Most of the best back workouts are designed to be performed in a gym with full access to barbells, cable machines, and other strength training implements, or at least a good set of adjustable dumbbells and resistance bands for home back workouts.
But what if you are working out at home with no strength training equipment, or you are traveling and don’t have access to a hotel gym and want to do a no equipment back workout?
What are the best back exercises without weights? How do you structure a back workout without weights for muscle building?
In this article, we will discuss how to do back workouts without weights and give you our ultimate no equipment back workout by providing step-by-step instructions to the following best no equipment back exercises:
Let’s dive in!
How to Strengthen Your Back Without Weights
It can be hard to figure out how to put together a back workout without weights, as most of the best back hypertrophy exercises and strength-building exercises require weights or at least resistance bands.
However, with a little creativity and commitment to getting in a few extra reps of each exercise, you can maintain your gains in the gym with no equipment back workouts.
The most important tip for doing no equipment back workouts is to do as many reps as possible, ideally completing each exercise to failure. This will help maximize the training stimulus when training your back without equipment.
Beginners can start with two sets of every exercise but work up to three sets of every exercise to failure.
The Ultimate No Equipment Back Workout
If you don’t have access to dumbbells, barbells, weight machines, or even resistance bands, you can still get in a decent no equipment back workout.
Here are some of the best no equipment back exercises to add to your back strengthening workout routine:
The yoga poses Cat and Cow are often sequenced together as part of a back warm-up routine, but if you perform the Cat-Cow sequence together as slowly and mindfully as possible, it can also be a decent exercise to include in no equipment back workouts.Of course, you won’t see back muscle gains from this back mobility exercise like you will with lat pull-downs or trap bar rows.
However, it’s still a valuable exercise for bodyweight back workouts since it helps train your mind-body connection to activate all the different areas of muscle fibers in your lats, traps, rhomboids, spinal extensors, and deep core muscles in a sequential way.
This helps mobilize each region of the spine for better movement mechanics, mobility, and stability.
Here are the steps for this back mobility exercise:
- Kneel on the floor on all fours so that your hands are below your shoulders and your knees are under your hips. Your spine should be neutral, with your back flat and abs engaged.
- To move into the Cat pose, draw your belly button in towards your spine and round your spine up towards the ceiling. Tuck your chin towards your chest.
- Then, move into the Cow pose by arching your back and letting your stomach drop down. Lift your head and tailbone up towards the ceiling.
- Continue cycling through, trying to consciously think about mobilizing each segment of your spine.
This exercise works your back extensors, hamstrings, glutes, and shoulders.
Even if you don’t have strength training equipment, you can make this one of our back exercises without weights harder by holding a filled water bottle or a bag of dried beans/rice in each hand.
Here are the steps:
- Lie on your stomach with your arms extended straight overhead, holding a weighted object if you so choose.
- Engage your glutes and back muscles to squeeze your shoulder blades together while lifting your upper body, head, and chest along with your lower body.
- Keep your arms straight when you pick up and lift the weighted object.
- Squeeze and hold this position, hovering above the floor for several seconds, and then slowly return to the starting position.
- Complete as many reps as possible.
#3: Bird Dog
Bird dog is a bodyweight core exercise that strengthens your erector spinae in the back, deep core muscles, and glutes.
Like the Superman back exercise, you can hold water bottles or bags of rice during this exercise to make it more challenging.
Here are the directions:
- Get in a tabletop position by kneeling on all fours with a flat back with wrists stacked underneath your shoulders and your knees stacked under your hips.
- Lift and extend your opposite arm and leg simultaneously, squeezing your core to maintain balance. Reach your arm forward so that it’s straight and parallel to the floor, and lift your leg straight back so that it’s also parallel to the floor.
- Return your hand and leg to the starting position, but before you drop them back down to the floor, bring your elbow and knee together to touch underneath your chest.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
- Continue alternating sides, moving as slowly and controlled as possible.
#4: Y’s, T’s, W’s, and A’s
These are excellent no equipment back exercises for your rhomboids and traps.
You can hold bottles of water or cans of beans in no equipment back workouts to help build back muscles.
Here are the steps:
- You will begin with the “Y” exercise by lying on your stomach with your legs straight, your forehead resting on a rolled hand towel, and your arms up overhead like a giant letter Y.
- Squeeze your upper back muscles to lift your just arms up while keeping the rest of your body down on the floor. Slowly lower your arms back down.
- Perform at least 20 reps.
- Then, bring your arms out to the side like a giant letter T. Lift your arms up off the ground by squeezing your upper back muscles.
- Slowly lower your arms back down.
- Perform at least 25 reps.
- Now, bend your elbows and bring your arms up and out to the sides of your ears so you form the letter “W.”
- Squeeze, lift, and lower at least 20 times.
- Then, straighten your arms and bring them down by your hips at a 45-degree angle from your shoulder like a capital letter A.
- Squeeze, lift, and lower at least 25 times.
#5: Inchworm With Push-Ups
One of the best total body exercises to include in no equipment back workouts is the inchworm or walk out with a push-up.
This exercise is often used as part of a dynamic warm-up, but it is a great way to work most of the major muscles in your body, including your shoulders, upper back muscles, core muscles, hamstrings, glutes, and triceps.
Make sure to keep your core engaged the entire time, and your feet should stay in the same spot on the floor.
Here are the steps:
- Stand upright with good posture.
- Hinge at your hips so that your fingertips touch down in front of your body. Depending on your hamstring flexibility, you may need to allow a soft bend in your knees.
- Press your palms into the ground while keeping your toes and balls of your feet planted behind you.
- Walk your hands out in front of you until you are in a push-up position with your hands stacked under your shoulders.
- Perform one complete push-up by bending your elbows and lowering your chest towards the floor, being mindful that your hips stay in line with your entire body from your head to your heels.
- Press through your palms to straighten your arms and finish the push-up.
- Start walking your hands back toward your feet as you pike your butt up into the air like a downward dog yoga pose.
- Once you are at the point where only your fingertips are left on the floor, use your posterior chain muscles, such as your hamstrings, glutes, and spinal extensors, to help raise your body back up to the standing position.
#6: Towel Lat Rows
Doing lat rows without a weight machine, cable machine, or resistance bands can be tough, but it’s possible to do the lat row exercise with a regular towel.
You won’t have weighted resistance, but you can pull against the towel to isometrically engage your lats. This no equipment exercise will also activate your rotator cuff muscles (teres major and teres minor) along with your biceps.
Time under tension will help strengthen your back without weights.
Here are the steps to perform this back exercise without equipment:
- Kneel down with good upright posture, chest up, shoulders back, and gaze straight ahead.
- Grip a towel with your palms facing down and hands shoulder-width apart.
- Reach your arms up overhead as if grabbing the bar at the lat pull-down machine.
- Pull as hard as possible to separate your hands while gripping the towel to fully activate your shoulders, lats, and rhomboids throughout the duration of the exercise.
- Bring the towel towards your sternum, squeezing the contraction the entire way and allowing your torso to hinge backward somewhat so that your chest is pointing upward.
- Maintain the isometric contraction pull as you lift your arms back up for the next rep.
There you have it, a back exercises no equipment workout for the next time you can’t get to the gym.
For more no equipment workout ideas, check out our bodyweight workout for runners here.