Here’s something many people don’t know: 

At-home back workouts can be just as effective for building a strong, defined back as traditional gym workouts. 

Why? How? 

First, many of the most effective back exercises only require your bodyweight, a pair of dumbbells, or some exercise bands. 

For example, you can train your back muscles at home with pull-ups, chin-ups, dumbbell rows, and lat pulldowns with a strong exercise band about a well as you can with barbells and machines.

In other words, your at-home back workout routine doesn’t have to be a compromise. If you can’t make it to the gym or don’t want to go, you can still gain muscle and strength with the workouts you’ll learn in this article. 

Let’s get started.

My Top 5 At-Home Back Workout Tips

Before we get into the workout routines themselves, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your training.

  1. Start each workout with a compound exercise that involves either vertical or horizontal pulling, but don’t neglect isolation exercises for your biceps. While pull-ups, chin-ups, and rows will help grow your guns, it’s best to include at least a few exercises specifically for your arms. 
  2. Make your workouts harder over time. If you’re doing bodyweight workouts, add reps to each set until you’re doing at least 20 reps per set for an exercise, and then switch to a more challenging variation of that exercise. If you’re doing band or dumbbell workouts, make your workouts more challenging by using thicker bands or heavier weights over time.
  3. Do one-to-two at-home back workouts per week. If your main goal is to maintain your back muscle and strength, you can get by with just one back workout per week. If you want to gain muscle and strength, you’ll want to do one-to-two back workouts per week.
  4. Buy exercise bands or dumbbells if you plan on doing back workouts at home for more than a month. You can maintain your back muscle and strength using bodyweight exercises alone for a month or so, but unless you’re brand new to resistance training, you’ll begin to regress if you go much longer than this without external resistance (bands or dumbbells).
  5. Alternate back exercises with ab exercises (“superset”) to finish your workouts faster and work some ab training into your weekly routine. For example, after knocking out a set of isometric chin-ups, rest a minute or two, then do a set of bodyweight planks. Alternate between the two exercises in this way until you’re finished with all of your sets for both exercises.

And finally, do try to get back in the gym as soon as you can if you want to make faster progress in your fitness.

While you can gain muscle and strength by doing back workouts at home, you’ll gain a lot more if you can train with barbells and a few machines (unless you have a proper home gym setup, that is). So, think of at-home workouts as an effective stopgap until you can get back to the iron. 

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At-Home Back Workout with Bodyweight

Bodyweight Row: 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps

Bodyweight Row before/after

Find a surface to lie under that’s more than arm’s length off the floor (such as a table, desk, tall bench, or dip station). Grab the bar or edge of the table or desk with your arms straight, rest your heels on the floor, and straighten your legs and back. 

Keeping your back and legs straight and your butt high, pull your chest upward until your chest touches the bar (or nose, if using a desk, table, bench, etc.). Then, lower yourself and return to the starting position. 

Negative Chin-Up: 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps

Negative Chin-Up before/after

Position a box, bench, or chair under a chin-up bar. Stand on the box and grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip with your palms facing you. 

Keeping your grip on the bar, jump off the box so that your chin rises above the bar. Hold that position for a second, then slowly lower yourself until your arms are fully outstretched. Climb back onto the box and repeat the process for the desired number of reps.

Isometric Chin-Up: 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps

Isometric Chin-Up before/after

Position a box, bench, or chair under a chin-up bar. Stand on the box and grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip with your palms facing you. 

Keeping your grip on the bar, jump off the box so that your chin rises above the bar. Hold that position for as long as you can, and then lower yourself until your arms are fully outstretched. Climb back onto the box and repeat the process for the desired number of reps.

Bodyweight Plank: As Long As Possible

Bodyweight Plank

 

Lie down on your stomach with your feet straight out behind you and your elbows resting on the ground (as if you were reading a book). Your elbows should be under your shoulders and your forearms should be resting on the floor. 

Press your toes into the floor, lift your hips off the ground, brace your core, and squeeze your glutes so that your back is completely flat. Don’t let your butt lift up or dip down—your body must stay rigid and in a straight line. Hold this position for as long as you can.

One-Arm Dumbbell Row: 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps

One-Arm Dumbbell Row

 

Hold a dumbbell (or kettlebell) in your right hand. Bend over and put your left hand and left knee on a bench, chair, windowsill, etc. that’s about knee height off the ground. Keep your right foot planted on the ground and let your right arm (the one holding the dumbbell) extend toward the floor. 

Keeping your back straight, pull the dumbbell upward until it touches your torso. Return the dumbbell to the starting position. Once you’ve completed the desired number of reps, repeat the process with your left arm.

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift: 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps

Dumbbell or Kettlebell Romanian Deadlift before/after

Hold a dumbbell (or kettlebell) in each hand. With a flat back (no rounding!), lower the weights toward the floor in a straight line, allowing your butt to move backward as you descend.

Once you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, bend your knees slightly more, and continue lowering the weights until your lower back begins to round—just below the knees for most people, and about mid-shin for those who are particularly flexible. Then return to the starting position. 

Alternating Dumbbell Curl: 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps

Alternating Dumbbell Curl

 

Hold a dumbbell (or kettlebell) in each hand, letting your arms hang down at your sides. Stand up straight and position your feet about shoulder-width apart. 

Keeping your left arm at your side, flex your right arm and curl the dumbbell up toward your shoulder until your forearm is roughly perpendicular to the floor. Allow your elbow to move forward slightly as the dumbbell rises. Lower the dumbbell to the starting position, and repeat with your left arm.

Hanging Leg Raise: As Many As Possible

Hanging Leg Raise before/after

Grab a chin-up bar with a shoulder-width grip and your palms facing away from you. Flex your abs and lift your legs until they’re parallel with the floor (no swinging!). Don’t worry about keeping your legs perfectly straight—a slight bend in the knees is fine.

Banded Horizontal Row: 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps

Banded Horizontal Row

 

Wrap an exercise band around a sturdy post, piece of furniture, or tree at about the height of your belly button. Hold one end of the band in each hand and walk backward, allowing your arms to straighten, until all of the slack is out of the band. 

Plant your feet firmly on the ground about shoulder-width apart and bend your knees slightly. Keeping your back straight, pull both hands toward your torso until they’re flush with your chest, then return to the starting position. (If you can’t get your hands to this position, take a baby-step forward to reduce the tension on the band). 

Banded Lat Pulldown: 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps

Banded Lat Pulldown

 

Wrap a resistance band around a pull-up bar, attic rafter, or some other point several feet above your head. Hold one end of the band in each hand and walk backward, allowing your arms to straighten, until all of the slack is out of the band. 

Pull both ends of the band straight down until your hands are below your chin. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position.

Banded Biceps Curl: 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps

Banded Biceps Curl

 

Stand on the middle of a resistance band with your feet about six inches apart. Bend down and grab one end of the band in each hand. There should be no slack in the band with your arms at your sides.

Brace your core and bring both of your hands up to your shoulders by bending at the elbows. As you lift your hands, turn your wrist so that at the top of the rep, your palms are facing your shoulders. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position.

Flex your arms and curl the dumbbell up toward your shoulders until your forearms are roughly perpendicular to the floor. Allow your elbows to move forward slightly as you curl the band. Then lower your hands to the starting position and repeat.

Toes-to-Bar: 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps

Toes-to-Bar before/after

Grab a pull-up bar with your palms facing away from you. Flex your abs, and without swinging your body, lift your legs in an arc until your toes (or shins) touch the bar. Don’t worry about keeping your legs perfectly straight—having a slight bend in the knees is fine. 

Reverse the movement to return to the starting position. 

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