Bodyweight exercises for back break down into two over-all types. These are chinup type and row type movements. Pulling down from overhead towards your shoulders is the chinups. Pulling an object from in front of you to your chest is a row type. There are also multiplanar exercises which you see a lot in gymnastics training.
Let’s get started… this post is around 1000 words and will take you about 5 minutes to read. I’ve also put a demo video at the end of the article if you would prefer to watch instead of read.
The Chin Up And Pull Up
First there are two kinds of pulling movements that fall in the chin-up category. The chin-up and the pull-up. Pull-ups are performed with palms pronated (facing away from you). Perform the pull-up just like a lat pull-down, except that the body rises up to the bar, rather than the reverse where you pull the bar down to you. Make sure you clear the bar with your chin at the top, and pull the scapulae back at the bottom position. Think of “pulling the elbows to the ribs” rather than lifting the chin over the bar. Chin ups are the same movement but your palms face you and the arms stay closer to the sides.
Most people like to start out with chin-ups and the palms facing you, as for most it is the easier version. It doesn’t matter which version you do as long as you do them!
How to work up to a chin-up if you can’t do them:
The Jumping Chin-up: This is a simple yet great way to get the feel for the full blown chin-up. If you have a doorway chin-up bar, you can set it up at a height that allows you to grab the bar with a slight bend in your knees if you are standing below it.
If you are at the gym, pull up a box or bench to place it beneath the chin-up bar so you can get the jump off that.
From here it is simply a matter of how much leg power you want to put into your “jump up” to determine how hard the “chin-up” is for you. When you get comfortable, you can start off with a couple normal style chin-up attempts followed by the remaining reps performed “jump style”.
You can also jump up and do a very slow negative or lowering portion of the movement to build up your strength. Soon you will be able to pull all the way up and not just lower.
Why do I suggest the jump style method of chin-up over certain machines that can take of resistance? Because for what you are trying to accomplish here, which is fat burning and a wicked “V” taper, you want to burn calories and build your back. Jumping does that much better than the machines!
Negative Chins And Holds:
When you are first starting to build up the strength to be able to do chinups regardless if it is the one arm chin or the two arm version. Jumping up and doing on the negative or lowering portion of the movement will help you improve your strength fast. When I started out I would jump up and lower myself to a 5 count for 5 repetitions or until I could no longer control the decent. I would do that at least once a day and more if I had time and energy.
Bodyweight Back Exercises Of The Rowing Type
Inverted horizontal Rows
On this one you be lying under a bar (or a broomstick between two chairs, bodyweight rows under a table like the video) with your feet on the floor. The closer you keep your feet to your butt, the easier the exercise is. If you are laying completely flat with only your heels, butt and shoulder blades touching the floor, then you are at the hardest version. Time to think about tackling chins I’m thinking.
Go from full arm extension letting the posterior part of your body lightly touch the floor and then pull up until the bar touches the lower part of your chest. Palms over or under doesn’t matter. Palms over hits the upper back and forearms a little harder but the under grip gets the whole back and biceps area.
You can work yourself up to a chinup by changing the angles of lowered bar horizontal rows.
Another great back exercise to add with chinups is the hanging horizontal row. This can be done on anything that will allow you to keep your feet on the ground (or a chair or a swiss ball) while you pull yourself towards the stationary object. The object can be a sturdy table with your feet underneath. It can be a broomstick or 2×4 across two chairs or even a couple of pieces of rope secured on one end.
In the videos I show you how to work up to chins using the olympic rings which you can order here.
You hold onto the object with your back to the ground and keep your core area tight as you pull yourself towards the stationary object using back and arm power.
Since your feet are anchored the movement is quite a bit easier and it actually works the rowing function of the back really well. It will help you build up your back and arm strength for the harder chin movements later on.
What to watch out for when doing chins:
• Make sure you get full extension at the bottom.
• Make sure you get your chest up to the bar or at least your chin over the bar.
• Avoid pulling with only the arms. This is a back exercise with the arms helping.
Demo Video Of The Bodyweight Exercises For Back
You can watch the above bodyweight back exercises demo on my youtube channel and subscribe for more vids as well.
There you go. I hope that helps. If you have any questions or something to say, let me know below in the comments.