Contrary to what many believe, there are many back exercises you can do at home without needing equipment that still build muscle and get results. There are a number of exercises for your back that do not require equipment at all. Every muscle in your back can be hit by simply doing the right movement, all you need is a flat surface.
All muscles can be hit at home without equipment. Exercises for the chest are slightly more obvious than exercises for your back but there are just as many movements that target your back muscles as there are for muscles like the chest and abs. The key for no-equipment exercises to be effective is contraction. In each exercise the contraction needs to be held for several seconds and the eccentric portion needs to be done at a controlled pace with good form. Time under tension and a good squeeze of the back muscles during each exercise will achieve muscle growth.
The first and one of the most effective no-equipment exercises for your back muscles is the hyperextension. The hyperextension is done like a superman but with your hands behind your head instead of in front of you.
To do a hyperextension, lay on the floor belly down and lock, or simply place, your hands behind your head with your elbows pointed out. Then contract the muscles in your lower back while slightly raising your legs to bring your upper body up as high as it goes. Your entire chest should be off the ground and you should feel your lower back flexing to perform this movement. At the top, flex the muscles in your upper back and hold this for 2-3 seconds before lowering your upper body back down to the ground.
Repeat this for 8-12 reps and 3-5 sets for a great initial exercise in an at home workout for back.
The next exercise to activate your back is the pulse row. The pulse row mainly recruits the upper back and traps but also is good for middle and lower back.
Pulse rows are also done laying on your stomach with your arms to your side, fingers pointing down to your feet, and your palms facing up. To do pulse rows your chest and shoulders need to be slightly off the ground for optimal activation of your back.
Once your chest and shoulders are raised, begin the movement by raising your palms up as high as possible, contracting your upper back and traps. Hold this exercise at the top and focus on control. Take 2-3 seconds at the top and 2-3 seconds back down.
A third effective exercise for hitting the back without equipment is the back widow. Instead of on your stomach, back widows are done by lying on your back with your arms bent so that your hands are in the air and your elbows are on the ground at a comfortable position.
To perform this movement, push your upper body off the ground into the air using your elbows. As with hyperextensions and pulse rows, hold the contraction at the top for 2-3 seconds before letting your upper body slowly back down. Keep your lower body and waist on the ground so that you are only pushing your chest and lower back up.
This exercise is great for upper back and rear delts. Back widows can be supersetted with pulse rows for more upper back stimulation or done on their own as long as the form you use is consistent.
A great exercise that also stimulates the upper back is the reacher. The reacher is easy to do and also will activate the lats, building a wider back without the need for pull-ups and pull-downs.
To do a reacher, lay on your stomach with your palms down, similar to hyperextensions. Your chest and shoulders should be elevated off the ground and your lower body should be on the floor.
First, retract your scapula, which is done by contracting your upper back muscles and bringing your elbows back. After this, move your arms forward, stretching as far as they go and activating your upper back muscles. Repeat this, holding both the contractions at the top and bottom for 2-3 seconds.
It is important when doing this movement to flex your lats as you bring down your arms so that all back muscle are hit.
Scapula presses are essential for building the traps when doing a back workout that doesn’t use equipment. They can be done multiple ways, from the push-up position, from the plank position, and also by using a wall either on your knees or standing.
To do scapula presses, the easiest way to perform them is by starting at the push-up position with your back widened and pointed in the air. Widen your back by extending your lats and moving your shoulders outward. Then, flex your back and bring your spine downward while keeping your back straight and lowering your chest.
To do scapula presses on a wall, place both hands on a wall and push forward against it, then do the same movement of widening your back then flexing your back.
Reverse Snow Angels
Reverse snow angels are done by laying on your stomach with your chest and shoulders up, like pulse rows and hyperextensions. Have your hands at your side with your palms facing down and arms off the ground. Then, while keeping your arms straight, move your arms up 180 degrees to out in front of you. Hold this position with your arms raised, squeezing your back muscles, then bring them back down to at your sides slow and controlled.
Supermans are similar to hyperextensions but are done by raising your legs in the air along with your chest and shoulders. Keep your arms straight and pointed forward and squeeze your lower back muscle each time you perform the concentric phase of this exercise.
Back Extensions with a Towel
Supermans can be supersetted with back extensions with a towel. Back extensions with a towel are done by holding a towel with both hands out in front of you while laying on your stomach with your chest and shoulder raised off the ground. “Row” the towel inward toward your body by contracting the muscles in your upper back and bringing in your elbows.
You can superset supermans and back extensions with a towel by performing a superman with a towel in both your hands and completing the row at the top of the movement. This will add more volume to your workout and ensure your upper back muscles are hit hard enough for muscle growth.
Scapula pull-downs and isometric towel are both other exercises that require holding a towel to complete. Scapula pull-downs are done by either sitting or lying down on a flat surface while holding a towel extended in front of your head. Pull your hands apart while holding the towel to add resistance then bring your arms down and flex your lats as well as upper back muscles once your arms are all the way down. This is similar to pull-downs done with a machine however only require a towel.
Isometric Towel Rows
Isometric towel rows activate the same muscles that a row with a barbell is able to. Do this exercise by grabbing both sides of a towel with your hands, holding it down with one foot in the middle, then rowing the towel by retracting your scapula. Use your foot to create resistance and hold this position once your upper back muscles are fully contracted. This movement can be held for more than 20 seconds and has the ability to effectively activate your back muscles with only a towel and no extra necessary equipment.
All of these no-equipment back exercises can achieve a well built back as long as they’re done with the right form and there is a focus on the contraction of the muscles used. If you have access to a backpack or some sort of weight, you can also do rows and shrugs to supplement some of these exercises. Owning resistance bands will also allow you access to more exercises to do at home but are not needed to train your back.
For more on building muscle and working out at home, such as how much muscle you can gain in 3 months and the benefits of doing stomach vacuums, click here.