While most people spend time honing their arms, chest, and even legs in the gym, our backs can often be neglected. That’s probably because we can’t see it in the changing room mirror after our workout, right?
As you can’t see your back, it’s often ignored, but a bigger, stronger back can add depth and shape — creating that eye-catching physique we’re all looking for. And, while it’s pleasing on the eye, a stronger back is also essential to good health, posture and provides the perfect base to those bigger compound lifts.
We’ve put together a selection of the most effective exercises to help you achieve that that V-shaped physique — all from the comfort of your own home.
Upper Back Exercises at Home
Resistance Band Row
- Place a resistance band on the floor horizontally and stand on it with your feet at shoulder width. Pick up each end of the band and stand up straight.
- Unlock each knee and break at the hips to lean forward anywhere between 90 and 45 degrees. This is your starting position.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together, puff your chest out and explosively bring your elbows back towards your torso, contracting hard at the top. Slowly return them to the starting position to complete the rep
- Perform 3 – 4 sets of 15 – 20 reps, depending on band strength.
This is a great exercise for working the lats and rhomboids at home with minimal equipment, and you can experiment with hands pronated, supinated or neutral. Use wider foot width and stronger bands to make the exercise harder.
- Lay on your stomach and lock your arms out in front of you. Hold a T-shirt or towel out and pull as if you are pulling it apart.
- Engage your glutes and core and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Your chin and the top of your chest should be a few inches off the ground.
- Maintaining tension, slowly pull the T-shirt or towel into the body and touch the top of your chest in a lat pulldown motion. Return to the extended position to complete the rep.
- Perform 3 – 4 sets of 12 – 15 reps.
The back extension is a good alternative to the lat pulldown and targets the outsides of the lats in the contraction and the inner back in the extension. It’s important to keep constant tension throughout to be effective.
- Assume a press-up position with your feet up on a raised platform such as a sofa or a chair.
- Brace your core to keep your body straight and raise one hand to your torso in a rowing motion. Contract hard at the top.
- Return the arm to the press-up position and repeat on the other side.
- Perform 3 sets of 15 reps each arm.
This rowing variation is a whole-body burner – you may hit the lower lats but the shoulders, chest, triceps and core muscles also get a good workout with this plank-press up-row hybrid. Increase the reps session-to-session to progressively overload.
- Lay on your stomach and connect both hands with a resistance band. Lock your arms out in a V-shape in front of you to keep the band taut. Your hands should be wider than shoulder-width.
- Your head and chest should be a few inches off the ground with your legs locked and glutes engaged to keep your hips stuck to the floor.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and bring the band to the back of your neck. Contract hard and return to the outstretched position.
- Perform 3 – 4 sets of 15 – 20 reps.
The resistance of the band can make this a tough variation to complete but adds to the overall variety of exercises you can do and areas you can target. Mix and match with W rows and extensions for an effective workout.
- Wrap a band around a tree (or something similar) at face height. Hold the ends of the bands in each hand and step back until the band is taut and your arms are outstretched.
- With your knuckles at face height, puff out your chest and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Pull the bands to the sides of your jaw whilst keeping your elbows high.
- Slowly extend your arms back to the starting position to complete the rep.
- Perform 3 sets of 20 reps.
This is great for the upper back region, including the rear delts and traps. Maintain control over the whole movement to really maximise its effectiveness.
Lower Back Exercises at Home
- On your stomach, place your hands outstretched in front of you approximately shoulder-width apart. Lock your legs, point your feet and hold them out the same fashion behind you, keeping contact with the ground shoulder-width apart.
- Engage your glutes and contract your shoulders to raise your legs and hands off the floor. Relax to return them to the starting position.
- Perform 3 sets of 25 reps.
This is great for the upper and middle back region, including the spinal stabiliser muscles, making superman’s an effective core exercise. You can experiment with reps or hold and time like a plank – get creative!
- Find any kind of suitable bag you can. A rucksack or suitcase is your best bet.
- With feet shoulder-width apart, bend your legs and hips to take a firm grip of the bag. Be sure to keep a straight back to avoid injury.
- Squeeze your glutes and stand up to lift the bag. You should be careful to lift in a controlled motion using your legs rather than your back.
- Lower the bag carefully to the floor to complete the rep.
- Complete 6 sets of 15 – 20 reps, depending on load.
This home-grown variation of the traditional deadlift hits all the major areas of the body, including the back, core and leg muscles. Increase the load of the bag by stuffing it with anything heavy.
Lying W Rows
- Lay on the floor on your stomach and lock your arms out in front of you in a V-shape.
- Engage your core and – maintaining whole-body tension – bring your elbows back towards your hips. Puff your chest out and flex your middle back to raise off the ground.
- Squeeze your contractions at the extreme end of the rep and return to starting position
- Perform 3 sets of 20 – 30-second reps.
This home exercise enables a large range of motion that really allows a strong contraction at the extreme end and greater involvement of the core and lower back. Superset with the back extension to hit both the upper and lower back.
- Lay on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Put your arms outstretched by your side and palms on the floor for support.
- Keeping your back straight, push through your heels and raise your hips from the ground. Contract the glutes at the top of the movement.
- Return slowly to the starting position.
- Complete 4 sets of 8 reps.
The bodyweight edition of everyone’s favourite booty builder is surprisingly effective at engaging your lower back. Use one leg at a time to add difficulty and contract hard to get the most out of it.
You don’t need gym access to build an impressive physique. Using the home exercises mentioned above, you can hit all areas of your back with lots of variety. It’s about getting creative and using equipment or exercises that you wouldn’t normally use. Also, back training is seriously overlooked when working out at home so it is good to throw in some more variety.