8 Best Bodyweight Exercises to Strengthen Your Back

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson | Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Last updated: December 28, 2023
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Drawing from my experience as a fitness trainer, calisthenics enthusiasts effectively showcase the impact of bodyweight exercises, serving as the foundation for my clients' workout routines.

To provide you with valuable guidance in developing significant back muscles without relying on dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells, I have undertaken further research and collaborated with fellow experts.

Consequently, I have compiled the most effective back exercises and devised a comprehensive workout plan that I am eager to share with you.

Quick Summary

  • Some of the most effective bodyweight exercises that can help strengthen back muscles include supermans, pull-ups, push-ups, and chin-ups.
  • Bodyweight exercises like inverted rows offer a convenient and challenging way to strengthen the back.
  • A PubMed study showed notable improvement in individuals with chronic low back pain at 3- and 12-month follow-ups through dynamic strength exercises.
  • From my experience with clients, regularly doing exercises that work every part of your back with just your body weight can help build a strong and well-defined back pretty quickly.

Eight Most Effective Bodyweight Exercises for Your Back

resistance band superman

To build a strong and well-defined back, essential for overall strength and aesthetics, consider incorporating the following eight effective bodyweight exercises that specifically target the muscles in your back:

1. Superman

Level: Easy
Equipment: None

  1. Lie facedown with legs straight and arms fully extended in front.
  2. Squeeze lower back and glutes to lift the top of your chest.
  3. Simultaneously, lift arms and legs off the floor.
  4. Hold briefly and return to the starting position.

In my training experience, I recommend advancing to variations such as Y-superman, W-superman, T-superman, pull-up superman, or dead stop superman for an extra challenge.

plank row2. Plank Row

Level: Easy
Equipment: None

  1. Start in a plank position with arms straight and body aligned.
  2. Lift left arm in a rowing motion, then lower it.
  3. Repeat with the right arm.

Over the years of working with clients, I often suggest visualizing lifting something heavy as a way to engage and activate the lat muscles.

3. Single-leg Deadlift

Level: Easy
Equipment: None
Execution:Single-leg Deadlift

  1. Stand on the left leg with a slight knee bend, lifting the right leg.
  2. Hinge at the hip, lowering your torso while lifting the right leg.
  3. Return to the starting position by squeezing glutes and pushing hips forward.
  4. Alternate arms to engage the upper body.

Remember to keep your arms extended during a movement to maximize upper-body engagement.

4. Wide-grip Push-up

Wide Grip Push-up

Level: Medium
Equipment: None

  1. Start in a high plank with hands wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lower chest towards the ground while keeping elbows out.
  3. Engage core muscles and maintain a straight back.
  4. Push back up, squeezing the back at the bottom.

As a fitness trainer, this exercise is quite challenging, so I recommend focusing on maintaining proper form and control throughout the entire movement.

hindu push up5. Hindu Push-up

Level: Medium
Equipment: None

  1. Begin face down, in a downward dog.
  2. Lower your body towards the ground while shifting your weight forward.
  3. Arch your back and lift your head towards the ceiling.
  4. Push back up to the starting position.

I often modify this exercise to cater to various fitness levels, making it adaptable and accessible for everyone in my training experience.

6. Inverted Row

Inverted Row

Level: Hard
Equipment: Bar or suspension trainer

  1. Lie on your back under a bar or suspension trainer, gripping it with hands.
  2. Keep the body straight, engaging the core.
  3. Pull the chest towards the bar by retracting shoulder blades and bending elbows.
  4. Lower down in a controlled manner.

To make this upper back exercise even more challenging, you can elevate your feet a few inches or use a narrower grip.

chin up7. Chin-up

Level: Hard
Equipment: Bar

  1. Hang from a bar with palms facing your body and hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Stabilize your lower body with torso muscles.
  3. Focus on pulling shoulder blades together and away from your ears.
  4. Lower yourself in a controlled manner.

For more challenging chin-ups, you can try overhand grip, wide-grip chin-up, l-sit chin-up, eccentric chin-up, or commando chin-up.

Wide Grip Pull Up8. Wide-grip Pull-up

Level: Hard
Equipment: Bar

  1. Hang from a bar with arms stretched and hands wider than shoulders.
  2. Pull the chest towards the bar, squeezing the shoulder blades.
  3. Lower down, straightening arms completely at the bottom.

Don’t give up if you can only start with one rep. Practice will strengthen the muscle-mind connection and exercise form. Remember, this is the most challenging bodyweight exercise.

A Bodyweight Workout Plan

Writing a bodyweight workout plan

For an effective bodyweight workout plan, begin with a brief warm-up, such as five minutes of light cardio (e.g., jumping jacks, jogging in place), along with dynamic stretches for the back, shoulders, and arms muscles.

“Warming up before exercise is essential. It helps to increase blood flow to the muscles, which reduces the risk of injury and improves performance.” -

Dr. Richard Weiler, Sports Medicine Physician

Start your strength workout with challenging pulling exercises targeting the larger muscles of the back:

  • Wide-grip pull-up: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Inverted row: 3 sets of 12-15 reps

Proceed with chin-ups and push-ups, engaging your chest, triceps, and upper back muscles:

  • Chin-up: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Hindu push-up: 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Wide-grip push-up: 3 sets of 15-20 reps

Conclude with exercises focusing on lower back muscles, hamstrings, and glutes (use an exercise mat for these):

  • Plank row: 3 sets of 10-15 reps per arm
  • Superman: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Single-leg deadlift: 3 sets of 10-12 reps per leg

As a fitness trainer, I recommend resting for 60-90 seconds between sets and exercises, making sure to use weights or variations that are challenging but manageable for each exercise.

Additionally, the National Federation of Professional Trainers suggests always prioritizing proper form and consistency for optimal results [1].


Can I Build Back Without Pull-Ups?

Yes, you can build back without pull-ups since they aren’t the only option. Other exercises like push-ups, rows, and supermans can also be effective. Consistency, technique, and progressive overload are vital to building muscles.

What Are Bodyweight Exercises for the Lower Back?

Bodyweight exercises for the lower back include the superman, hip bridge, bird dog, and quadruped extension. These exercises target the erector spinae muscles, which help support the lower back and promote good posture.


  1. https://www.nfpt.com/blog/consistent-in-exercise
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About The Author

Isaac Robertson
Co-Founder & Chief Editor
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James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
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Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
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