7 Powerful Upper Back Bodyweight Exercises (No Equipment)

Last Updated on by Pedram Sadough Moghanlu

Today I am sharing these 7 pretty advanced upper back bodyweight exercises that you can do at home without any special gym equipment and weights.

These exercises are pretty advanced so please be careful!

Ok, let’s get going!

 

Exercise 1: Bridge

Bridge is a type of exercise people generally hate because it’s too difficult.

In my world, whatever is difficult is most effective.

Practicing this stance not only helps to develop upper back musculature but it also mobilizes thoracic spine which is hugely important for a healthy posture, resolving forward head posture and back pain!

For many people is an advanced exercise, so you can first tart off with your feet placed on a stable chair or a sofa.

The easier version of the bridge if you have a tight upper back (it’s still not easy on your shoulders though!)

This stance is an intermediate progression to a full bridge which allows to gradually (and safely) increase the intensity of the exercise.

And here is what the full bridge (still “under construction” though) looks like.

Full bridge. Notice that my upper back (thoracic spine) is still rather stiff (as it’s hardly extending) – I gotta work more on it!

Things to remember:

  1. Make sure you aren’t overextending your lower back too much (this is very common) – the extension should come from the upper back region
  2. Make sure you are not holding your breath – you gotta breathe during while you are up there! 😀
  3. Shoot for 1 minute of total stance; so if you do 15 seconds in one rep, you need 4 reps (as you get stronger, you would be able to hold it for 1 minute in one go)

 

Exercise 2: Bridge Push-ups

Time to spice it up with push-ups!

Unlike with the bridge, progression here is going the opposite direction – it’s harder to push when your feet are on the sofa/chair.

Starting position for bridge push-up is identical to the easier version of the bridge exercise.
Be careful and don’t “let go” as you can hit your head pretty hard =D

Start with 1-3 reps in a set and take a break.

I build it up to 5 reps in 5 sets after which I move to a harder progression (i.e. I get my feet even higher from the ground).

 

Exercise 3: Handstand Shoulder Taps

If you are looking to build up your shoulders, upper traps and upper back, this is the exercise for you!

Find a wall you don’t care about (since you’d have your feet on it in a moment) and turn away from it.

Now get in a hand stand with your belly facing the wall (this might be really hard already).

Once you are up there, start shifting your weight from left to right hand and tap your shoulders one by one.

This handstand with the belly pointing at the wall is already pretty challenging (yeap, my feet are super dirty from Balinese roads)

So once you shift your weight on your right hand, tap your left shoulder with your left hand.

This is actually the easier version of shoulder taps! With the harder one you’d reach all the way to your buttock =D

Then do the same with your right hand and shoulder.

The goal is to get to 1 minute of tapping.

 

Exercise 4: Superman With a Pen

I got this exercise from a physio ages ago when I was working on my posture (he should’ve recommended a posture corrector as well).

The version he showed me involved a pen which I substituted with a 2lb dumbbell (or just a bottle of water).

Lie down on your belly and grab the dumbbell with your left hand.

Know elevate both of your hands and move your arms up.

Once they reach the highest point, transfer that dumbbell to your right hand without dropping your hands on the floor.

Now move your hands all the way down and transfer that dumbbell to your left hand again right behind your back.

Continue for 3-5 reps for both, clockwise and counterclockwise directions.

 

Exercise 5: Elevated Push-ups

A slightly modified version for traditional push-ups with your feet being placed above the floor level (that sofa again).

This variation of a push-up is actually a progression to a handstand push-up which means that we will be loading the shoulder girdle rather than just pecs.

Here is what it looks like.

You will need to engage your abs in order to stay in this position – do it!
Keep your elbows as close to your trunk as possible – imagine as if you are trying to hold books in your armpits.

The main tip for you here – make sure your elbows are not sticking it!

They should be as close to your trunk as possible (imagine that you are trying to hold books in your armpits while doing the reps).

Aim for 3 reps in 3 sets to begin with.

 

Exercise 6: Back Pushups

A pretty easy push-up variation but it really helps with mobilizing your shoulders.

Here is the exercise in action.

To stay that straight you need to squeeze your butt.
Try to stay as straight as possible – it’s really hard because you will be limited by your shoulder mobility

Tips to take into the account.

  • First, make sure you squeeze your butt cheeks during the entire exercise (that’s when you push up and down)
  • Keep your body as straight as possible (squeezing your butt helps a lot)

Start with 5 reps in 3 sets and progress from there.

 

Exercise 7: Forward Pushups

Another “gymnasticky” variation of a push-up which is helping to progress towards planche push-ups.

Assume a normal push-position on the floor but shift your weight forward (your wrists should be on one level with your belly).

If you notice that you wrists hurt, consider a mouse pad with wrist rest because that pain can arise from the overuse. Here are some of the best mouse pads to check out.

While you are at the exercise, you will also need to squeeze your butt and brace your core for the duration of the movement – you really want to have all those muscles tensed up for stabilizing (and working) your entire body.

Here is what the movement looks like.

Even maintaining this position is a lot of work!
With these push-ups you should only think about quality – not quantity!

Start with 3 reps in 3 sets and maintain highest quality of the movement possible (this is more important than quantity).

The progression of this is placing your feet on a sofa.

 

Routine

In order to make the most progress with these exercises your routine and your programming are essential.

I recommend you pick 2 exercises and start with 2 workout session per week (e.g. Monday and Thursday).

You will notice that you progress with these really quickly because you will have enough time to recover after each of these workouts.

Once you achieve a significant progress with these two, pick the other 2 exercises from the list and do the same thing – work out twice per week with the new set of exercises.

You would then just maintain your progress with the first two exercises you’ve been doing previously while building up your physique with the other 2.

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