Bodyweight back exercises are often ignored in many standard, day-to-day exercise routines. Many believe that to tone the muscles, especially in the back, need to be worked via strength training, which is correct. However, that doesn’t mean that users need to have a gym membership or any fancy equipment to tone up these areas.
In fact, bodyweight exercises are just as effective as using equipment in many cases! Just think about it for a moment… Sure, you could use those 10, 20, or 40-pound weights… However, why not give 120 pounds a try! Alternatively, if you are a larger individual, maybe 180 pounds!
Using your own bodyweight to create the needed resistance to tone your back can be just as effective as adding in equipment such as hand weights.
Why Is Toning Your Back Important?
Let’s face it, in today’s day and age, slouching over a laptop or on the couch while checking your text messages is an everyday occurrence. What most don’t seem to realize is that this not-so-ideal posture is wreaking havoc on your muscles.
Besides the possibility of deforming your posture with unwanted humps and bumps, having a weak back is setting people up for injuries.
“Back strengthening exercises are crucial to maintaining functional movement and preventing back injuries for all populations,” says Matthew Wert, M.D., an Orthopedic Surgeon and Director of Sports Medicine at New York Methodist Hospital.
Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises
Weight training, whether it be with or without equipment, has a wide variety of benefits. Besides losing or gaining weight and toning up, bodyweight exercises provide more benefits than just helping you look and feel good.
They benefit the body as a whole, from the muscle gains to the positive cognitive effect of exercise. Moreover, while you can get these same benefits from other forms of exercise, the fact that you need little to no equipment means that you have little to no excuse not to take the time to get it done!
Check out a few of the benefits of bodyweight exercises below.
Build and Maintain Lean Muscle Mass
According to Dr. Axe, muscle mass plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy weight and general metabolic functions. Bodyweight exercises help to both build and maintain that lean muscle mass, which will play a big part in other aspects of your overall wellbeing.
Improve Joint and Bone Health
By increasing muscle mass, you will also help to protect your joints and bones. When your muscles are healthy and strong, you will rely less and less on your joints to help you move around, helping to keep them healthy and from becoming worn down.
Weight-bearing exercises also help to increase your body’s fortification of bone reserves and helps to protect your skeletal frame, according to Dr. Axe. This will help to prevent injuries such as fractures.
Help Achieve Better Balance
Believe it or not, by simply alternating certain bodyweight exercise moves can help increase an athlete’s overall balance.
For example, take a normal plank. They are tough on their own, but as someone begins to build up their strength, they may be able to graduate the move to something more difficult, such as a bird/dog plank where he or she raises one hand and the opposite foot. This requires not only strength but balance as well.
Help with Injury Prevention
One major benefit of bodyweight exercises is that they are generally much safer than exercises that require additional equipment. This means that the chance of injuring yourself is much lower, and with the reduction of injury, comes increased performance.
Bodyweight exercises can be done regardless of experience, age or fitness level, and can even be an effective option for rehabilitation.
Maintain Cognitive Function
Believe it or not, strength training can help your brain cells and help them regenerate as they continue to age. This is done thanks to the hormone BDNF, which is stimulated by exercise. Dr. Axe also stated that this form of exercise, and exercise in general, helps to lower oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which are tied to cognitive disorders such as dementia.
Improve Heart Health
Exercise, in general, helps to both reduce blood pressure and improve circulation. Like any other muscle in the body, the more you work it, the stronger it gets because it adapts to the pressure it is put under. Strength-training is also tied to healthier blood cholesterol levels and a decreased risk for a stroke or heart attack.
10 Bodyweight Back Exercise to Tone Your Back
We know why bodyweight exercises are good, so why don’t we take a few minutes to talk about how to go about doing them?
When it comes to exercising the back, a lot of it comes from stretching exercises believe it or not! Many of the examples listed below are seen as a good warm-up and cool-down stretches. They are also seen frequently during yoga practices.
Sure, stretching alone will not tone up your muscles. What does the actual toning and strengthening is the resistance that is added to the stretch. Sure, you can stretch to a certain point, but once you start to push yourself a little more, you will start to see the subtle changes that can be made to help build that extra strength instead of simply loosening the muscles.
Take a look at a few of the bodyweight exercises listed below that can help tone your back and give you the look you desire.
This move is a common one both in yoga and as a warm-up before most back routines. It helps to improve flexibility in the lumbar and the cervical spine.
To properly perform this move, you will want to start on your hands and knees. Your shoulders should be directly above your wrist, and your knees should be directly beneath the hips. By exhaling and dropping your hips and shoulder blades down, you go into “cow.”
Hold that position for a few seconds, and then inhale while lifting your chin and chest before exhaling again and draw your belly button towards your spine while rounding your back just like a cat.
The 90/90 stretch is a wonderful exercise that helps to stretch the muscles of your middle and upper back. It helps to counteract the effects of sitting for long periods of time.
Begin this move by laying on your side with your legs tucked into the torso at a 90-degree angle and your arms laying face down and parallel to your legs.
Keep your knees on the ground and pressed together and begin to rotate your chest and top arm in the opposite direction. Hold this position for a few seconds and then return to the start position. Repeat as necessary and then switch sides and repeat.
Inchworms are a full-body move that not only lengthens your hamstrings and calves, they also help to stabilize the shoulders and help to lengthen your lower back muscles.
Begin this move by simply standing straight up. Begin by rolling down towards the floor until your hands touch the ground. Once they have reached the ground, walk your hands out until you are in a full plank position.
Finally, walk your hands back towards your feet and roll yourself back up slowly. Try to keep the legs as straight as you can throughout the whole move.
While the superman move may seem simple, it is a great way to engage not only your core muscles but also the back.
Begin by laying flat on your stomach with your arms and legs spread slightly apart. Engage the back and glutes to lift your arms and legs and chest up off the ground. Hold for a few seconds before lowering back down and repeating.
Backward Lung & Twist
Lunches are a great way to work the legs, but by adding a twist to it helps to not only work the legs but also helps to lengthen the muscles in the back.
Start by having your feet together in a standing position. Lung back on one leg and at the same time, reach your opposite hand up towards the ceiling. You can hold that move for a few seconds to get a really good stretch, or you can move back to the starting position and repeat the process with the opposite foot and hand.
Hip hinges, also known as good mornings, help to engage the lower body, back and core muscles.
Begin this move by standing straight up. Place your hands at your hips and keep your shoulders in line with your hips as you slowly begin to bend forward into a 90-degree angle. Once you hit that angle, you want to engage your back, glute and hamstrings to help pull yourself back up straight while making sure not to round the back.
Dolphin kicks are not only a great way to tone the back; this exercise utilizes nearly every single muscle in your body because you have to lift your legs up while maintaining a lying down position.
To do this move, you want to be laying flat on something sturdy, such as a bench. Begin by laying on your stomach with your hips at the end of the bench. Begin by straightening out your legs while raising them up. The goal is to get your feet up higher than your head.
Once you get your feet/legs up, hold the position for a few seconds. This will set all your muscles on fire. After a few seconds, lower the legs down until they are slightly below the bench. Repeat this move a few times per set, but make sure to give you’re a body a rest between each set!
While most people know that pushups are outstanding chest exercises, they can also be a great back exercise as well. When done properly, pushups not only challenge your stability and balance, but they also pull in the shoulder blades and your lats.
To execute a proper push-up, you want to make sure you are pulling your shoulder blades into your body instead of allowing them to flare out. Lower yourself down towards the ground, and just before you would normally touch the ground, explode back up to your starting position.
Bird Dog planks are a great way to work the back muscles because you have to keep it flat and stabilized while you lift opposite limbs while balancing on the others.
Begin by getting into a plank position. Keep your neck in line with the rest of the body and begin by lifting your right arm and your left leg while balancing on the opposite hand and foot. Hold this position for a few seconds and then switch!
Sliding Leg Curls
Sliding leg curls so require some equipment, but honestly, depending on the surface you are working with, something as simple as a towel or some paper plates under each foot will do! This move not only helps lengthen the hamstrings, but it also works both your glutes and your lower back.
Begin by laying on your back with your arms at your side, legs down straight and your heels on something so they can slide back and forth. Lift your hips off the ground and into a bridge position, maintaining a straight line from the ankle to the shoulder and begin sliding your heels towards your booty.
This can also be done by alternating your feet. So instead of sliding them both back, try sliding one back at a time.
Work That Body By Alternating Your Bodyweight Back Exercises
Bodyweight back exercises are a great way to work up a sweat! One thing that you will want to remember is to alternate your different exercises from day to day so you aren’t necessarily doing the same ones every day as your muscles will get used to the movements, and, frankly, you’ll get bored.
So remember to switch them up and combine these bodyweight exercises with other forms of cardio and strength training along with a proper diet and watch the transformation happen!