Best Back Exercises at Home

Unless you’ve got a really well-equipped garage gym, your choice of home workout exercises is probably quite limited. In fact, you may find yourself doing nothing but push-ups, sit-ups, and lunges.  

That’s not to say there is anything wrong with these particular exercises, but if that’s all you do, your workouts will soon start to get old, and you may develop muscle imbalances. The good news is that there are plenty of other great exercises you can do.

In this article, we’re going to tell you about the best back exercises you can do at home.

Back Anatomy

Back Anatomy Muscles

While you don’t need to know the names of the muscles you are training, it can be helpful when it comes to designing your own bodybuilding workouts. That way, you can make sure you are targeting the right part of your back.

The main muscles that make up your back are:

Latissimus dorsi – this is the largest of your upper back muscles. Known as your lats for short, when well developed, they look not unlike a pair of wings. Located on the side of your upper back, the lats adduct and extend your shoulders.

Trapezius – the traps are a large diamond-shaped muscle that covers your upper back. There are three sets of fibers, and each one has a different function. The upper traps elevate your shoulder girdle, the middle traps pull your shoulders back and together, and the lower traps depress your shoulder girdle.  

Rhomboids – this small muscle is located between your shoulder blades. The rhomboids work with your mid traps to retract your shoulder girdle and are also involved in shoulder elevation.

Erector spinae – this is the collective name for the muscles that run up either side of your spine. They extend your spine and prevent it from rounding during exercises like seated and bent-over rows.

Posterior deltoids – while not strictly a back muscle, the posterior deltoids are on the rear of your body and are involved in most home back exercises. The deltoids are your shoulder muscles, and the posterior delts work with your lats to extend your shoulders.

The 15 Best At-Home Back Exercises

For this list of best at home back exercises, we’ve made a few assumptions:

  • You’ve got access to dumbbells or makeshift weights such as water bottles
  • You’ve got some resistance bands
  • You have somewhere you can do pull-ups
  • You have somewhere to do incline rows

You don’t need all of these things to have a great back workout at home, but you’ll need at least one of them to train these all-important muscles.   

So, in no particular order, here are the 15 best back exercises you can do at home!  

1. Pull-ups/Chin-ups

Chinups

If you’ve got a pull-up bar, you’ve got access to one of the best back-building tools around. Pull-ups and chin-ups are challenging, but they are great for increasing back strength and mass. They’re a useful biceps exercise too.

Pull-ups are done using an overhand, slightly wider than shoulder-width grip, while chin-ups are done with a narrower, underhand grip. These two exercises are largely interchangeable, so try them both and see which one you prefer.

Read all about these excellent exercises in our detailed guide.

2. Inverted rows

Inverted Rows

Whether you are not quite strong enough to do pull-ups or chin-ups yet, or just want to broaden your bodyweight back workout repertoire, inverted rows are the exercise for you. Done with your feet on the floor, inverted rows are considerably easier than pull-ups, but they work many of the same muscles.

You can do inverted rows using a suspension trainer, such as a TRX, by placing a strong broomstick between two tall chairs or even by lying beneath a table.

Learn how to do this exercise here.

3. Bent over two-handed dumbbell row

Except for pull-ups, most at-home back exercises involve some sort of rowing motion. That’s no bad thing because, as well as working your lats, rows also work your middle traps and rhomboids.

The bent-over two-handed dumbbell row is an excellent exercise if you don’t have access to a barbell. It’s a little easier on your lower back than the barbell version but no less effective.

Check out this guide to see how to do this exercise correctly.

4. Dumbbell wrestler’s row

This bent-over row variation is ideal when you don’t have a lot of weight to train with. Your upper back is under constant tension, so you can get a great workout even if you only have light dumbbells or a pair of water bottles for your workouts.

How to do it:

  1. Hold a weight in both hands, bend your knees, and lean forward, so your upper body is roughly parallel to the floor. Do not round your lower back. Brace your abs and pull the weights up and into your sides with your upper arms tucked in.
  2. Extend one arm and lower the weight. Row it back in.
  3. Next, extend the other arm and then row it back in.
  4. Keep alternating arms until you have done the required number of reps.

5. Single-arm dumbbell row

The single-arm dumbbell row is something of a bodybuilding classic. Because you have an arm free to support your lower back, you should be able to train in relative comfort and while avoiding low back pain.

This dumbbell exercise can also be done using a resistance band. Just anchor the band under your foot.

Find out how to do single-arm dumbbell rows here.

6. Dumbbell Pendlay row

Pendlay rows, also known as dead-stop rows, are named after Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting coach Glen Pendlay. They involve resting your weights on the floor between reps, which eliminates momentum and also gives your lower back and grip a brief rest. Generally done with a barbell, you can also do this move with dumbbells for a great upper back exercise at home.

Read all about Pendlay rows in this in-depth guide.

7. Kroc rows

Kroc Row Guide

Named after powerlifter and bodybuilder Janae Kroc, Kroc rows are an intense exercise designed to build muscle size and strength.

You’ll need a heavy weight for this exercise but, if you’ve got access to a big dumbbell and want to train like a BEAST, this exercise should appeal to you.

Learn more about Kroc Rows: Muscles Worked, Benefits, How-to, and Alternatives.

8. Dumbbell Yates row

Yates Row Exercise Guide

The Yates row is named after bodybuilding legend Dorian Yates. Where most bent-over row exercises involve a lot of forward lean, Yates row uses a much more forgiving torso angle. According to Yates, this means you are free to focus on working on your lats without overloading your lower back. And who are we to argue? Dorian Yates had one of the best backs in the history of bodybuilding.

Yates rows are usually done using a barbell, but they work equally well with dumbbells. Learn how to do them here.

9. Renegade row

Renegade Rows

Renegade rows are part back exercise and part core exercise. In fact, with a simple addition, you can use this exercise to work your chest and triceps too. All in all, it’s a very efficient at-home back exercise, and all you need to do it is a pair of dumbbells.

How to do it:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and then get into the push-up position, with your arms, legs, and body straight. Brace your abs.
  2. Bend one arm and row your dumbbell up and into your ribs.
  3. Put the dumbbell back on the floor and do another rep on the opposite side.
  4. Alternate arms for the duration of your set.
  5. Do a push-up between reps to make turn this at-home back exercise into an all-around upper body workout.

10. Seated resistance band row

You can replicate most bodyweight and machine exercises with a resistance band or two. Resistance band exercises are often more joint-friendly, too, as there is no inertia to overcome at the start of each rep. This band exercise is a good alternative to cable seated rows.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you. Sit up tall with your back straight and core braced.
  2. Loop your band over your feet and hold an end in each hand.
  3. Bend your arms and pull your hands into the sides of your abdomen.
  4. Extend your arms and repeat.
  5. Maintain good posture throughout.

11. Bent over resistance band row

Bent over rows are traditionally done using a barbell or dumbbells, but you can also perform this exercise using a resistance band. Bent over rows put a little more stress on your lower back than the seated variation, but providing you have no back problems, that could actually help increase the strength of your erector spinae muscles.

How to do it:

  1. Stand on the center of your band, feet about shoulder-width apart. Take a handle in each hand. Bend your knees slightly and bend over, so your torso is about parallel to the floor. Do not round your back.
  2. Bend your arms and pull your hands up and into your lower ribs.
  3. Extend your arms and repeat.
  4. You could also lean over a little less, making this a Yates resistance band row.

12. Standing resistance band row

It’s useful to know lots of variations of the same exercise. That way, your workouts never need to be boring. This rowing variation is a good alternative to seated and bent over resistance band rows. It’s every bit as effective but doing it while standing could help ward off workout boredom.

How to do it:

  1. Attach your resistance band to a waist-high anchor. Take an end in each hand and step back to tension your band. Brace your abs.
  2. Bend your arms and pull your hands into the side of your ribs. Keep your elbows tucked in and your wrists straight.
  3. Extend your arms and repeat.

13. Resistance band lat pulldowns

Training at home doesn’t have to mean you can’t do lat pulldowns. In fact, if you’ve got a resistance band and a suitable high anchor point, you have everything you need to do this popular back builder.

How to do it:

  1. Attach your resistance band to a strong overhead anchor. Take the band in your hands and then kneel down with your arms extended overhead.
  2. Bend your arms and pull your hands down to the front of your shoulders.
  3. Extend your arms and repeat.
  4. You can also do this exercise one-handed, which may be necessary if you only have a light band to train with.

 14. Band pull aparts

Band pull aparts are one of the few back exercises that don’t involve your biceps. Instead, this move emphasizes your middle traps, rhomboids, and posterior deltoids, making it a great exercise for better posture.

Check out our in-depth guide to find out more about this fantastic at-home upper back exercise.

15. Skydivers

No gym equipment? No problem! You can still get a half-decent back workout at home using nothing but your body weight. While this move won’t work your lats much, it does work your erector spinae, mid-traps, and rhomboids.

It’s an excellent postural exercise and the perfect antidote for long periods of sitting.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your front with your legs straight and your palms flat on the floor on either side of your head.
  2. Lift your legs, head, chest, and arms a few inches off the floor. Pull your shoulders down and back.
  3. Hold this position for a couple of seconds.
  4. Lower your legs and upper body back down and repeat.
  5. Do not arch too high; hyperextending your lumbar spine could cause lower back pain.

At-Home Back Workout

Not sure where to start with your home back workout? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered! Do the following training program 1-2 times per week. If you do it twice, make sure you allow a few days for recovery and muscle growth, e.g., Monday and Thursday.

Before you start working out, remember to warm up. A thorough warm-up will reduce your risk of injury and increase the effectiveness of your workout.

Jog or jump rope for 5-10 minutes and then do a few joint mobility and dynamic flexibility exercises for the body parts you are about to train. Pay extra attention to your lower back. Finish your warm-up with a few light sets of the first 1-2 exercises of the workout.

 

If possible, adjust your weights, reps, and rest between sets to your training goals, i.e.;

Training Goal Endurance Hypertrophy Strength/Power
Intensity Low Moderate High
Load <67% of 1RM 67-85% of 1RM >85% of 1RM
1RM = 1-repetition maximum and is the maximum amount of weight that can be lifted once but not twice
Repetitions per set 13-20 6-12 1-5
Recovery between sets 30-60 seconds 1-2 minutes 3-5 minutes+ 

 

However, if that’s not practical, just take each set to muscular failure, which is the point at which you are unable to do more reps using perfect form.

  Exercise
1 Pull-ups/chin-ups
2 Single-arm dumbbell rows
3 Resistance band lat pulldowns
4 Standing resistance band rows
5 Skydivers

Back Exercises at Home – Wrapping Up

Training at home can often feel limiting, but it doesn’t have to be. Sure, you may not have access to things like pulley machines and barbells, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build a back to be proud of.

Ultimately, your body cannot differentiate between doing pulldowns using a state-of-the-art lat pulldown machine and doing pull-ups from a tree branch. It just knows work and tension. Providing you train hard enough, your muscles will respond by getting bigger and stronger.

Use these at-home back exercises to balance out all those push-ups you probably do during your home workouts!