A strong back is essential for functional everyday life, and it helps eliminate pain, improve posture, and increase strength (2). Modern lifestyle often requires long hours of sitting at a desk, making it even more important to make sure you are doing the right exercises that target the back (3).
Yet many of us think we need to join an expensive gym or have fancy equipment at home to get the right workout. The truth is, many effective back exercises do not require any equipment and can be done anywhere.
In this article, we will cover 10 exercises for the back that you can do anywhere. We’ll also discuss how often you need to do back exercises, including the best form for each exercise.
Although you may not become a superhero by doing this exercise, it is a great way to target your lower back and upper glutes.
Superman is aptly named due to the position of your arms and legs when you do this exercise. It’s a great exercise for all fitness levels, with several variations that can be done to increase or decrease the intensity.
While performing the Superman, you have to be careful not to hyperextend your back. While the back extension is a vital component of this exercise, overdoing it can lead to injury.
Other common mistakes to avoid include looking up (your neck should remain in a neutral position) and moving too quickly (move slowly and deliberately to hit the right muscles). It’s also important to make sure that you are breathing correctly throughout the exercise.
Benefits Of The Superman
- Provides spinal support that strengthens the erector spinae, a set of muscles that run along the spine and provide support (1).
- Improves posture, which strengthens the back muscles to prevent postural deviations such as hunching or rounding.
- Helps prevent injuries by strengthening the core and reducing strain on the lower back, which can reduce the risk of injury.
- Improves athletic performance by strengthening the glutes and hamstrings, which translates to improved performance in sports and other activities.
How To Do The Superman
- Lie down on your stomach, with your arms extended in front of you and legs straight behind you. Keep your legs straight and focus on engaging your core when doing Superman.
- Slowly lift your arms and legs off the ground (around 6 inches), while maintaining a neutral spine. Keep your head in a neutral position and focus on engaging your core for stability.
- Lift your abs off the ground and hold the position for 2 to 3 seconds. Make sure to keep your breathing steady throughout the exercise.
- Slowly lower your arms and legs, and repeat 10 to 15 times.
2. Dolphin Kick
The Dolphin Kick was originally developed as a swimming exercise, but it can also be done on dry land. This exercise is a total body move, targeting your core, arms, shoulders, and back. It’s a great exercise to help you build strength and improve flexibility.
Benefits Of Dolphin Kick
- Improves your posture and strengthens your core muscles, which can promote a better stance.
- Improves flexibility by stretching the legs and hips.
- Improves balance due to the core stability and control needed to do the Dolphin Kick.
- Stronger back muscles since the Dolphin Kick helps build strength in your back muscles.
How To Do The Dolphin Kick
- Position yourself face down on a bench, with your hands on the edge of the bench and your feet pointed straight out. The crease of your hip should be over the edge of the bench.
- Bend your elbows and bring them close to your body. With control, straighten your legs and press your hips up toward the ceiling. Keep your head in a neutral position and focus on engaging your core for stability.
- Lift both legs off the ground and hold the position for 2 to 3 seconds.
- Slowly lower your legs back down to the starting position, and repeat 10 to 15 times.
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3. Bhujangasana Or The Cobra Pose
The Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) is a popular yoga pose that strengthens the spine, while also calming and energizing the body. It is a lying down pose with arms extended overhead, resembling a cobra ready to strike.
The chest is lifted off the floor and the abdomen contracts, creating a gentle backbend. This pose offers multiple benefits and should be a staple in any back-focused exercise routine.
Benefits Of The Cobra Pose
- Stretches the chest and abdomen. Arching the back allows more space for the lungs to expand and help with proper breathing.
- Strengthens the spine by strengthening the core muscles. The spine is then better supported and protected.
- Improves posture by stretching and strengthening the muscles in the back, which helps align the spine.
- Relieves stress since the backbend helps relax the muscles in the back and relieves any built-up tension.
- Improves and helps digestion by stretching the abdomen.
- Stimulates your throat chakra, allowing better communication. The throat chakra is associated with communication, and the opening of this area helps to allow better verbal and non-verbal expression.
How To Do The Cobra Pose
- Begin by lying on your stomach, legs, and feet together, with your arms down at your sides.
- Place your palms flat on the floor just below your shoulders, fingertips pointing forward.
- Press into the palms to lift your head, chest, and upper torso off the floor.
- Keep your arms extended as you arch your back backward and upwards.
- Keep your legs and feet firmly on the floor, maintaining the length of your spine as you lift with your abdominals.
- Gaze up towards the ceiling, and hold the position for 2 to 3 breaths.
- Release back down to the floor, and repeat 2 to 3 times.
4. Reverse Snow Angel
The Reverse Snow Angel engages the scapular retractors, which are important in stabilizing the shoulder blades and can help improve posture as well. It gets its name from the motion which resembles making a snow angel, the only difference is you’ll be on your belly instead of your back.
This exercise can be done anywhere and doesn’t require any equipment, making it an easy one to add to your routine.
Benefits Of The Reverse Snow Angel
- Stretches and strengthens the muscles in the back, shoulders, and chest.
- Increase the range of motion in the shoulder joint by activating the scapular retractors, which helps with the stability of the shoulder blades.
- Improved posture as it strengthens the back and core muscles, allowing the spine to remain in alignment.
- Reducing pain and discomfort in the neck and shoulders, as these muscles are often tight from sitting in one position for too long or improper posture.
How To Do The Reverse Snow Angel
- Lay belly-down on a flat surface with your arms extended overhead and feet together.
- Keep your legs straight, your toes flexed, and raise your arms off the ground slightly to create a “snow angel” shape.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you lower your arms.
- Go back down to the start position, and repeat 10 to 15 times for 2 to 3 sets.
The Cat-Cow is a classic yoga pose that helps stretch and strengthen the back muscles, while also promoting flexibility and mobility of the spine. It is a great exercise for all levels, with many variations available to increase or decrease intensity.
Anyone who wants to maintain a neutral spine while doing squats or deadlifts should use this exercise as a warm-up.
Benefits Of Cat-Cow
- Stretches the spine and back muscles and helps improve flexibility and mobility.
- Strengthens the core muscles and helps with posture and prevents back pain.
- Increases range of motion in the spine and hips.
- Improves coordination and balance by engaging multiple muscles at once.
- Relieves stress and tension by releasing tightness in the back muscles.
How To Do Cat-Cow
- Start on your hands and knees with your back in a neutral position. Your knees should be under your hips and your hands should be under your shoulders.
- Inhale as you arch your back, letting your belly sink towards the floor.
- Exhale as you round your back, tucking your chin towards your chest and pushing your tailbone up towards the ceiling.
- Continue alternating between the two positions, coordinating your breath with each movement.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times for 2 to 3 sets.
Squats are a great exercise that works the entire body while also helping strengthen the core and back muscles. They can be done anywhere, with no equipment needed, making them a great addition to any workout routine.
Progressions of the squat can be done to increase or decrease intensity, making them suitable for all levels.
Benefits Of Squats
- Allows compound movement, which works multiple muscles at once for improved strength and coordination.
- Strengthens the core and lower body muscles, including the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves.
- Improves posture by strengthening the core muscles and keeping the spine in alignment.
- Offers functional movement, squats can be used as part of everyday activities, such as sitting and standing.
- Improves balance by engaging stabilizer muscles.
How To Do Squats
- Start standing with your feet hip-width apart, toes slightly pointing outward and arms extended in front of you.
- Inhale as you sit down, pushing your hips back and bending the knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as far as you can comfortably go).
- Exhale as you stand back up, pushing through your heels and keeping your chest upright.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times for 2 to 3 sets.
Squat Variations To Try
These squat variations can be used to add intensity to your workout or progress from the basic squat:
- Jump Squats – perform a squat and jump up as you stand, using momentum to propel yourself higher.
- Split Squats – start in a lunge position and squat down with the bent leg, keeping the other leg in line with your body.
- Pulse Squats – squat down to the bottom position and then come up slightly before going back down again.
- Narrow Squats – perform a squat with your feet close together and toes pointed outward.
- Single-Leg Squats – shift your weight onto one leg and perform a squat, keeping the other leg off the ground.
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The push-up is a classic, time-tested exercise for strengthening the chest, shoulders, and arms. It can also be used to target the back muscles by engaging them in their isometric form (4). The push-up is a great exercise to do anywhere, with many variations available for all levels.
Benefits Of Push-Ups
- Strengthen the chest, shoulder, and arm muscles.
- Engage the back muscles in their isometric form, which helps build strength and stability in the back muscles.
- Improve posture by strengthening the upper body muscles.
- Improve functional strength. The push-up is an exercise that translates to everyday activities like pushing and pulling.
How To Do Push-Ups
- Start in a plank position with your hands directly below your shoulders and your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- Inhale as you lower your body towards the floor by bending your elbows and keeping your core engaged.
- Exhale as you push yourself back up, squeezing your chest and arms to straighten your elbows.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times for 2 to 3 sets.
Push-Up Variations To Try
These push-up variations can be used to add intensity to your workout or progress from the basic push-up.
- Wall Push-Ups – stand a few feet away from a wall and perform push-ups with your palms pressed against the wall.
- Elevated Push-Ups – perform push-ups with your hands raised on a platform, bench, or box.
- Diamond Push-Ups – bring your hands together underneath your chest, forming a diamond shape, and perform push-ups.
- Single-Arm Push-Ups – lower and push yourself up with just one arm.
- Plyometric Push-Ups – perform a regular push-up, and then explosively push yourself up so your hands leave the ground.
- Wide-Grip Push-Ups – perform a push-up with your hands wide apart, so that your chest is between them.
- Handstand Push-Ups – perform a push-up while in a handstand position.
8. Inch Worm
This exercise may have a silly name, but it’s one of the best workouts for stretching and strengthening your back. It also involves core stability, so you get a bonus with this one.
Benefits Of Inch Worm
- Stretches and strengthens your back muscles, which improve posture.
- Strengthens your core muscles to improve balance and stability.
- Improves your coordination and flexibility.
How To Do The Inch Worm
- Start standing with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on the ground in front of you.
- Bend your knees slightly and walk your hands forward until you are in a high plank position.
- Inhale as you slowly lower your body toward the floor.
- Exhale as you raise yourself back up and walk your hands back toward your feet.
- Repeat this movement for 10 to 15 reps for 2 to 3 sets.
9. Bird Dog
The bird dog is another great exercise for strengthening your back and core muscles, as well as improving stability. It has its roots in yoga and is a great way to end a workout.
Benefits Of Bird Dog
- Strengthens your lower back muscles, which helps improve posture.
- Involves slow, controlled movements to improve balance and stability.
- Engages your core and leg muscles simultaneously, which promotes coordination.
How To Do The Bird Dog
- Start on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly below your shoulders and your knees hip-width apart.
- Inhale as you raise your left arm and right leg away from the ground, keeping your core engaged.
- Exhale as you lower your arm and leg back to the starting position.
- Repeat on the opposite side, alternating for 10 to 15 reps for 2 to 3 sets.
10. Good Mornings aka Reverse Hyperextension
Saying good morning to your back with this exercise will definitely give you a good feeling. It involves hinging at your hips, which recruits multiple muscles of your back and glutes.
Benefits Of Good Mornings
- Strengthens your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles.
- Improves your hip mobility, which is essential for everyday activities.
- Increases your flexibility, balance, and stability.
How To Do Good Mornings
- Start standing with your feet hip-width apart and hold a lightweight across your chest.
- Hinge at your hips and lower your chest towards the floor, keeping your back flat and your core engaged.
- Reverse the movement and return to a standing position using your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles.
- Repeat for 10 to 15 reps for 2 to 3 sets.
The Bottom Line
Doing back exercises regularly is important for overall health and well-being. Each exercise should be done with proper form and technique, at least 2 to 3 times a week.
The 10 exercises listed here are just a few of the many back exercises that you can do to strengthen and tone your back muscles.
If any of these exercises aggravate any existing injuries, then please seek medical advice before continuing.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A Preliminary Study on the Equivalence between Standing Back-Extension and Superman Training in Lumbar Multifidus Exercise (2022, hindawi.com)
- A Systematic Review of the Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Non-Specific Chronic Low Back Pain (2016, mdpi.com)
- Low back pain: Why movement is so important for back pain (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Pushups (n.d., physio-pedia.com)