20 Best Calisthenics Back Workouts

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The back muscles are extremely important to give great support to your body. It’s great that you have chosen Calisthenics Back workouts. It’s really great that you have come to focus on one of the major muscle groups in your body. Most people put a lot of emphasis on accomplishing ripped abs (6-pack), Large Biceps, mainly the muscles which are visible to everybody. 

It is very important to focus on your back muscles if you want to achieve great shape. In this post, we are going to focus on building a great foundation as a beginner and transition to the intermediate and advanced training stage. 

If you can go through this post entirely, and develop a good sense of commitment to training your back muscles. You will achieve great body shape and strength. There is a wide range of exercises you can use to train your back muscles. We have laid out here some of the best workouts and built a progression guide that anybody can follow.

Here we have incorporated some weight training exercises along with Calisthenics Back Workouts.

How do you get a big back with Calisthenics?

Calisthenics is a form of training that requires you to work out mainly using your body weight. Well, this has great benefits but for now, we are not going to discuss those. But concentrate on how to build a bigger back which essentially means a thicker and wider back.

Many people focus on how to build abs and arms because these are the muscles that are mostly seen and the back area is pretty much neglected. An overall focus on your body is critical to your body growth. Cornering your calisthenics workouts to just a specific group of muscles and avoiding others will bring a poor outlook and weak muscles inside.

Remember, muscles in our body support each other. Weak muscles cannot support strong muscles as their strength is not enough. We are going to focus entirely on muscles in the back area. But you can learn going through our articles about how to build an overall fit body.

Can you build muscle with only Calisthenics?

Calisthenics is a great way to build muscle. It uses bodyweight techniques that will greatly enhance the mobility and flexibility of your body. The workouts, exercises, and movements involved in calisthenics will develop strength and muscle. Calisthenics can target every muscle group, even multiple muscle groups, and can also focus on isolation workouts where you just work on a single area of muscles. Calisthenics does provide this kind of freedom to approach our workouts with a certain outcome in mind.

Nevertheless, one thing many people misunderstand is that. If we get into calisthenics, we shouldn’t be doing any weight training. This is a false misconception, you need to understand that you are using bodyweight which is still weight. You can add extra pounds to train with weight along with your body weight. But to reach this level, you need to build a solid foundation and learn calisthenics movements. So, let’s dive deep into how we can build back muscles with calisthenics.

Thing to Consider before Workout

  1. One crucial thing to be mindful about your workout before proceeding further is to, perform at your level of strength and then try to improve it. If you just force yourself into something that your body has not experienced before or at least for a long-time, this can increase the probability of injuring yourself. These tend not just for muscle or joints, in some cases it might be a hernia that you must avoid.
  2. If you are about to workout, you need energy that will help you to carry yourslef through out the entire training. You don’t want to slack or workout in a lazy manner, this is worse than not working out. Well, All I am trying to say here is you need to fill your body with some energy to perform which is to have a healthy, nutritious and energy filled pre-workout meal.

Which Back Muscles should be targeted?

a. Latissmus Dorsi

They start from the front of the humerus. Run along the scapula and attach to your Lower thoracic spine. It even stretches down and attaches to your Thoracolumbar Fascia.

To increase your back width, lats are the primary muscle you want to concentrate and train.

The lats contribute mostly to the appearance of the back and they perform mainly 2 functions:

  1. Shoulder adduction – Bring back your arm closer to the body when it’s away to the side.
  2. Shoulder extension – Bring back the arm closer to your body when it’s away to the front.

b. Upper, Mid and Lower Traps

The traps build the appearance of the back thickness. There are upper, mid, and lower traps.

Upper traps mainly function to elevate the scapula and the mid, lower traps function to retract the scapula.

Upper -> These start from underneath the skull to your shoulder line.

Mid -> These are in the shoulder muscle area in the upper-middle back.

Lower-> These are pretty much in the mid-back.

c. Erector Spinae

This runs along the length of the back from the lower back to the spinal cord. It helps in extending the vertebrae.

d.Rhomboid Major / Minor

These are deep muscles that are underneath the Traps. These run at an angle from the scapula to your thoracic spine. These are often not focused but putting emphasis on them is key to increase the font to back width.

These are also split into major and minor but their functions are mostly related to scapula movement. So, the exercises which are concentrated on Traps also benefit the Rhomboids.

e. Lower Back Muscles

The muscles in this area are mainly Multifidus, Longissimus, Spinalis, and Quadratus Lumborum. The exercises which we perform for other muscle groups are effective to these muscles as well. Particularly, DeadLift is the exercise that greatly improves your lower back strength and muscle.

Well, back workouts usually will also work on your arm muscles like biceps and triceps, and forearm and as you progress through levels, the movements will also target your overall body muscles. So, Calisthenics back workouts are crucially important as they will target your entire body.

Horizontal Pulling and Vertical Pulling

Alright, we had a good idea about which muscles we are going to target and whether or not calisthenics will bring any good outcome in this area. And, we have squared things away with this topic. Now, let’s drill down what types of workout movements are involved in these exercises and how we are going to do them.

Vertical Pulls (Pull Ups and Pull Downs)

The most common exercises in vertical pulls are Pull-ups and Pull-downs. While the pull-up exercise has been put on a pedestal for so long by so many. Research indicated that there is no difference in lat activity in both of these exercises but the pull-ups can also work on the biceps.

So, if you are looking for some indirect bicep activity then pull-up should be your option. But, if you want to isolate your lats then pull-down should be the one to go.

Horizontal Pulls (Rowing Movements)

Let’s get to this side of the pulls! Most common idea is that vertical pulls focusing on lat widens the back and horizontal pulls to increase the back thickness.

Well, this is not exactly true. Research suggests that horizontal pulls actually increase the involvement of lat muscles and both traps as well. So, horizontal pull, I mean including row exercises is a must if you want to work out your back muscles.

Rowing movements greatly work on your back muscles and these must be included in your back workout routine. We have included them down below and let’s go ahead!

One important thing to understand is, always use your elbows, shoulder, and back muscles to pull rather than loading the entire weight onto your wrists.

Grip Strength and Wrist Angle

While much of the research has shown that there is no difference in the way we pull down. Later, one researcher found out that pull-in to the front is much more beneficial than pull-in to the back. Because pull-in to the front puts the shoulder in a less vulnerable position so you can increase the load and work more intensely.

It’s also important to place your arms 1.5x times shoulder-width apart. The too narrow or too wide grip can put your joints and arms at risk. So keep this in mind and avoid injuries.

Studies have also shown that pronated/overhand grip increases the muscle activation on lats than supinated / lower hand grip.

Given that, these observations are derived by the average and if you experience a better result with some other variation than what’s mentioned here. Please proceed with that.

Pull-up bar and T-Rex Rings

What?

We need two essential workout equipment to train for our back. This is a one-time investment for your beginner, intermediate, and also the advanced stage of training.

Pull-Up Bar and TRX Rings:

These 2 products are essentials for calisthenics back workouts or even any form of training. Most of our workouts for back muscles need these, so make sure you have these in your gym or you can buy them using our links. Do not adjust for something mediocre because you have to develop a nice form and be confident in the way you workout and these are very affordable. 

Calisthenics Workouts require very little as a beginner and intermediate trainee, so this is a very good investment for your training.

Why?

Let’s address why I specifically mentioned these 2 products.

  1. The Pull Up Bar:
    1. This is made of heavy duty stainless steel with high-density foam and we can load it to a maximum which brings great confidence.
    2. You can actually use the TRX rings along with this pull-up bar to do workouts which is great. This will enable you to workout more effectively.
    3. This pull-up bar has multiple grip positions and you can use this function to do different types of workouts without worrying about getting blisters on your palms.
    4. And most importantly, this pull-up bar is very easy to install on concrete / brick wall/ wood. Do not go for the pull-up bar which can be fitted between the doors. That is not ideal for working out, it might be easy to install, and looks easy to use but it just won’t do better than that.
  2. TRX Suspension Rings:
    1. This is incredible equipment. One quick advice is to buy both of these products. Our workouts need these 2-equipments and one important point I want to state here is, Many workouts that target different muscle groups other than just your back also need these equipment.
    2. You can workout in different areas of your body’s functioning ability: Strength, Agility, Power, Speed, Mobility, Conditioning and Stability.
    3. This is the most reliable product at this affordable rate in the market. And not to forget, many of the workouts we put here on the blog, whether it is focused on arms, abs, shoulders, legs or whatever, actually use these equipment. So, it is a great investment.

Let’s begin our workouts. This is gonna be very detailed and if you follow the steps and process explained here. You will develop a great physique and also increase your confidence in the way you work out.

Warm Up

It is always important to warm up before a workout. Never go straight without warm-up, it is the most stupid thing. Your body muscles need at least some activation before they can extend themselves for a good workout session. 

Your muscles are in complete rest and warming up those muscles essentially means making them more flexible. Let me draw an analogy here if you just pull out an ice cube from the freezer and try to put some pressure on it. The end result is that it will be broken into pieces and this is the same with your muscles as well.

When you activate your muscles, those muscles start with more blood and oxygen than in rest. Let’s see some warm-up examples.

  1. Stretch your arms and legs.
    1. Take your left arm and extend horizontally onto the right side and use your right arm to support in this position for at least 10 seconds. Do this with your right arm as well. 
    2. Stand straight and draw your left leg (knee closer to your abdomen) vertically using your hip as pivot. Do the same with your right leg.
  2. Bend at your hip and touch your toes. Try not to bend your knees and this should bring a little burn in your hamstrings and back muscles.
  3. Jog or Run at medium pace ( At this pace, you can run and talk with someone or sing a song effortlessly). Do this until you feel a burn in your legs.
  4. You can also include Jumping Jacks and High Knees, if you are comfortable with jumping.
  5. Make sure to move and rotate your joint muscles. Neck, shoulders, wrists, knees and ankles. Rotate them 7-8 times in both clockwise and counter-clockwise.

This must be done before any workouts and not just this back workout.

Now, we need to put some medium amount of work on the muscles we are about to target. But Why?

Palping or thinking about engaging a certain muscle helps in EMG activation. These are supposed to be low intensity and not to do until fatigue. Slight reps and slow movement along with mindful contraction.

For Beginners, you just need to follow the below instructions. But for other stages of training level, you can just simply do the workout you are about to do but with fewer weights and low reps. 

Calisthenics Back Workouts for Beginners

Grip Strength for Pull ups

A weak grip will drop the effectiveness in your ability to get good reps and sets or even your form can’t be consistent. How can you even do proper pull-ups if you don’t have a good grip?

Two-Arm & One-Arm Dead hang: It is imperative to have the strength to pull your entire body weight. One important thing is to not just hang your body weight onto your wrists but to use your entire arms. You have to feel the tension throughout your arms instead of feeling pain around your wrists.

  • Two-arm – Dead hang : 1minute * 5 sets
  • One-arm – Dead hang(alternate hands) : 45 seconds * 5 sets(total 10 sets for both hands)

Muscle activation for Pull Ups

Now, we need to focus on the movement of the pull-up. Understand you are not just carrying your entire body in your arms. Your arms act as a ceiling and you need strength to hang but to pull you need both arms, shoulders, and back muscles.

So, As a calisthenics beginner, you need to create movement in your shoulders and back muscles but do not lift your entire body. Your arms should be held in a straight position. 

All you have to do is to bring your upper back muscles and shoulder muscles an inch up, creating a 1/10th of a movement in an entire pull-up.  This is closer to a scapular pull-up but not entirely.

Muscle Activation : 15 reps * 5 sets

Building the foundation – Pull / Row Training

Now that we know what to do to gain some strength and basic muscle movement. We can start laying the foundation for building back muscles. At this point, you are going to start working out with less resistance.

Inverted Rows (More Inclined)

You need to use your TRX Rings for this workout, you have to stand inclined. You have to learn the movement of rowing and train your muscles instead of rushing to the actual workout. So, for now, keep your body straight but not vertical. Pull your body with your elbow and lats rather than your arms. This is a back workout, not an arms workout. Remember this! Pull with your elbows and back muscles.

10 reps *(3- 5) sets

Assisted Pull Ups

This is where you will learn the movement of pull-ups. You have to take support for one of your legs or you can take support for both legs if needed. The Dead hang and Muscle Activation exercises are going to help you here. Remember Again! Lift with your elbows and back muscles, Not with your arms. 

If you are taking support on both feet, you will have to do more reps. But also, you need to work your way to take support on one foot and then go forward.

10 reps * 3 sets

Inverted Row Bent Knees

The movement does not change but the body position will be in parallel to the ground but supported on your feet. Now that you have some strength, you must be able to do this with little effort.

10 reps * 3 sets

Negatives Pull Ups

Don’t use any support in this exercise. Stand straight and hold the pull-up bar with your arms and don’t lift your body. Jump up and then make sure to control the eccentric phase for around 3-5 seconds, lowering gradually.

10 reps * 3 sets

Isometric Pull Ups

Jump up and instead of lowering yourself, hold onto a particular position for at least 30 seconds. This is a compliment to your practice and this exercise will improve your strength in your weak points.

One important point, you have to do this exercise at different levels and not just one single position but also focus mainly on weak points.

Pull-ups/chin-ups could be practiced approximately every third day. ( Also depending on how the general training regimen/ recovery looks like) To get a wide mix of variations in the training around 2-3 times a week would be preferable, also to not overload each workout as a beginner.

All exercises have modifications and adjustments so desired is to practice at the individual level until it’s mastered, then step by step increase the difficulty/resistance and add new and more challenging elements into the workouts. But keep a good form during the progression and don’t rush too fast. Build a strong foundation (grip and strength of primary muscles involved) then step by step progress and move close to first pull up. The grip can be switched and alternated between weeks or workouts etc, or however, feels works best for you. Unless a grip/exercise is preferred, Don’t get too dominant in one and weak in the other.

30reps * 10 sets

Making Progress & Modifications

  • 2-3 times a week easy inverted rows – (2-5 sets per w/o around 10-15 reps with proper technique)
  • Give points for rest as well – about 1 -3 minutes between each workout.
  • If the pulls/ rows are much stronger for certain grip, the resistance can be individually adjusted for those pulls to match a certain rep range.
  • These workouts combined with 4-6 max bar holds/ dead hangs

Important Points to Keep in Mind

  • Warm up properly and get your muscles activated and prepared for work.
  • Keep progressing with good form, don’t try to cheat or rush too fast.
  • Focus more on the grip strength, it is a basic and powerful tool, Work with good ROM when reducing the support.
  • Practise much on getting the contact with the muscles involved, Grip variations, mix it up and get a strong “overall” pull/row.
  • If experiencing stress on wrists/ shoulders try more neutral grips. Stop with anything that causes pain. Increase rest between workouts if you don’t feel well recovered.
  • Take the rest you need to keep a good quality in sets/ resp and without burning out and without starting to use a bad form just to get through the workout.
  • But don’t do light / higher rep ranges too much / too long – progress so that you get some heavier pulls in the workouts, remember you train for strength and at first the pull up/ chin up will be a one rep maximum and you want to work your way towards it.

Calisthenics Back Workouts Routine for Beginner

So, now you have the knowledge on what and how to improve your back muscles as a beginner. So, prepare a weekly schedule including some rest in between. And plan what you are going to work on each day/session.

Take quite a good time, in months to transition to Intermediate Training level.

  • 2-3 times a week easy inverted rows and Assisted Pull ups – (2-5 sets per w/o around 10-15 reps with proper technique)
  • Give points for rest as well ~ about 1 -3 minutes between each workout.
  • If the pulls/ rows are much stronger for certain grip, the resistance can be individually adjusted for those pulls to match a certain rep range.
  • These workouts combined with 4-6 max bar holds/ dead hangs
  • Build some strength and movement, then include other workouts into your sessions. Do not rush, Gradual increase in your workout is going to help you more than just pressuring yourself with heavy workouts.

The Progression Guide for Calisthenics Back Workouts

  • Still a similar amount of workouts but with less support.
  • Difficulty level increases for the pulls/ rows (body angle / straight legs)
  • Adjust the resistance and get some lower rep ranges (5-8) in for the pulls / rows
  • Remember you want to build strength and get closer to the actual pull up. Rest and recover so that reps & sets can be performed with good quality. As progressing and mastering the rows, start incorporating vertical pulls/ assisted pull ups.
  • Rows / pulls at close highest difficulty level combined with vertical pulls/ assisted pull ups, isos/negatives. At this point dead hangs should feel very easy as well as the scapular control.
  • Keep training grip strength if you feel it’s a weakness.
  • At this point, practise more vertical / assisted pull ups and reduce support step by step. Negatives are much more effective at this point of the training stage. Add this 1-2 times a week to the workouts with 3-5 sets to fail( example, max reps you can control with 3-5s eccentric)
  • Keep patience and build a strong foundation, train at your level and capacity and don’t rush too fast.

Calisthenics Back Workouts for Intermediate Trainees

Now, you have trained for quite a good time and developed good strength in your back muscles along with that of your shoulders, biceps, arms as well. Now we are moving into the additional stage where we are going to add some great workouts that will take the results to the next level. This means the effort you need to invest will increase as well. Understand, these workouts need good strength, and if you feel like you need to work on your beginner exercises for a while.

Maintain a proper form throughout the entire workout. If you can’t do a rep then cut it down. Completing a workout session with poor form won’t take you anywhere. You will feel accomplished and an immediate dopamine kick will comfort you. But in the long run, you won’t be able to see good results. Particularly where calisthenics workouts will require your body to perform with good strength. Improper workout form and practice can hurt your supporting muscles and this will bring you down in the long term.

It’s totally alright, continue what you are doing until you feel confident about yourself.

There is one piece of equipment you need which is a Dumbbell. Pick a weight that you think will work for you preferably, 10lbs would be a nice place to start.

Pull Ups

How to do Pull ups?

Here, you will begin to perform complete pull-ups but remember. Pull-ups are definitely one of the toughest exercises. To carry your entire body weight vertically is not an easy task unless you are well trained. So, do as many as you can per set. Maintain a good form and gradually increase the reps.

Don’t feel bad if you can get only 1 complete pull-up. Just continue with that, but maintain consistency. This will bring great results down the road.

Inverted Rows

Now, you need to do inverted rows but with extended legs. Keep your legs straight and your body position must be inclined but close to being horizontal. Hang onto your TRX rings but don’t hit the floor. Only your Heels must be the point of contact. The resistance is higher now and you need to work with that.

Scapular Pull Ups

These are similar to Muscle activation exercises but you have to lift your body a little and squeeze your mid-back. This is where the scapula is present. These pull-ups are not complete, you have to work on your mid-back.

8-10 reps * 3 sets

Dumbbell Rows

A great workout for your Lats, this is a simple workout. I am restarting the important point here, pull with your elbows and back muscles which means Lats in this workout. Not just lifting the weights with your arms.

Maintain a horizontal back and extend your arm down while holding your dumbbell. Pull it up with your elbow and back muscles and bring it down again. 

10-15 reps * 3 sets

Chest Supported Rows

This is similar to Dumbbell rows but you are going to rest your chest on some bench. Don’t be fooled with the word support here. Your chest is getting support, not your back or anything else. It still is a great workout and focuses on your back muscles.

10-15 reps * 3 sets

Supermans

This is a nice workout that does not involve any equipment and puts a lot of work on your back muscles. Lay flat on the ground and raise your arms and legs resting your belly on the floor.

7-8 reps * 3 sets

Back Extension / Hyperextensions

This workout does not need any weights either, You need to rest your legs from hip to toes on an inclined or flat bench. Now, bring your upper body down (L Shape) and raise it up ( body shape- straight line). Observe, we clearly mentioned to bring down and raise up. Don’t drop your entire body weight down and just pull it up with jerks. This will cause injuries. 

Oh boy! Almost forgot to mention, this is one hell of a challenging calisthenics exercise. It will put an incredible amount of work on your entire back along with the rest of your body.

10 reps * 3 sets

The entire movement should be in control rather than forcing yourself.

Calisthenics Back Workouts for Advanced Athletes

Great! If you have reached this level of training. You can pat your back and feel amazing. It’s not a common thing to display a level of consistency and discipline. You have passed a lot of hurdles if you are here. We are going to include some weights into our Calisthenics workout to increase the resistance and don’t feel like you have violated something. At this level, it is totally fine.

I want to mention something about these below workouts, it is very much advisable to take a membership in a GYM in your local area. The equipment needed for these workouts is pretty heavy and unless you have a home gym or private gym.

We are not giving a brief description for these workouts as we are assuming that you would be doing these at some GYM and under supervision. But we do want to give some details and mention workouts that you have to focus on.

DeadLift

This single workout will bring your entire back muscles (upper, mid, and lower) to work. It will greatly benefit. If you have reached this stage of training. This must be included in your workout routine.

Lat Pulldowns

While performing this exercise. Make sure to use a pronated grip and pull in front, this will engage your back muscles more.

Close Grip Cable Row

This workout will widen your lats and at the same time will bring the V-shape.

Weighted Pull Ups

This exercise is going to demand everything from you. Make sure you have your strength and pull-up workout done greatly. And attach weights to your body carefully and don’t be sloppy with these exercises.

The below resource contains both Pull-up and Chin-up exercises but you can choose to ignore chin-ups if you don’t want to include them in your workout regimen for now.

Back Extensions with weight

These are similar to the Back Extensions in previous levels of training. You have to carry some weight in your arms. Don’t drop your arms with weight, Wrap it close to your chest and then do the exercise.

Are the Back Workouts in this article purely Calisthenics?

You need to understand something here, we are focusing extensively on the back muscles. So adding weights and shifting your workouts slightly away from pure calisthenics is not wrong. As you grow stronger and want to increase the effort in your workout session, you need to use weights. 

We should adapt our workout to include both Calisthenics workouts and Weight Training. This will improve your results after each workout session.

If you think something could be added and this post can be improved with good relevant information. Please feel free to drop a mail to us.