The back is a large part of the body that is made up of several muscle groups. Many people think that you have to have access to a lot of equipment and machines if you want to develop the back muscles adequately, but this is far from true. As a matter of fact, all you really need are some dumbbells, a kettlebell, or even just your body to create a great back workout at home.
In this guide, we'll cover how to train the back at home with workouts you can incorporate into your schedule that can help you feel better and get stronger.
Why Train Your Back?
The muscles in the back are responsible for multiple functions, including pulling both vertically and horizontally and stabilizing your body. For overall fitness, training your back is vital if you want to be a successful all-around athlete. It is also important for total-body strength. If your back is weak, you won't be able to train the rest of your body properly. For example, if your back can't support the weight of a barbell on your shoulders, you won't be able to squat as much with your legs.
Fortunately, these workouts will help you with all those functions and purposes. Perform any of these workouts once or twice a week based on your level of fitness experience and available equipment.
Bodyweight Back Workout at Home
If you want to get your body in great shape, then it makes sense that one of the best tools you can work with is your body. To maximize your muscle-building potential, you could benefit from having access to pull-up bars or a door gym that you can do pull-ups on. If you're not strong enough to pull your body weight, then attach a band to the bar and wrap the end around your knee or foot to provide assistance.
However, if you don't have access to a pull-up bar, inverted rows can be a good alternative. Make this the best muscle-building workout possible by performing 3 sets of each exercise either for 10 reps or to failure. Rest for 90 seconds between sets.
Pull-Up: 3 sets of 10 reps
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip that is wider than shoulder-width apart. Allow yourself to hang from the bar. If your feet touch the ground while holding it, bend your knees and lift your feet so you can hang.
- Pull your head up at least to the level of the bar or over it if possible. Your elbows should be bent and pointed toward the floor while tucked in and you should feel a strong contraction in your upper back.
- Slowly lower yourself to the starting position.
Chin-Up: 3 sets of 10 reps
The major differences between the pull-up and the chin-up are the hand position and the top of the exercise.
- For the chin-up, grab the bar with an underhand grip that is shoulder-width apart.
- Pull yourself up, making sure your chin clears the bar.
- Lower yourself as far down as you can before beginning the next rep.
Inverted Row: 3 sets of 10 reps
The inverted row can be the best alternative if you don't have access to a pull-up bar.
- Lie on the floor next to a desk or dining table with your hands holding onto the edge while your legs are bent with your feet flat.
- Drive your feet into the floor, raise your hips, and pull your upper body up until your head is close to the table or desk.
- Lower yourself safely back to the starting position.
Swimmer: 3 sets of 10 reps
This movement can help you improve the strength and stability of your lower back.
- Lie on your stomach with your legs straight and your arms straight out in front of you.
- Lift your right leg and left arm up at the same time, as high as you safely can without straining.
- Hold that position for a count of two, then return to the starting position.
- Repeat with the opposite arm and leg. This is one rep. Repeat with the same cadence throughout the entire set.
Dumbbell Back Workout at Home
You should only need a pair of dumbbells and a bench or chair for these exercises. Once you feel comfortable with your form, perform 3 sets of 20 reps for each exercise, with 60 seconds of rest between sets. If you have adjustable dumbbells, try to increase the weight of each set to gauge your strength.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row: 3 sets of 20 reps
- Hold a dumbbell in one hand. Lean on a chair or bench to support yourself with the other hand. If you have a bench, bring your knee up onto the bench, as well. If not, simply position your foot close to the chair. The other leg should be behind you with your foot flat. The dumbbell should be down at arms' length in front of you.
- Pull the dumbbell up and in toward the side of your chest while keeping your elbow tucked in. Slowly return to the starting position.
- Once you finish all reps on one side, switch sides and perform the set with the other arm.
Bent-Over Dumbbell Row: 3 sets of 20 reps
- Stand with a dumbbell in each hand. Hinge your hips and bend forward as far as you can while keeping a straight and neutral spine, letting the dumbbells hang down toward your feet.
- Pull the dumbbells up toward your chest while keeping your elbows tucked into your sides.
- Slowly lower the weights to the starting position.
Dumbbell Pull-over: 3 sets of 20 reps
- Lie on your back on a bench or the floor with a dumbbell in your hands. Hold the dumbbell over you so one end is secured in your hands while the other is hanging down toward your chest. Keep a slight bend in your elbows, but don't let them flare out.
- Move your arms behind your head so the dumbbell goes toward the floor behind you.
- Once you stretch as far as you safely can, or the dumbbell touches the floor, pull the dumbbell up over your head and torso to the starting position.
Tip: If you're concerned about the range of motion performing this on the floor, hold an end of the dumbbell in each hand and perform the movement that way.
Dumbbell Deadlift: 3 sets of 20 reps
- Stand with two dumbbells resting on the floor in front of you.
- Bend your knees and hinge your hips until you are low enough to grab the dumbbells. Your back should be as straight as possible.
- Once you have the dumbbell handles in your hands, extend your hips and return to the standing position.
- To repeat, lower the dumbbells back toward the floor, but don't let them touch. Stop an inch or two short, and then raise them up again.
Dumbbell Shrug: 3 sets of 20 reps
This is an exercise for the traps, but they run alongside the spine, which actually makes them a back muscle.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lean slightly forward.
- Shrug your shoulders up as high as you can as if you're trying to touch them to your ears. Don't roll your shoulders as this can be harmful for the rotator cuffs.
- Once you shrug up and contract your traps, relax them to return to the starting position.
Kettlebell Back Workout at Home
Kettlebells are often associated with movements such as swings and Turkish get-ups, but you can utilize them in your home back workouts as well. These four exercises will provide a well-balanced workout for the entire back. Perform 4 circuits by doing each exercise for 15 reps. After you finish the fourth exercise, take a one-minute break. You should be able to complete the full workout in around 15 minutes.
Kettlebell Row: 4 sets of 15 reps
This exercise is performed the same way as the single-arm dumbbell row, except holding the top of the kettlebell handle rather than a dumbbell. Pull as far up as you can and squeeze the back muscles before lowering the weight to the starting position.
Kettlebell Pull-over: 4 sets of 15 reps
This is another version of the dumbbell pull-over, but holding the sides of the kettlebell handle (also known as the horns) instead. Lower the weight the same way behind you, and pull the weight up over your torso as far as you can before starting the next rep.
Single-Kettlebell Shrug: 4 sets of 15 reps
- Hold the top of a kettlebell with both hands down in front of you at arms' length. Lean slightly forward before you begin the exercise.
- Shrug your shoulders straight up as if you're trying to touch your shoulder blades together.
- Slowly lower your shoulders to the starting position. Your arms should remain straight for the entire exercise.
Kettlebell Deadlift: 4 sets of 15 reps
- Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart with a kettlebell between your feet, lined up with your ankles.
- Bend your knees while keeping your hips up and grab the kettlebell by the top of the handle. Your chin should be neutral and your back should be flat.
- Once you have grabbed the handle, pull it up your body and return to a standing position, bringing your hips forward to lock them out and contract your lower back.
- Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.
Looking at a chart of back muscles may appear confusing to some people, but training the back doesn't have to be complicated at all. These workouts, or any combination of exercises in this guide, can help you train your entire back from top to bottom. The result will be a stronger back that will support you now and in the future.