So you want to build a beastly back from the comforts of your own home? Noble, for sure. But also smart. The 2020 Coronavirus quarantine has taught us that there is simply a lack of good information on workouts that we can do at home. This article is part of a series of articles on topic of workouts at home, and the back should never be neglected because it is literally part of the backbone structure.
Back exercises are extremely tricky when it comes to at-home workouts. Without any equipment, you’re subject to a handful of movements, if that. However, if you’re able to snag some fantastic home equipment, then you can build a wide, muscular back in no time at all. And that’s minus the awkward gym and the commute and all the other downsides of not having an at-home gym.
In this article, we’ll go over all things related to the back, and that you can do at home, including lower back workouts, upper back workouts, workouts for women, and which equipment can make your back workout experience that much better when in your garage or basement.
Let’s put our backs into this and build a bigger frame!
(And if you want to work out your front side as well, be sure to check out our article on bodyweight chest exercises you can do from home.)
Benefits of Home Back Workouts
Back workouts, in general, are super advantageous to your overall physique.
Your upper and lower back are part of your posterior chain, which is an important bodily feature that keeps you upright and improves overall core strength. Without back workouts, your posture will go down the drain with every Netflix binge and internet surf.
As well, it helps you run faster and lift heavier weights. The biggest benefit, though, involves your health. Posterior chain movements help you reduce your risk of injury.
Building up your back and protecting your spine aids many facets of your life, both physically and mentally. So let’s get into some of our favorite at-home back exercises.
Lower Back Workouts at Home
A lot of people feel pain in their lower back. This is usually due to two things: Lifting things incorrectly/sitting too much and severely underdeveloped lower back muscles.
Your lower back is the antithesis of your core. A weak lower back results in a weak core, and vice versa. So, let’s get into some workouts you can do to build up your lower back, erase your risk of injury, and providing a strong base for bigger lifts like squats and deadlifts.
Equipment Required: A barbell and bumper plates or a filled piece of luggage (something heavy that you can grab with both hands and the weight distributed evenly).
Starting Position: Feet a little past shoulder-width apart, weight in front of you, grabbing it with both hands at shoulder width. You should be bent over at the hip, legs slightly bent at the knee, back ramrod straight. Palms can be facing you, facing away, or mixed.
How-to: Drive up with your glutes and quads, straightening your knees and hips until you’re standing straight up. The weight should be at a dead hang in your hands. At the top of the deadlift, squeeze your glutes really hard and go a little bit past straight up, flexing your lower back as you do so. Return back down to the starting position by hinging at the hips and slightly bending the knees.
Equipment Required: A kettlebell or kettlebell equivalent (a full sinch bag does the trick).
Starting Position: Same as the deadlift starting position, only you’re now holding a singular item in both hands, palms facing you.
How-to: Kind of like a deadlift, you’ll be going from a hinged position to a standing straight up position. Only this time, you’ll be swinging a kettlebell in front of you, arms straight, swinging at the shoulder blades. Bring it to about eye level, then let it swing back down in between your legs. Throughout this motion, your elbows remain straight; this isn’t an arm workout, it’s a full-body workout that focuses on the shoulders, lower back, glutes, and hamstring muscles.
Equipment Required: None
Starting Position: Lying on the floor, knees bent up, feet about a foot away from your butt.
How-to: For beginners, simply raise your groin and midsection up from the floor by squeezing your glutes and lower back. Hold this position for as long as you can, then slowly ease back down. When you have mastered this, you can go to the straight bridge, where you are doing a reverse plank position where your stomach is facing up. Progress from this to the next level where you use your arms over your head with your palm flat on ground, and lightly using your head and neck to hold up your bridge. Lastly, to progress to a complete back bridge where you make an arch with your back. See this video below for the exercises and stretches you can do for this progression.
All three of these workouts seem like they focus more on the lower body than the upper body, but that’s because a lot of functional exercises are complex lifts that include a multitude of muscles. Get the reps in, and you’ll be sure to feel the strength in your lower back return.
At-Home Upper Back Workouts
Funny enough, people usually have upper back pain as well. Too much sitting is once again the culprit. We slouch like nobody’s business. That’s why we should incorporate one or two of these upper back movements into our at-home workout routine.
A lot of these are functional replacements for popular workouts like a LAT pulldown, but the beauty is these are mostly bodyweight back exercises.
Starting Position: Start by hanging from the bar, hands gripping the bar at about the width of your shoulders. Palms should face away for a traditional pull-up, though there are plenty of variations (see below).
How-to: Engage your LATs (latissimus dorsi) by flaring your shoulder blades out and down. Keeping your elbows out, pull your body up to the bar using your LATs and traps rhomboids (the back muscles right under your neck), as well as your biceps. Your chest should touch the bar before coming back down to a hang.
Variations: You can use an overhand grip, which gives you a normal pull-up, or you could go underhand grip, which is called a chin-up. Other variations include:
Neutral-grip pull-up (palms facing each other)
Iso pull-up (hold the top portion of the pull-up for as long as you can before slowly returning to a hang)
Towel one-arm pull-up (holding onto a towel draped over the bar with one hand, pull yourself to the bar with the other hand that’s gripping the bar)
This exercise is the best one you can do to mimic a LAT pulldown machine. By switching to bodyweight training, you can develop your muscles in a more functional way, which will translate to any athletics you do.
Equipment Required: Low horizontal bar or table edge. Or a pair of gymnastics rings.
Starting Position: Hanging underneath the table edge or bar, use your hands to suspend yourself from the ground. Only your heels should be on the ground. You will be completely beneath the table or under the bar.
How-to: Pull your body up to the bar or table. Keep your elbows tucked in, pinch in the middle of your back to activate your LATs, and make sure you keep your hips up and your body straight throughout the entire movement. Return back to the hanging position, and repeat for reps. For at home workouts, it best to use gymnastic rings so that you are not relying on your table in case it is not sturdy.
For more beginner calisthenics exercises, be sure to check out our bodyweight workout guide.
Equipment Required: Dumbbell, barbell, or bands (choose one).
Starting Position: With a slight bend at the hips, hold your chosen weight at a dead hang in front of your knees. Your legs are at hip width. If you’re using resistance bands, stand on one end of the bands and hold the other end with your hands.
How-to: Bending at your elbows and shoulders, lift the weight straight up towards your upper chest. The dumbbells or barbell should touch your chest. If you’re using bands, your hands should reach your armpits. Return back to the bottom and continue for reps.
Note: The dumbbell row is the best in our opinion because you can get a full range of motion while upping the load consistently.
Back Workouts for Women at Home
Ladies can do all of the exercises listed above, and then some. But sometimes you want to perform back exercises that help strip away fat and provide more functionality without getting too bulky.
That’s where these workouts come in. Both men and women can get a great back workout from these exercises, and trust us, they can get really tough. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Lateral Deltoid Raises
Equipment Required: Dumbbells.
Starting Position: Feet are hip-distance apart. With a slight bend in the hips, hold one dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other. Neck and head should be in a neutral position, facing somewhere on the ground a few feet in front of you.
How-to: Lift the dumbbells out and back, contracting your shoulders and pinching your shoulder blades. Be careful with this exercise; you do not want to be lifting the weights. You should be pushing the weights away from your body. So keep your shoulders fixed, and lead with your elbows. Bring the weights back down, rounding your shoulders.
Note: Use weights light enough that you can easily do ten reps, ensuring that you have proper form. If you use too much weight you will be working the wrong muscle instead. This exercise will give your the top of your back the width for that v shaped physique.
Plank with Lateral Arm Raise
Equipment Required: None, or with resistance band.
Starting Position: Get in starting push-up position, toes on the ground, hands on the ground at the width of your shoulders.
How-to: Keeping three points of contact on the ground and remaining still, lift one arm and extend it to the side of you. Your right arm will go to the right, and vice versa for your left. Make sure to keep your core muscles stable throughout the movement.
This simple movement will do wonders for your erector spinae, which are a group of muscles running up and down your back in the middle, close to your spine. Strong erector spinae muscles will increase spine stability and enhance your posture tenfold.
Read Also: Top 6 Self Myofascial Release Tools
Equipment Required: None.
Starting Position: Lay down on the floor, face-down. Arms are up past your ears, legs are straight. (Like you’re flying on the floor.)
How-to: All at once, lift your legs and your arms/chest off the ground, leaving your core on the floor. Hold this top position for a few seconds, flexing the muscles in your back, before settling back down.
Variation — Aquamans: Start by lifting only your right leg and only your left arm. Bring those down, then lift your left leg and right arm. Continue to switch for desired reps.
Equipment Required: None.
Starting Position: Plank position, as described above for planks with lateral arm raises. For a low plank, your upper arms are on the floor, elbows bent.
Hold this position for a set amount of time. For more of a challenge, shift your body’s weight forward, shoulders over hands, hips tucked in. Again, keep your core muscles tight the entire time.
What About Back Stretching?
It’s crucial to keep your back limber as well as strong. After you combine a few of these at-home back exercises together for a sweet workout, be sure to include some dynamic or static stretching to make sure the lactic acid moves around and you don’t tense your back up for the next three days.
Simple stretches like downward dog, hip bridges, and full wheels can seriously help your back workouts at home
Equipment That Can be Used to Enhance At-Home Back Workouts
While many of the above back workouts in this guide can be done without any equipment whatsoever, adding a few pieces of machinery will do wonders for building up your back to new muscular levels.
The beauty of at-home workout equipment, especially for lower and upper back exercises, is that they’re cheap, out-of-the-way, and fundamental, making your physique that much more athletic minus breaking the bank. Here are some of the things you can get to improve your home back workouts:
- Pull-up bar: The king of back workouts deserves a quality pull-up bar. These can be either standalone bars that are mobile and sturdy, or they can be the ones that attach on a doorframe. Either way, you want them to be durable and secure. If you only do one back exercise at home, might as well grab a pull-up bar and rep out as many as you can, as many days as you can.
- Dumbbells: Dumbbells are easy to acquire and they can provide a lot of back workouts you can do in your garage or spare bedroom. You can use dumbbells for chainsaws, upright rows, bent-over rows, and standing shoulder press. Not only that, but you can also do dumbbell workouts for other body parts, such as arms and chest. (In fact, you can do a lot for your chest with dumbbells — here’s how.)
- Barbell + bumper plates: For those who are super serious about building their own home gym, you should get an Olympic bar and accompanying bumper plates. They won’t just improve your back muscles; barbells are key for chest, leg, and arm development, too. If you want a heavy workout each and every time, barbells are your best friends.
- Resistance bands: Ideal for adding or reducing the load on pull-ups (or any other calisthenics exercise), resistance bands are incredibly versatile and can be a boon for any calisthenics exercise. Take Australian rows, for example. If you’re new to the movement, you can cradle your body with a resistance band to “lower” your weight, which is also the load. Or, if you want more of a challenge, you can tether your body to something on the ground, to add more resistance as you row your body up to the bar.
Your back is one of the most important muscle groups on your body. Don’t neglect them while you’re cooped up in your house, especially if you’re sitting more than ever before.
Because when we get back to living as normal a life as we can, we want to be hitting the ground running. Ideally, with a strong, wide-framed back that makes you look like a modern-day Atlas.