Top 5 Back Exercises Without Equipment

Don't let a lack of gear keep you from growing a wide, thick back. Check out the top 5 back exercises without equipment and learn how to perform them!

One of the most challenging body parts to develop is a big one that you can’t even see that well – the back.

Your upper body is composed of several different muscles, the largest of which are in your back. Because your back contains so many large muscles, it is easily the focal point of a strong, healthy physique.

But what if you are stuck without the convenience and variety of equipment available at your local gym? What if we take it a step further and say you don’t even have access to basic equipment such as barbells or dumbbells?

Below you will find 5 of the very best back exercises that you can perform virtually anywhere, with almost no equipment. All you’ll need is an overhead bar. Ready?

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1. Pull-Ups

Pull-ups are the bread and butter of any comprehensive back program – including routines you would do in a gym full of equipment. Since there are so many variations of the pull-up, it can easily be used to target every muscle in your upper and middle back.

Let’s look at wide-grip pull-ups, for example. Take a 1.5x shoulder-width, overhand grip and start in a semi-contracted position – with your elbows slightly bent. Pull up by squeezing your lats and driving your elbows back and down, while visualizing your hands as hooks. Pause (squeeze) at the top and then return to the start position.

Related: How To Improve Your Pull-Ups In 8 Weeks

2. Chin-Ups

A great variation of the pull-up is the chin-up. By using an underhand grip, this type of pull-up will put your biceps in a strong position and enable you to make the lift a bit easier.

Grab the bar at shoulder width with an underhand grip. Pull your bodyweight by driving your elbows down and back. At the top, squeeze your shoulder blades together and then return to the starting position under control.

female doing chin ups outside

3. Inverted Row

The inverted row is a hybrid between a pull-up and a traditional row. Some studies show that the bodyweight inverted row actually activates more muscle fibers of the back than a bent-over barbell row.

Under a stable bar that is set about hip level, take a slightly wider than shoulder overhand grip. Keep your body straight and your feet on the ground, while pulling your chest to the bar. Slow and controlled, lower yourself to the starting position.

There are plenty of variations to change the difficulty of this exercise. You can make it easier by using an underhand grip to get more help from your biceps, or make it a bit more challenging by elevating your feet on a bench for a more stressful angle.

Related: 9 Week Bodyweight Workout For Strength & Muscle Gains

4. Superman Crunch

The superman crunch is a great workout that you can do without any equipment. It mainly focuses on the lower and middle back, while also incorporating the glutes to assist with stability. Vital for upper body posture and core strength, the lower back is oftentimes neglected during normal back training.

Lay face down on the floor or on a mat. Lift your legs and shoulders by contracting your lower back, and squeezing your glutes. Be sure to keep your abs engaged to maintain stability.  Slowly lower back to your starting position and repeat.

5. Back Extensions

Okay, this one will require a bench and possibly a partner unless you have a hyperextension bench at your disposal. Similar to the superman crunch, the back extension focuses on the lower back, particularly the lumbar area. Vital for upper body posture and core strength, the lower back is oftentimes neglected during normal back training.

Lay down facing the floor on the edge of a bench. Have a partner hold your lower legs or feet. Your upper body should be over the end of the bench. Lower your upper body toward the floor and then reverse the movement by contracting your lower back and squeezing your glutes. Bring your body back up in line with your legs. Pause (squeeze) for a count before resuming reps.

Bonus: Ab Wheel Rollout

Yes, it's a challenging abdominal exercise, but you will find that the ab wheel rollout requires serious back strength. Both the eccentric and concentric actions of the rollout will require major back stability as well as ab strength.

Start by gripping the ab wheel on the floor in front of you. On your knees, extend your body out by rolling the wheel forward. Keep your body straight and you should feel an intense contraction in your abdominal wall. Once extended, roll the wheel toward you and you will feel an intense contraction in your lats. Repeat for reps.

athletic man doing ab rollout in gym

Build Your Back!

As you can see, an effective back training routine doesn’t require expensive equipment or even barbells or dumbbells. It just takes some know-how creativity and the willingness to challenge yourself.

Give the above exercises a try and see your back get wide and thick in no time. Share your results or feel free to ask questions in the comments below!