity, you may not see a lot of muscle growth and gain.

It is essential to keep in mind that the gains from bodyweight exercises are very important to develop back health and functionality, but it is covered in the 4 Bodyweight Exercises To Build Your Back post.

Pull Up

You probably know how to do pull-ups, but do you know why they’re so damn good for you?

They primarily target your lats and biceps, but since you’re your back is your entire upper body (including your chest and abs), they will help strengthen all of these muscles as well.

Like all compound exercises, pull-ups should be performed early in your routine to help you build the foundation for your upper body routine.

If you’re new to pull-ups, start by practicing negatives to build your explosive strength and increase the duration of your pull-ups.

To perform the move, start by hanging from the bar with your arms fully extended and lower yourself down until your arm are fully extended.

Don’t lock your arms up on the way down, and make sure to not curve your body up or move it forward or back to avoid hurting your joints.

Perform a set of 10 to 15 reps, and if you’re having trouble, you can start by only performing a couple of reps and build up from there.

If you’re having trouble reaching the bar with your hands, try placing a pull-up bar inside a doorway (hint: the bar will only fit inside the door vertically).

Scapula Push Up

Lie face down on the floor and bring your hands together directly underneath your shoulders. Contract/squeeze your shoulder blades. Press yourself off the floor. Extend your arms all the way out.

Lower/relax your arms back down to the floor.

Kind of like a regular push up but with an added bodyweight shoulder blade squeeze at the top. As you lower yourself down, squeeze your shoulder blades together. This will help generate more power in the upward portion of the movement.

Focus on making the movement as fluid as possible.

Bodyweight Row

The bodyweight row is a simple but extremely versatile exercise that can help building your back muscles. The one hand variation he exercise is sometimes referred to as a “reverse push-up.”

The bodyweight row is a perfect bodyweight exercise to train your back muscles and can be easily done at home or inside a gym.

To start the bodyweight row, you should grab a pair of dumbbells and place them behind your head (like seen in the picture above).

Next, the key is to create some instability to build your core muscles. To achieve this, you can position your feet on an exercise ball or a chair, or even on a sturdy bench.

The form you should use while doing the bodyweight row is similar to the pull-up. Keep your body in a straight line from your shoulders to your feet to get the most out of the exercise (which is why it is a great exercise to practice if you want to learn how to do a proper pull-up).

While doing the bodyweight row, you should pull your shoulder blades back and control the movement so you can use tension and resistance from start to finish. The best way to do, so is to keep the muscles of your back contracted as you slowly lower your body.

The Superman

This is one of my favorite basic exercises to begin a back training session.

When you start doing it, you realize it is one of the hardest exercises out there. Pull-ups are easier.

In short, you begin by lying face down on a bench and lifting your legs off the ground.

Then you raise your upper torso and arms as you hold yourself in a well-balanced position, much like Superman in flight. Lifting your legs and upper body at the same time forces you to lift a greater percentage of your bodyweight.

To increase or decrease the level of difficulty, you can move forward or backwards on the bench and accordingly shorten your lever arm.

The Superman works the following muscles:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Abdominals
  • Glutes
  • Shoulders
  • Glutes
  • Thighs
  • Calves
  • Core

The biggest benefit of this exercise is its versatility.

No other exercise can build endurance, stability, core strength, arm and back strength and glute and leg strength like the Super Man.

And it is a great way to start a back workout. Much like bench press is the best way to get warmed up for chest.

You can also use your Super Man as a core workout. Do a 3 set of 30-second holds as you gradually increase your core strength and stability.

Reverse Snow Angel

This is a variation of the Reverse Snow Angel exercise and will work your back and legs. This is a great movement for engaging the lower erector spinae.

From the flat position, bring your hips up. Extend your arms and place hands behind the head. Keep your arms straight and your head off the ground.

You can rotate from the waist and outward to the opposite side. You will feel this on your outer lats. To reach further, flex the feet.

Repetitions: 3 sets of 12 repetitions


The Plank is a basic exercise that works the core muscles of the body.

Lie face down with knees on the ground.

Hold the upper body up by placing your forearms on the ground.

The elbows should be placed underneath the shoulder.

Keep the back straight and tighten the stomach muscles as well as thighs.

Hold the position as long as possible.

There are numerous variations of Plank including Regular Plank, Elbow Plank and Table Plank as well as a Plank with One Leg, One Arm, Double Arm and Double Leg.

Front Lever

The front lever is, as the name suggests, an exercise that focuses on the muscles of the front of the body, in particular the shoulders, arms, torso, and hips. The exercise is performed by hanging from a horizontal bar with the arms in a bent position, as though the performer is attempting to lead with the head, and then extending the arms.

As the arms straighten in front of the body, it puts the shoulders in a stretched position and at the same time works the core muscles in the abdomen dramatically.

The front lever is a particular favorite amongst martial artists and gymnasts as it builds incredible strength in the hands and shoulders.

To perform the front lever, you should hang from a horizontal bar using an overhand grip (palms facing away from the body) and your arms should be curved as though you are pretending to lead with your head.

Slowly allow your arms to straighten in a parallel line with the body and hold this position for as long as you can.

Single leg dead-lift

Targets: Hamstrings, lower back, glutes

Instructions: You can do this with both feet on the ground, or one foot elevated – i.e. on a very sturdy chair or a stepping stone.

Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inwards. Keep the arms close to your body, and lift one foot off the ground until you’re on your tip toes. As you set it back down, lower your torso and let the weights lower in front of your body, until your arms are at 90 degrees from your body.

Make sure to keep your back straight during the entire exercise.

Caution: This exercise can put a lot of pressure on your knees, don’t lower yourself until you’re almost touching the ground. Also, make sure your knees don’t move inwards, allow them to hinge out as you go down.

Remember! You should be able to do at least twelve reps before switching legs. You can start adding weight once you master this exercise with bodyweight.

Handstand shrug

Put your hands next to a wall, walk your feet up the wall so that your body is in a straight line against it, walk your hands so that your body makes a "dot" and then extend your feet down while maintaining your head facing forward. Hold for as long as possible.