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Put Your Back Into It
Your back is potentially the most important part of your body.
The back muscles surround and support every movement of your spine, which is essential to stand up straight and move all of your limbs properly!
The simple fact is that your back is under a lot of strain every day.
Whether you’re sitting at a computer, carrying something heavy, walking, or even driving the car, you’re hunching over more than you realize.
All of these movements cause tension in your back, and without proper stretching and exercise, your back will become weak over time.
In short, you’ll start to experience back pain, which will affect every aspect of your life.
Fortunately, bodyweight back exercises can help to undo the daily damage done to your back.
In addition to strengthening your back, these exercises will also improve balance and stability.
- Improve posture
- Reduce or prevent back pain
- Help balance and stability
- Boost calories burned
- Help you to complete other exercises
Why Bodyweight Back Exercises
You may be thinking that it’s time to invest in some dumbbells or even a gym membership. However, that’s the beauty of bodyweight back exercises; they can be done at any time and anywhere.
But what is more surprising is the fact that every exercise forces you to lift your own body weight, which weighs a lot more than a set of dumbbells.
This means bodyweight back exercises can actually be more effective than traditional weight training exercises!
Understand The Structure & Relevance
The back muscles are some of the largest muscles in your body. Let's take a moment to find out a little more about them:
Commonly referred to as the lats, these are the largest muscles in your back. They stretch from your armpits to the back of your ribs, protruding at both areas.
The lats provide your body with support in a wide array of situations; they also are essential in all pulling movements.
Between your shoulders and neck, you’ll find your trapezius or traps. They sit slightly higher than your collarbone, which makes them more visible from the front than the rear. Despite this, the traps actually stretch from the top to the bottom of your back.
The traps can actually be separated into three sections: the lower, middle, and upper.
These are the muscles that control the shoulder blades. They’re essential to head support, neck movement, and even shrugging.
This muscle lines up along each side of your spinal column, stretching from the base to the top of your back.
The Erector Spinae support your spine, ensuring that you can move comfortably in any direction. Strengthening these will improve your balance and core body strength.
You’ll find this back muscle at the top part of your back. It actually sits underneath the traps and runs from your vertebrae to the scapulae.
The Rhomboid works to pull your shoulder blades in and back out, making it an essential part of most arm movements.
This is actually one of the smallest of the back muscles.
It sits under your lats and works with them and the rotator cuff muscles to pull your arms downwards, as well as rotating your arms inwards.
Bodyweight Back Exercises To Try Today
There are a number of different bodyweight back exercises that you can use to strengthen your back, improve your balance, stability, and general health.
You’ve probably already heard of the plank or perhaps even tried it. It’s a great exercise, but many people dismiss it as too easy.
It can seem easy. The basic position is similar to the starting position of a push-up. Put your toes on the ground and your forearms, or just your hands, keeping your back straight in the process.
Your muscles will be working, but what really boosts the strength of your back, abs and core is holding this pose.
Planks will improve the strength of all the muscles in your back, although they generally target the upper back more than the lower.
The great thing about the plank is that there is a virtually unlimited number of variations, ensuring you keeping working out your back without getting bored:
- Side Planks
- One leg plank
- Plank Jacks
- Opposing limbs extended
- Plank on a ball
Your aim is to hold the plank for a minimum of 10 seconds, aiming for 30 seconds is a good starting point. Every day it should be possible to add 5-10 seconds, gradually increasing the time spent planking. The benefit will be felt in your back and core.
If you want to take these up a level, try doing them with weights strapped to your arms and legs. You can also use a resistance band around your wrists and ankles to increase the effects of any variation of the plank.
This is a great way to take planks to the next level and prepare for the superman. This exercise is great at targeting your deltoids and your erector spinae.
Start by getting down on all fours, it’s important that your hands are below your shoulders; this is the starting position.
Now extend one of your arms out in front of you and the opposite leg behind you. Your leg and arm need to be in-line with your back, which needs to remain parallel to the floor.
Hold the pose for 3-5 seconds and then slowly return to the start position.
You won’t be surprised to learn that you repeat the movement with the other leg and hand. That’s one rep.
Your aim is to do 3 sets of 8-10 reps with 1-2 minute break between sets. But, don’t worry if you can’t do that to start with, practice!
This exercise doesn't just strengthen your back. If you focus on keeping your abs pulled in, it will also improve your core strength. That’s important to almost every movement you make, as well as balance and flexibility.
Take this to the next level by lying on the floor, face down, and lifting both arms and legs up approximately 5 inches from the ground. Keep your limbs straight and hold for 5 seconds.
Regularly doing this exercise will strengthen your lower back and your hips.
It’s really easy to do. The challenge is holding the position for 5 seconds and then repeating 10-12 times.
Lay on your back with both arms by your sides, slowly bring your feet towards your bottom by bending your knees. Your feet should remain flat on the floor.
Now simply lift your hips off the floor as far as you can, focusing on contracting your buttocks.
Once you’ve held for 5 return to the starting position and repeat.
Again, the gain is experienced through the number of these that you do.
You can increase the effectiveness of this exercise by extending one of your legs off the floor while doing the bridge. It will increase the load, strengthening your back, and at the same time improve hip strength.
The pull-up is another easy exercise that can be performed anywhere. You don’t even need a pull-up bar. Any space that allows you to get a good grip and enough space to lift your body will do.
Pull-ups work your shoulders and your lats, and you’ll feel the burn in your arms as well. It is also the exercise that many people overlook, generally because it appears so hard to achieve.
Building your upper back and shoulder strength through pull-ups will boost your ability to do everyday activities and more challenging exercises.
If you can’t do any pull-ups yet then simply start with the dead hang. This involves gripping the bar with your palms facing away from you, lift your feet off the floor and hang with your arms straight.
When you’re ready you can move to the flex position. Simply pull yourself upwards into the top position of a pull-up, with your chin above the bar. You’ll find this easier when you grip the bar with your palms facing towards you.
Again, hold this pose for as long as you can.
The final step is to actually do a pull-up. This involves moving from the hanging position to the flex and holding for 3 seconds before returning to the hanging position.
Over time you’ll be aiming to do 3 sets of 10 reps. You’ll be amazed at how much stronger this makes your upper back!
Single Leg Deadlift
The word ‘deadlift’ your first image will probably of a large barbell in the gym. However, there is a version of the deadlift that doesn’t require the use of weights.
Stage one is to stand with both feet flat on the floor and your arms beside your sides. Pick one of your legs and start to move it behind you then move the upper half of your body forward.
You should keep your back flat and pivot from your hips, to ensure that you don’t rotate your hips the wrong way.
To help ensure this doesn’t happen, use the arm on the same side as your raised leg and touch the opposite foot with it.
You need to hold the pose for 3 seconds before returning to the starting position.
It is then possible to repeat with the same leg until you’ve done 10 then switch legs. Alternatively, you can alternate legs as you go.
This exercise will hit your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles. You may find it difficult to complete the exercise at first, but it can help to have a stack of books to rest your forward arm on. Slowly remove a book from the stack until your hand is nearly touching the ground.
You can make this exercise more difficult by adding dumbbells or kettlebells to your routine. Just remember to increase the weight slowly.
What could be easier than sitting down?
The wall sit requires you to sit with your back against the wall and your knees over your ankles. Lift your hands above your head, putting your palms against the wall.
Take a deep breath and concentrate on keeping your pelvis tucked in. You may have realized that there is no chair!
You need to hold the pose for 45 seconds. If you can’t do this on your first attempt, hold the pose for as long as you can and work your way up to it. Take a 30-second rest before repeating twice.
You’ll feel this working your upper back muscles and your thighs. You can make it more challenging, and rewarding, by holding a kettlebell in your hands and keeping your hands, (and the kettlebell), in front of your chest.
No Time To Back Out
These bodyweight back exercises are just a taste of the wide array of moves you do without equipment or gym membership. For a complete workout, take a look at our sample workout from our famous program, Old School Muscle. Click the banner below to get started today.
5 Best Muscle Building Exercises for
men Over 40
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Head Training Staff, The Fit Father Project
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Bragging Rights: 16 Years in the fitness industry, Author of ‘The Easy Fitness Guide', Father of 4 boys and Husband to a Venezuelan beauty.