We get to talk to a lot of people looking for ways to build back muscle using calisthenics. A common misconception is that in the world of bodyweight training, the only way to build solid back muscle is by doing lots and lots of pull-ups. And while we make no secret that we do love pull-ups, the idea that it’s got the monopoly on bodyweight back exercises is simply not true.
There are a lot of exercises you can do that can build solid, lean muscle in your back just like other calisthenics exercises. We think the problem may be that perhaps most people simply don’t know about them. So today, we’re going to pull the curtain back and show you some that, with some practice, you can add to your back exercise repertoire.
But these aren’t just our favorite back exercises — these are the absolute toughest back exercises we know of. They are most certainly not for calisthenics beginners. And because everyone loves a Top 10 list, we’re ranking them in order of difficulty for you. So as you progress through these exercises, see if you agree with us, or if you think you’d order these exercises differently.
All of these exercises are designed to build muscle without the need for any weights, which is a good thing: your back is one of the more vulnerable parts of the body when it comes to working with heavy weights. Even with proper technique, squats, rows and front levers can leave your back much worse for the wear.
Now, that being said, you definitely want to use caution with these exercises as well. Like we said, these exercises get much tougher as the list goes on, so start with the ones at the top and work your way down. And if you are able to make it through this list, give yourself a pat on your now extremely sore back!
And then go lie down, because we know you want to.
10) One Arm Body Row
8) One Arm Bridge Push Ups
7) One Arm Front Lever
6) Back Lever Pull Up
5) One Arm Back Lever
4) One Arm Pull Up
3) Ice Cream Maker
2) Back Lever Leg Raises
1) No Hands Kip Up