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When it comes to working our back, the usual go-to bodyweight exercises are the Pull Up and Inverted Row. And while I love the Pull Up and Inverted Row, these two moves still require equipment that we don’t all have at home.
First I will touch on these two amazing compound exercises, and then I’ll go over a few of the other options in the video above!
Basic Pull Up Form:
Pull Ups – A great compound exercise to work the back. To do the basic pull up, grab a bar with your palms facing away. Hang down from the bar with your arms straight.
Drive your chest up toward the bar, pulling your shoulder blades down and back. Lift your chest to the bar and then lower back down.
Do not swing and make sure to lead with your chest as you pull up. Fully extend your arms at the bottom.
For variations and modifications of the pull up, check out this post.
Basic Inverted Row Form:
Inverted Rows – Another great compound exercise to work the back AND a great way to build up your pull ups. It is also a horizontal pull so works the back in a different way from the vertical pull up.
To do the Inverted Row, hold a suspension trainer strap in each hand or hold onto a bar set to the right height.
Walk your feet forward so that you are leaning back. The closer to parallel to the ground you get, the harder the move will be.
With your arms straight, squeeze your core and glutes and press your chest out so there is tension between your shoulder blades. Make sure you don’t shrug your shoulders and that your body is in a nice straight line from your head to your heels. Do not let your low back arch.
Then row up, keeping your body in that nice straight line. Bring your chest up to the handles or bar and do not arch your low back to get all the way up. Also make sure you are driving your elbows down and back as you row up so that your shoulders don’t shrug.
Then lower yourself back down. Don’t let your hips sink as you lower back down or your low back arch. Also, keep your chest pressed out the entire time (make sure you don’t round your thoracic spine at the bottom).
Move in a controlled fashion as you keep tension between your shoulder blades the entire time. Make sure you row low and don’t shrug your shoulders at any point.
Do not bounce off the bottom of your row or use momentum to get back up.
For variations of the Inverted Row, check these out!
While the Pull Up and Inverted Row are MUST-DO Back Exercises, if you don’t have any equipment at home, you can still get in a great back workout that will improve your posture and prevent injury.
Check out these 17 Equipment-Free Bodyweight Back Exercises:
17 Bodyweight Back Exercises – No Equipment Needed!
These moves will work the muscle of your back to help you not only build a strong, shapely back BUT also to improve your posture and shoulder stability!
Scapular Wall Hold (:40) – The Scapular Wall Hold is a MUST-DO exercise for anyone with a back job. It will improve your pull ups and alleviate upper back, neck and shoulder pain.
To do the Scapular Wall Hold, stand about six inches from the wall. With your back to the wall and your elbows bent in by your side, drive your chest out and your elbows back. Then lean back against the wall on your elbows.
Only your elbows should touch as you lean back. Draw your shoulder blades down and back and make sure to drive your chest out and open toward the ceiling. Do not shrug your shoulders and keep your body in a nice straight line as if holding a plank. Keep your head in line with your spine and do not tuck your chin.
Walk your feet back toward the wall to make the move easier or walk them away to make the move harder. Make sure to drive the chest out and draw your shoulder blades down and together as you hold.
(If you like this isometric exercise, check out these 19 other isometric moves!)
Scapular Wall Reps (:50) – This is a dynamic variation of the Scapular Wall Hold and a great way to work your back without any equipment.
Stand in a corner or simply against a wall like you did for the reps with your back relaxing against the wall and your feet about six inches from the wall or corner. Place your elbows against the wall with your elbows bent. With your body in a nice straight line, drive off the wall with your elbows, pressing your chest out and pinching your shoulder blades down and back.
Relax back into the wall, keeping your body in a nice straight line from your head to your heels. Do not arch your low back as you press out. Also, make sure not to shrug your shoulders.
Think about really opening your chest up even toward the ceiling as you press out each time. While you are driving off your elbows, you want to think about how you would do a row, driving the elbows back to row the weight up to your chest.
Cobra (1:04) – A great posterior chain move that works your back and even activates the glutes.
To do the Cobra, lie face down on the ground with your legs out straight and your arms straight down by your sides.
Then squeeze your glutes and pinch your shoulder blades down and back to lift your chest as high off the ground as you can. Keep your head in line with your spine as you raise.
You can either perform an isometric hold and hold at the top of the Cobra or you can lift and lower for reps. Even if you perform reps, hold for a second or two at the top.
For variations of the cobra that will also work your entire posterior chain, check out this post on the Superman Exercise. (shown in the video at 1:16)
Scapular Push Ups (1:32) – A great move to work on scapular retraction while also working your core. They can be a key move to help you improve your shoulder stability!
Set up in a high plank position with your hands under your shoulders and your feet together. Your body should be in a nice straight line from head to your heels.
Then press your chest out and pinch your shoulder blades together. Your hips should not drop toward the ground and your elbows won’t bend.
The Scapular Push Up is a very small range of motion. All you are doing is pinching your shoulder blades together and then relaxing.
Make sure you keep your head in line with your spine and don’t tuck your chin as you complete your reps.
Downward Dog Scapular Presses (1:45) – Work on your scapular control and even activate your serratus anterior with this great move!
To do the Downward Dog Scapular Presses, start in a high plank position from your feet and hands with your hands under your shoulders and your feet about hip-width apart. Then drive your chest back toward your legs as you push your butt up in the air. Drive your heels down toward the ground as you try to get your biceps by your ears and extend your spine.
Do not walk your hands back and try to really drive through all of your fingers as well as your palm. Do not rock to the outside of your hands. Pause in this Downward Dog position.
Then push the ground away to elevate your shoulders while staying in this downward dog position. Then relax back into the normal downward dog. You are trying to elevate and relax your shoulders. Do not come back forward into plank until all reps are complete.
It will be a small range of motion. Focus on moving your shoulder blades.
Lying Flyes (1:57) – This is a great move to work your upper back and improve your scapular retraction.
To do the Lying Flyes, lie face down on the ground with your legs out straight and arms out to the sides at about shoulder height. Turn your thumbs up toward the ceiling. Engage your glutes and back and engage your upper back just slightly so your face isn’t fully smashed into the ground.
Keep your neck relaxed and then draw your shoulder blades together as you fly your arms up toward the ceiling.
Engage your back to lift your arms up and do not simply swing your arms up. Then release and lower back down before repeating. You want to very gently extend your spine but not try to really fully lift your chest up off of it.
Reverse Snow Angels (2:09) – Work on your shoulder stability as you strengthen your upper back. This is a great mobility drill!
To do Reverse Snow Angels, lie face down on the ground with your legs relaxed. Place your hands behind your head and then lift your chest up slightly off the ground as with the cobra. Do not arch so much to start using your low back back but just enough to engage your upper back.
Then begin to straighten your arms up and out overhead before slowly moving them out to the side as if creating a snow angel.
As you bring your hands back and down toward your butt, flip your hands over, rotating your shoulders as you bend your elbows to bring the backs of your hands to your low back.
Then reverse the motion, bringing your hands back out to the sides then back behind your head. Make sure to keep your chest slightly up, but do not let your low back take over. Keep your neck also relaxed as you do this and really feel your upper back and the backs of your shoulders working to keep your arms off the ground as you perform the move.
Lying Back Presses (2:19) – If you don’t have a wall or want to progress the scapular wall reps with the “same, but different” try this move!
To do the Lying Scapular Presses, lie on your back on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat. Place your arms down by your sides and then bend your elbows to around 90 degrees.
Engaging your abs, drive your elbows down into the ground to lift your back up off the ground. Feel your back working as you push up. Press your chest out and think wide shoulders.
Do not tuck your chin as you pause at the top. Really thinking about driving off the elbows to engage your back. Lower back down and repeat the press. Do not turn this into a crunch.
To modify, you can let your legs go out straight or even do the Scapular Wall Reps instead.
Posterior Plank (2:38) – If you sit all day at a desk, this is a must do move! It not only works your back, but your entire backside!
To do the Posterior Plank, sit on the ground with your legs out straight in front of you and your hands down behind your butt on the ground.
Then, driving up through your heels and your hands, press your hips up toward the ceiling and press your chest out. Lean your head back as you bridge up. Squeeze your butt and lift your hips up as high as you can while keeping your legs straight and your chest pressed out. Do not shrug your shoulders at the top as you press your chest out.
Hold at the top of the move with your body in a nice straight line. Make sure to keep your abs tight so you don’t hyperextend your low back. Consciously squeeze your glutes at the top and draw your shoulder blades down and together.
Hold at the top or lower back down and complete reps of the move. If the Posterior Plank is too much, you may want to try the Table Top Bridge.
Scapular Push up to Dolphin (2:52) – This is a great move to work your back while improve your shoulder stability.
To do Scapular Push Ups to Dolphin, start in a plank from your forearms and feet with your elbows under your shoulders and your feet close together. Your body should be in a nice straight line from your head to your heels with your abs and quads flexed. Make sure you aren’t shrugging your shoulders.
Keeping your core still, pinch your shoulder blades together. It is a small movement just pinching them toward your spine. Then relax back into a plank.
Do not wiggle your hips or let them sag as you pinch your shoulder blades together. You are not humping the ground. You want to keep your abs braced and simply perform the small movement of retracting your shoulder blades.
Once back in the plank position, push your butt back and up in the air, lifting it toward the ceiling as you extend your spine. Push back off your elbows to try to get your upper arms in line with your spine so you feel a stretch through your lats and triceps. Even slightly drive your heels down if you can, although they may not move much if you were driving back through them already during the plank (which you should be).
Come back forward after a pause to feel the stretch. Set in the forearm plank and repeat the scapular push up.
Extension Plank (3:06) – This is an amazing core move but also a great way to work your lats!
To do Plank Extensions, set up in a high plank position from your hands and feet with your feet no wider than hip-width apart and your hands under your shoulders.
Then take small steps, walking your feet back. Keep your legs straight and core braced as you walk your feet back. Do not let your hips sag and do not tuck your chin.
Walk back so that your hands end up above your shoulders, even at head height as you walk back. Do not bend your arms or shrug your shoulders.
Then walk your feet back into that starting plank with your hands under your shoulders. Do not let your butt go up in the air or your hips sag. You are creating that long plank then walking back into that high plank position.
Single Arm Plank Rotation With Knee (3:22) – Improve your shoulder stability with this unilateral move as well as your abs and even adductors.
To do the Single Arm Plank Rotation With Knee, set up in a side plank position from your hand with your bottom leg in back of your top leg.
Then lift that back leg as if kicking it back and up toward the ceiling slightly. Reach your top hand out in front of you and overhead. Your chest will rotate toward the ground as you lift up into this side plank position with your opposite arm and leg raised.
Rotate your chest back open as you tuck your raised leg under and forward, driving your knee forward as you tuck your raised arm down to meet it. Try to touch your knee to your elbow as you rotate your chest back open and away from the ground.
After slowly tucking the knee to the elbow and feeling yourself pivot around that shoulder. The muscles around your rib cage should really be working. Then kick the leg back out and reach back out and overhead with your hand.
Move slowly to stay balanced and try to keep your hand on the ground under your shoulder.
Beginners can tap the toe down behind them or even just do the knee tuck without the kick out.
Plank With Reach Out And Back (3:36) – This is a great anti-rotational core move that will help you strengthen your back and improve your shoulder stability! It will even work your glutes!
To do the Plank with Reach Back and Out, set up in a Front Plank from your hands and toes with your hands under your shoulders and your feet about hip-width to shoulder-width apart. For this move, you will want your feet wider to create a more stable base. Beginners can do this move from their knees.
Then from the Plank position, reach one hand back and across toward the opposite ankle, pushing your butt back and up toward the ceiling as you reach. Then reach back forward and out toward the wall in front of you, dropping your hips back into a nice plank position.
Do not drop your hips too low and feel your low back engage. Keep your core tight to protect your low back as you come back into that nice plank position. Reach back and across with the same hand until all reps are complete on that side.
Alternating Arm Plank Row (3:51) – A great anti-rotational core exercises that will improve your shoulder stability and back strength. If you slow down the row and really focus on pulling with your back, you can seriously activate and work those muscles!
To do the Alternating Arm Plank Row, set up in a high plank position and place your hands a bit closer together under your chest with your feet a bit wider apart for stability. You can bring them in closer together as you progress, but don’t let your hips then rotate during the row.
Holding this plank position, row one hand up to your chest, driving your elbow slightly down and back toward the ceiling. Move at a controlled pace, not rushing because you are losing balance. Really fight to keep your hips and core still and prevent rotation.
Lower the hand back down and row up on the other side. Move slowly, alternating rows.
Handstand Shoulder Taps (4:03) – This is an advanced core and shoulder exercise that works your back in a stabilizing function. So while your back isn’t working to pull, it is working to keep everything engaged and safe!
To do the Handstand Shoulder Taps, your goal is to get your body as close to parallel to the wall as you can. Walk your feet up the wall as you walk your hands back toward the wall until you are as close to the wall as possible while being able to stabilize and raise each hand to tap the opposite shoulder.
As you start to walk up the wall to perform the hold, you may not initial be as close to parallel. As you get stronger though, you will get closer to completely vertical.
As you hold here, engage your abs and push the ground away. Set your feet wider apart to help you stabilize.
Be conscious of gripping the ground and pushing it away as you then raise one hand to tap the opposite shoulder. Place that hand down then lift the other to tap your opposite side.
Do not rush the shoulder taps. Fight to stay as still as you can while bracing your abs!
Beginners can even start off a box or with the plank shoulder taps!
Lat Pushdown (4:15) – This is a great way to work your lats and mimic that pull up vertical pull! However, it does require some “equipment” in that you need something to push off of BUT two chairs could work!
To do the Lat Pushdowns, set two chairs or benches parallel but wide enough apart you can sit between them on the ground with your elbows resting on each.
You can bend your knees to bring your feet back toward your butt to assist you or you can straighten your legs out to make it a bit harder.
Then keeping your chest up, drive your elbows down into the benches to raise yourself up. Think about the moves as if you were lifting your chest to a bar.
Lower down and repeat. Even pause at the top to feel your lats!
Next time you are traveling or at home and want to workout, remember these 17 Bodyweight Back Exercises to prevent injury and improve your posture. You can still work your back even if you don’t have any equipment!