Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
If at-home workouts have taught us anything, it’s that it sucks training back without equipment. These creative exercises use a towel and your bodyweight to hit all the major muscle groups on your flip side. Sure, they look simple, but when done properly, this back workout will make you sore.
Mind-muscle connection is key for this back workout. Really feel your back muscles moving and squeeze them hard (isometrically) at the peak of the contraction to make the most of each repetition.
Lie facedown with your legs together and your arms along your sides, palms facing upward. Make your hands into fists. Keeping your head neutral and in line with your spine, lift your legs and upper body off the floor, simultaneously rotating your arms in your shoulder sockets so your fists turn to face the floor. Hold briefly, then reverse these steps to return to the start.
Training Tip: Actively extend your arms away from your head, as if punching the wall behind you as you lift. This creates tension in your upper back and shoulders, intensifying every rep.
Lie facedown on top of a towel (if needed) on a smooth floor with your legs together. Place your forearms, elbows bent, underneath your shoulders, and make your hands into fists. Keep your body tight and your head neutral as you push backward, sliding your body away from your elbows. When you’ve gone as far as you can, drive down into the floor with your elbows and pull yourself back to the start.
Training Tip: Press down into your toes and keep your body tight as you pull yourself back to the start.
Get into plank with your hands underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels aligned. Keep your hips square as you slowly lift one arm off the floor, keeping it in close to your side and driving your elbow up toward the ceiling. Replace your hand and continue, alternating sides.
Training Tip: To avoid rocking back and forth, actively drive back with the heel opposite the working arm and squeeze your glutes to keep your core stable and your hips square.
Kneeling Towel Row
Kneel with your knees directly under your hips and your head in line with your spine. Take a shoulder-width underhand grip on a towel and extend your arms straight out in front of you at shoulder height. Actively pull outward against the ends of the towel as you drive your elbows back and pull the towel into your abdomen. Pause briefly and squeeze your muscles hard, then return to the start.
Training Tip: The key to this move is intense isometric contraction. Pull outward against the towel as hard as you can and really squeeze your back at the peak position to engage as many muscle fibers as possible.
Plank Forward/Backward Reach
Get into plank with your hands underneath your shoulders and your feet spread wide. Hold plank as you reach one arm straight out in front of you, then lift your hips with your legs straight as you reach underneath your body to touch your opposite leg. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.
Training Tip: Make this move fluid, reaching forward and backward for reps to challenge your balance, core and back.
Sit with your legs together and extended straight out in front of you. Place your hands outside your hips and slightly behind you with your fingers pointing outward. In one smooth action, lift your hips and press down through your heels and hands until your body aligns from your head to your toes in reverse plank. Pause briefly, then return to the start.
Training Tip: Don’t collapse into your shoulders. Keep your chest lifted and actively press down with your hands.