The 5 Hardest Back Exercises You Can Do at Home

You can get stronger at home with dumbbells or a variety of creative substitutions.
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There's a reason the lat pulldown machine always seems to be occupied at your gym: It's easy to use and effective. But you don't need elaborate equipment to challenge your back strength. In fact, you don't even need dumbbells.

If you don't have dumbbells at home, you can do all of these grueling back exercises with a pair of water bottles or cans, says New York-based certified personal trainer Mathew Forzaglia, CPT. Clear a few feet of space and grab a pair of DIY weights to give your back its toughest at-home workout yet.

1. Superman T Hold

1. Superman T Hold
Image Credit: Mathew Forzaglia/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Intermediate
Type Strength
Region Full Body
  1. Lie on your stomach with your legs and arms extended. Your feet should be about hip-width apart and your arms should be straight out to your sides.
  2. Squeeze your glutes and engage your back muscles to raise your legs, torso and arms off the floor.
  3. Keep your legs straight, chin tucked and reach your fingertips our to the sides.
  4. Hold at the top for 5 seconds.
  5. Lower back down to the floor with control.

2. Bent-Over Pause Flye

2. Bent-Over Pause Flye
Image Credit: Mathew Forzaglia/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Advanced
Type Strength
Region [ "Upper Body", "Core" ]
  1. Stand with your legs about hip-width apart, holding a weight in each hand by your sides.
  2. Bend your torso forward at your hips and bend your knees slightly, keeping a flat back. Let your arms hang in front of you. This is the starting position.
  3. Exhale and raise your arms out to your sides, palms facing down, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  4. Pause here for 3 seconds.
  5. Lower your arms back to the starting position with control.

Move 3: Bent-Over Isometric Row

Move 3: Bent-Over Isometric Row
Image Credit: Mathew Forzaglia/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Advanced
Type Strength
Region [ "Upper Body", "Core" ]
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a weight in each hand in front of your thighs.
  2. Shoot your hips back and hinge forward at least 45 degrees (as much as 90 degrees), keeping your back flat.
  3. Extend your arms extended toward the ground, palms facing each other. This is the starting position.
  4. Draw your elbows up toward your ribs and pull the weights up alongside your lower abdomen.
  5. Pause here.
  6. Holding your left weight in place, lower the right weight to the starting position.
  7. Row the right weight back up to your abdomen.
  8. Lower the left weight to the starting position.
  9. Alternate right and left, keeping one weight stationary at the top of the exercise.

Tip

For the weight that stays in place, focus on keeping a squeeze in your shoulder blades, Forzaglia says.

Move 4: Renegade Row Hold

Move 4: Renegade Row Hold
Image Credit: Mathew Forzaglia/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Advanced
Type Strength
Region Full Body
  1. Place two weights on the floor slightly closer than shoulder-width apart on the ground.
  2. Grasp each weight and come into a high plank, shoulders stacked over hands, feet slightly wider than hip-width and your body in a straight line from head to heels.
  3. Contract your core and lock your legs in place. This is the starting position.
  4. Lift one hand off the floor, pulling the weight to the top of your ribcage.
  5. Hold here for a 3-second count.
  6. Lower the weight back to the ground, placing dumbbell down softly, then switch arms.

Tip

If needed, spread your legs farther apart during your renegade row to keep your hips from rocking side to side as you pull the weights up.

Move 5: Supinated Row

Move 5: Supinated Row
Image Credit: Mathew Forzaglia/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Advanced
Type Strength
Region [ "Upper Body", "Core" ]
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a weight in each hand in front of your thighs.
  2. Shoot your hips back and hinge forward at least 45 degrees (as much as 90 degrees), keeping your back flat.
  3. Extend your arms extended toward the ground, palms facing forward. This is the starting position.
  4. Draw your elbows up toward your ribs and pull the weights up alongside your lower abdomen.
  5. Pause here for 3 seconds.
  6. Lower the weights back down for a 4-second count.
  7. Draw the weights back up for a 1-second count.
  8. Continue with this tempo.

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