Most people know that you can build muscle at the gym. Luckily there are also exercises you can use to train your back muscles at home.
For most of these lower chest exercises, you would benefit from having fitness equipment like dumbbells, kettlebells, or resistance bands. That being said, you can also do a good amount of them with objects you can find in most households.
Even if you don’t have typical fitness “weights” objects like a backpack with heavy things in it and a grocery bag can work great to make some of these back exercises weighted at home. This can in turn lead to more and faster lower back muscle gain compared to just using your body weight.
Keep in mind that even though there are upsides, your injury risk is generally also higher when you do exercises with more weight/resistance. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.
1. Bent-over row
For the first back exercise you can use free weights like dumbbells, kettlebells, a heavy backpack, etc., and resistance bands. To do a bent-over row with dumbbells take the following steps:
- Stand up straight with your feet at about shoulder width and a dumbbell in each hand.
- Slightly fold your knees and tilt your upper body forward until it is at about a 45-degree angle with the ground while keeping your back straight. Let your arms hang down to the ground for now.
- Bend your elbows until your hands reach your body. The goal is to mainly make your back muscles support this movement. Keep your arms close to your body, your body in a straight line, and your feet in the same position during the movement.
- Lower your hands again to the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
By doing the row standing up you engage muscles like your core and legs more compared to a row on an incline bench or a seated row.
Even though it is a compound exercise, the bent-over row still mainly focuses on back muscles like the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius.
For the superman exercise and other exercises that take place on the floor, it can be helpful to invest in something like a yoga mat if you have no other soft surface to do the exercise on. To do a superman exercise take the following steps:
- Lie down on your stomach on the floor with your arms stretched forward and your legs stretched backward so that your body is in one straight line.
- Move your arms and legs upward. Your weight will rest on your hips. Keep looking downward during the movement.
- Hold this position for a few seconds.
- Move back into starting position in a controlled motion.
The superman is a no-equipment exercise you can use to train your lower back muscles at home. If you do want to make this exercise more challenging you can wear quality ankle weights and hold some type of weight in your hands.
To do a shrug with kettlebells take the following steps:
- Start standing up with your feet shoulder-width apart, an upright posture, and your arms hanging by your side with a kettlebell in each hand. Your hand palms should face your body. Let gravity do its work on your arms so they point downward. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
- Raise your shoulders as far as you can in a controlled manner.
- Slowly lower your shoulders again.
The shoulder shrug does not look like the most impressive motion but this back exercise can be great to help you improve your trap muscles.
In this example, kettlebells are used but shrugs are also easily done with other fitness equipment, a heavy backpack, or grocery bags.
4. Bent-over reverse fly
To do a bent-over reverse fly with dumbbells take the following steps:
- Start standing up with your feet shoulder-width apart, an upright posture, and one dumbbell in each hand with your hand palms facing each other. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
- While keeping your back straight bend your knees and slightly bend forward until your upper body is as close as horizontal to the ground while keeping your posture good. Let gravity do its work on your arms so that they point vertically to the ground.
- Slowly raise the dumbbells out to the side until they are at shoulder height.
- Move the dumbbells back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
This at-home-friendly exercise will engage your rear, your back, deltoid shoulder muscles a lot but also your upper back muscles. If you have any posture problems the bent-over reverse fly can be a helpful addition to your workout routine.
5. Romanian deadlift
For the next at-home back exercise you likely need some extra resistance to make it challenging enough. To do a Romanian deadlift with a heavy resistance band take the following steps:
- Stand with your feet at more or less shoulder width. Anchor the resistance bands under your feet. Bend your knees and pick up the resistance bands. Keep your back straight throughout the exercise.
- Stretch your legs again until you stand up with your feet at more or less shoulder width and your knees slightly bent. Let your arms follow the pull to the ground throughout the exercise but hold the resistance bands tightly.
- Slightly tilt your upper body forward as far as you can without bending your back or knees or until your hands are right below knee height.
- Alternate between the positions in step 2 and step 3.
Good technique is important in any exercise to avoid injuries but especially so for Romanian deadlifts. Before trying to deadlift with the heaviest resistance you can find at home it is smart to improve your technique first by starting with light or no resistance at all.
The Romanian deadlift focuses more on your lower back, hamstrings, and glutes and less on your leg muscles compared to the regular deadlift.
6. Seated resistance band row
A regular weight lifting row involves standing bent over and moving an external weight up and down. Thanks to resistance bands you can also do this exercise seated. To do a seated resistance band row take the following steps:
- Sit down on the floor with your legs stretched and your back straight up.
- Anchor the resistance band to your feet and grab it at a point where you feel tension with stretched arms.
- Bend your elbows until your hands reach your body. The goal is to mainly make your back muscles support this movement. Keep your arms close to your body, your back in a straight line, and your legs in the same position during the movement.
- Move your hands back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
It is easier to avoid using the rest of your body in a seated row compared to a bent-over row. This allows you to focus more on your back muscles. In turn, this can help you gain more back muscle faster.
You can also grab the resistance band(s) underhanded, with your hand palms pointing up/back. This will make the exercise focus slightly more on your biceps.
7. Inverted row
For the inverted row you need something like dip bars where you can hang down from at the right height. A sturdy table can work too but prioritize safety. To do an inverted row take the following steps:
- You start sitting down or lying with your back on the ground under the dip bars.
- Depending on what type of dip bar you are working with either put your hand in a neutral or overhanded position on the dip bar.
- Move your body so your arms are stretched, your knees are at about a 90-degree angle, and the rest of your body is in a straight line.
- Raise your body by slightly bending your elbows until your body reaches the bar. The goal is to mainly make your back muscles support this movement. Keep your arms close to your body, your body in a straight line, and your feet in the same position during the movement.
- Slowly lower yourself again until you are back in the position of the third step.
A regular weight lifting row involves standing bent over and moving an external weight up and down. With this inverted row, you will move your body weight up and down in a way that targets similar muscles.
The pull-up is a classic back exercise. It is true that you need something to do the pull-up on but even if you currently don’t have something like this, a doorway pull-up bar is relatively inexpensive. To do a pull-up take the following steps:
- Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward.
- Pull your body up slowly until your shoulders are the height of the bar.
- Lower your body again into starting position in a controlled motion.
The pull-up can be a great bodyweight compound exercise for training your back muscles. If this exercise is too challenging yet there are plenty of pull-up alternatives that can help you work up to your first successful pull-up.
9. Bird dog row
For the bird dog row you want a compact weight, preferably a pair of dumbbells. To do a bird dog row with dumbbells take the following steps:
- Start with your face facing the floor with each of your hands on a dumbbell, your arms stretched, and your knees on the ground.
- Stretch one leg and raise it until it is in a straight line with your body. At the same time do a row with the arm of the opposite side. So if you choose your right leg, do a row with your left arm at the same time.
- Lower the raised leg and raised arm again in a controlled motion to starting position.
- Repeat with your other leg and other arm.
The bird dog row is a variation of the regular bird dog exercise and an exercise that engages a wide variety of muscles including your upper back, lower back, and glutes.
For more lower back and glute muscle gain you want to add resistance to your leg movement. You can do this with the help of resistance bands and ankle weights. To make the exercise more challenging for your upper back you want to use heavier dumbbells.
10. Resistance band modified face pull
The regular face pull is an exercise that is mainly done to strengthen your back shoulder muscles. By making a small change in the movement the exercise focuses more on your back muscles.
This exercise preferably requires a resistance band and somewhere to anchor the resistance band at about face height. To do a resistance band face pull take the following steps:
- Anchor the resistance band at about the height of the bottom of your face.
- Grip the resistance bands in your hands with your face towards the anchor.
- Walk back with your arms stretched forward until you encounter the desired resistance. Stand with your 2 feet at about shoulder width.
- Move your hands as close to the shoulder of the same side as comfortably possible. Keep your feet in the same position and your back straight during the exercise.
- Slowly move your arms back into the position of step 3.
You can also do a face pull bent-over with free weights like dumbbells, kettlebells, a barbell, grocery bags, a backpack, etc. Both exercise versions allow you to train your middle and upper back muscles at home.