If you are a person who thinks you need to spend money in order to strengthen and condition your body, then think again. Believe it or not, you were born with the ultimate piece of workout equipment: Your body. It goes with you everywhere, doesn’t cost you a dime and is the only resistance you need to work any major muscle group in your body, including your back. Better yet, body-weight exercises are great preparation for the pushing, squatting or in the case of your back, pulling movements of real life. Below we show you some of the best body weight back exercise that can be done at home or in the gym.
Pull-ups are the quintessential back exercise, working every major muscle in your back. They’re also very challenging, but if you can’t do full pull-ups yet, you can modify the exercise to be easier. Either use an assisted pull up machine, which uses weight plates or a stack to counterbalance some of your body weight, or place a bench beneath the bar and push with your feet to assist your arms.
Pull-ups on a Smith Machine
Failing that, you can do pull ups on the bar of a Smith machine, as long as it’s locked in place; this lets you position the bar just low enough that you can push off the floor with your feet, giving your arms an assist without worrying about balancing on a bench. Or lower the bar a bit, walk your feet forward slightly so your body is inclined at about a 45-degree angle as you hang below the bar, and then pull up on the bar to do inverted rows.
Isometric Horizontal Pull
This is a great exercise for developing wide lats. The best way to perform this movement is to go to a playground. Grab the bottom of a swing. Keep your body straight and feet anchored to the ground. There are three positions. The first position is to pull your body all the way so that your chest is touching the bottom of the swing.
Hold this position for 30 seconds. Slowly lower your body until your elbows are a 90 degree angle. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Finally, the last position is where you lower yourself until your arms are full extended. Tighten your abs and make sure your body is straight
Hold this position for 30 seconds, and then pull your body back to the first position.
Isometric Hip Bridge
The Isometric Hip Bridge is a great exercise for strengthening the glutes and lower back. Perform this movement while lying on your back. Bend your knees and keep your feet on the ground. Extend your arms out to the sides with the palms facing down. Raise your hips slowly off the ground, keeping your feet flat and shoulders on the floor.
Keep your abs tight, squeeze your glutes, and feel the tension on your lower back. Hold this position for 10 - 20 seconds. Then slowly raise your right foot off the floor while it's still bent. Hold this position for 10 - 20 seconds. Put your foot down and repeat on the other side.
Lower your left foot. Then raise your right foot up again and straight the leg out. Your body still should be full straight. Imagine a straight line starting from your shoulders to your toes. Hold this position for 10 - 20 seconds. Place your food back down and repeat on the other side.
Burpees target all of your major muscle groups including quads, glutes, core, chest, back and shoulders, while also challenging your cardiovascular system. To properly perform this movement, begin by standing hip-width apart. Squat, touch the ground with both hands and jump your feet back into a plank position. Complete a push up and jump your feet back toward your hands. As you stand up, jump vertically with your arms overhead. Bend your knees as you land and repeat. For a greater challenge, tuck your knees up toward your chest as you jump.
Hyperextensions (Back Extensions)
Your back extensors make the difference between standing upright or slouching forward; working them improves your posture and stabilizes your core. Start by doing back extensions while lying face down on a mat: keep your hips and legs on the floor as you lift your shoulders and chest an inch or two off the floor. Hold it for a moment, and then lower your back down to complete the repetition. You can do the same exercise while draped face down on an exercise ball.
For a bigger challenge, do the same exercise with your arms extended straight overhead, as if you were Superman. For a greater challenge yet, lean over a back extension bench -- basically just an angled pad to support your hips -- and hinge forward from the hips. Keep your back flat as you squeeze your glutes, swinging your body back up to a straight position.
The frog jump
The frog jump or “frogger” as it is popularly known as is an explosive movement that not only tones and strengthens your lower back, but also targets the shoulders and arms. Start off at push up position. Lower your hips down to the floor. Keep your knees on the ground. Slowly reverse the movement, and press your butt towards the ground.
Keep your legs and arms straight, and keep pressing your butt towards the air until you are in an upside down "V" position. Pause briefly, and lower your body back towards the ground.
While no calisthenics exercises work your back exclusively, a number of them integrate your back muscles into full-body movements. Tackle jumping jacks, star jumps or the ever-popular inchworm: From a standing position, hinge forward from the hips and touch your hands to the ground. Walk your hands forward until you’re in a plank position, body flat like a board; then walk your feet forward until you’re bent over again. Each time you walk your hands forward and then walk your feet forward to catch up counts as one repetition. For an extra challenge, do one push up every time you find yourself in the plank position.
Sets and Repetitions
Body weight exercises not only challenge your cardiovascular system, they also build muscle while burning fat. The best exercises challenge multiple muscle groups simultaneously while keeping your heart rate elevated. Perform exercises in a circuit format, completing one after another with no more than 30 seconds of rest between sets.
When you first start doing bodyweight exercises for your back, one to two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions is a good goal. However, the only way to keep improving is by challenging yourself through progressive
overload. So once you can do 10 to 15 repetitions with good form, either switch to a more difficult version of the exercise such as holding a weight plate against your chest during back extensions or aim for a slightly higher number of repetitions.