Do you want to get a great back workout without having to go to the gym? Calisthenics offers an excellent opportunity for anyone looking for a challenging and effective way to strengthen their back at home.
This simple calisthenics-based routine will give you an intense but convenient workout that can add more definition, shape, and strength to your upper body.
Whether you’re a beginner or advanced athlete, with minimal equipment required and no machines needed, this calisthenics back workout is sure to challenge anyone who gives it a try!
Back Muscles Anatomy
The main back muscles of the body are the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and erector spinae. Each muscle plays a different role in supporting and moving the spine. Other muscles that correlate with the back muscles are the posterior deltoids (rear delts) and rhomboids.
Latissimus Dorsi: This is the largest muscle in the back, located on either side of the middle of your back. It helps with pulling movements, such as rows or chin-ups.
Trapezius: This is a triangular muscle that runs from the base of your skull to the middle of your back and out to your shoulders. It helps with movements like shrugging and pulling your shoulders back.
Erector Spinae: These muscles run along either side of the spine and help with keeping the spine upright and maintaining good posture. They also assist with spinal extension and rotation movements.
Rear Delts: This muscle is located at the back of the shoulders and helps with shoulder movements, such as pulling or rowing. Strengthening this muscle can improve posture and prevent shoulder injuries.
Rhomboids: These muscles are located in between the shoulder blades and help with scapular retraction, or squeezing your shoulder blades together. Strong rhomboids can improve posture and prevent shoulder and neck pain.
Overall, these back muscles work together to support the spine, maintain good posture, and allow for a wide range of movement in the upper body. Strengthening these muscles is important for overall back health and fitness.
4 Calisthenics Back Exercises
Scapula pull-ups, also known as scapular pull-ups or shoulder blade pull-ups, are a fundamental calisthenics exercise that targets the muscles in the upper back and shoulders.
This exercise helps strengthen the scapular muscles, improve posture, and warm up your back muscles.
To perform a scapula pull-up:
Hang from a bar with your arms fully extended and your feet off the ground.
Keep your arms straight and focus on pulling your shoulder blades down and together. Your elbows should not bend, and your body should remain in a dead hang position.
Hold this contraction for a few seconds before slowly releasing and repeating the movement.
Aim for 2-3 sets of 8-10 to get your back muscles activated for your workout.
Pull-ups are a staple calisthenics exercise that primarily targets the back muscles, specifically the latissimus dorsi (lats) and biceps. They involve pulling your body weight up towards a bar or other elevated surface using an overhand grip and offer tons of benefits.
Pull-ups can help build strength, endurance, and muscle mass in the back muscles while also engaging other muscle groups such as the arms, shoulders, and core.
To perform a pull-up:
Hang from a bar with your arms fully extended and your feet off the ground
Keeping your core engaged and elbows pointing downwards, pull yourself up towards the bar until your chin passes it.
Lower yourself back down to the starting position in a slow and controlled manner.
Repeat for 3-4 sets (rep counts will vary between skill levels, but aim for 1-2 reps shy of failure)
Some variations and progressions for pull-ups include:
Wide grip pull-ups: Instead of using a shoulder-width grip, widen your hands on the bar to target the back muscles from a different angle.
Narrow grip pull-ups: Bring your hands closer together on the bar to target the inner back muscles.
Assisted pull-ups: Use resistance bands or an assisted pull-up machine to help reduce body weight and make the exercise more achievable for beginners so you can work your way up to your first pull-up.
Weighted pull-ups: Adding weight in the form of a weighted vest, dumbbell, or weight plate can further challenge your back muscles and increase strength gains.
Chin–ups: Similar to pull-ups, but with an underhand grip, targeting the biceps and upper back muscles.
Body weight rows, also known as the Australian pull-up, are a great back exercise for targeting the back muscles. They involve pulling your body weight towards a bar while in a horizontal position, rather than vertical like traditional pull-ups.
This allows for a different angle and range of motion, making it a versatile exercise for building back strength and muscle mass. The body weight row can also be done with TRX bands to add variations of grip.
Inverted rows also engage the arms, shoulders, and core muscles.
To perform a bodyweight row:
Set up a bar or other elevated surface at hip height
Lie underneath the bar with your feet on the ground and grasp the bar with an overhand grip
Keeping your body in a straight line from head to heels, pull yourself up towards the bar until your chest touches it
Lower yourself back down in a controlled manner.
Some variations and progressions for bodyweight rows include:
Inverted row: Perform the exercise with your feet on an elevated surface, such as a bench, to increase the difficulty and target different areas of the back muscles.
Single arm rows: Use one arm at a time to perform the row for an added challenge and increased focus on each side of the back.
TRX/Ring rows: Use gymnastic rings or suspension trainers to perform the row, adding an element of instability and requiring more core engagement.
Tuck rows: Bring your knees up towards your chest while performing the row for an added challenge and increased emphasis on the upper back muscles.
Bodyweight Rear Delt Fly
Bodyweight rear delt fly is a calisthenics exercise that targets the posterior deltoids, or back of the shoulders. This exercise helps to build and define the muscles in your upper back, as well as improve shoulder stability and posture. It also engages the core muscles for balance and stability.
To perform a bodyweight rear delt fly:
Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms extended out to the sides at shoulder height.
Lean forward slightly
Keeping your arms straight, squeeze your shoulder blades together as you bring your arms behind you.
Pause for a moment, then return to the starting position with control.
Some variations and progressions for bodyweight rear delt flys include:
Single arm rear delt fly: Perform the exercise with one arm at a time, focusing on isolating each side of the back.
Resistance band rear delt fly: Use a resistance band to add extra resistance and challenge to the exercise.
Incline or decline rear delt fly: Perform the exercise on an incline or decline surface to target different areas of the back muscles.
Calisthenics Back Workout Examples
Like any exercise routine, the movements should be according to your skill level. Pick some exercise variations you like and adjust the reps and sets accordingly. Here are a few examples of what your workout could look like:
Assisted Pull Ups (3 sets x 6-8 reps)
Bodyweight Rows w/ Knees bent (3 sets x 6-8 reps)
Bodyweight rear delt fly (3 sets x 6-8 reps)
As a beginner, try to focus on perfecting your form to build up the strength to progress to unassisted movements.
Pull Ups (3-4 sets x 6-8 reps)
Bodyweight Rows (3-4 sets x 6-8 reps)
Bodyweight rear delt fly, you can add a resistance band or single arm (3 sets x 6-8 reps)
Even as an intermediate athlete, always focus on slow and controlled movements to strengthen the back muscle groups.
Pull Ups (4-6 sets x 8-12 reps)
Bodyweight Rows (4-6 sets x 8-12 reps)
Bodyweight rear delt fly, you can add a resistance band or single arm (4 sets x 8-12 reps)
As an advanced athlete, you can add a weighted vest or more resistance to increase the intensity while still maintaining proper form.
Stretches for Back Muscles
Child’s pose: Begin on all fours, then sit back onto your heels and reach your arms out in front of you to stretch the lower back muscles.
Cat-cow: On all fours, alternate between arching your back like a cat and lifting your head and tailbone towards the ceiling like a cow to stretch the entire spine.
Thread-the-needle: Begin on all fours, then reach one arm under the opposite arm and thread it through, gently twisting and stretching the upper back muscles.
Standing forward fold: Stand with feet hip-width apart, then hinge at the hips and fold forward, reaching for your toes to stretch the hamstrings and lower back muscles.
Benefits of a Calisthenics Back Workout
It can be done almost anywhere
Less Risk of Injury
Calisthenics, or bodyweight training, has gained popularity recently for its numerous benefits. It is a form of exercise that uses only the weight of your own body as resistance, making it accessible to everyone regardless of fitness level or access to equipment.
The benefit of using your own body weight as resistance is that there’s less chance of injury. This allows for more natural movements that are less likely to strain or overexert the muscles and joints.
Additionally, calisthenics exercises typically involve full-body movements, which can help improve overall functional strength and reduce imbalances in the body.
Proper form and technique are also emphasized in calisthenics, reducing the risk of injury caused by improper lifting or excessive weight. So, it is a safer option for those who want to work without risking injury.