Back Exercises Without Weights


Authored by Andy Chasse’ in Exercise 
Published on 09-03-2009

You know those guys you often see in the gym with gorilla arms and a barrel-chest? They’re few and far between, but you have most likely seen them at some point in your lifting career. Next time you run into one of these monsters, take a look at the size of their backs. For the most part, a monstrous upper and lower back accompany gorilla arms and a barrel-chest. Wait a second, but isn’t working the back dangerous? People make this claim daily, but that’s not the case at all. If you’re still a little worried, however, you can still build a great back without even utilizing plates and dumbbells.

It may be tough to believe at first, but there are plenty of back exercises that can be performed without weights. Before we go into that though, we must first understand the anatomy of the back. The entire back covers a very large area. Because of this, it is a very complex part of the body to train. That’s why it is crucial to break it down into a few separate pieces.

  • The Upper Back. This consists of a few different muscles groups including the trapezius, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi. These are the three larger groups that form the upper portion of the back. Don’t forget that there are many small muscles that we won’t worry about right now. Some of these small muscles make up the rotator cuff complex.
  • The Mid-Back. Because the latissimus dorsi is such a large muscle, it is also included in this area of the back. The spinal erectors run down most of the back.
  • The Lower Back. As stated above, the spinal erectors extend along most of the back. However, the erectors often refer to the lower back in specific.

With that very brief and extremely incomplete anatomy lesson out of the way, let’s move on to the back exercises you can perform without weights.

  • Pull-ups. In middle school and high school, these are often used as a strength or endurance test. This probably won’t make you feel any better, but your coaches were onto something. Pull-ups are a great back exercise that does not require weights of any sort. They hit the lats, rhomboids, and traps. Often confused with chin-ups, pull-ups are performed with the palms facing away from the body.
  • Chin-ups. Chin-ups are the counterpart to pull-ups. They are performed with the palms facing towards the body rather than away. Although chin-ups are still a great back exercise that can be done without weights, they put a much higher emphasis on the biceps because of the opposite grip.
  • Supine Rows. Rows performed without weight are a rare sight. Bent-rows, dumbbell rows, seated rows, low rows, and lat pulls are all performed with various weighted implements. Supine rows, on the other hand, may be performed with nothing more than yourself and something to hold on to. Lay flat on the ground under something that you can grip. This “something” should be located about two feet above your face. Grip onto it however you like and pull yourself up. The movement is the same as in any other row.

Don’t afraid to implement these back exercises without weights into your program. It’s perfectly normal to be somewhat intimidated by the huge weights being thrown around in the gym. Start slowly with simple exercises and work your way up the ladder.


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