If you’re looking for some bodyweight back exercises and pull-up alternatives that you can use to build your lats, here are some of my favorites.
First up, let’s look at some pull-up alternatives.
Pull-up Alternative 1: Lat Pulldowns
Most research points towards lat pulldowns with an overhand grip and your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart as the most effective way to train the lats.
Here’s how it’s done:
However, you can also do lat pulldowns with a neutral grip, using a seated row V handle, or a closer, underhand grip. They’re all effective pull up alternatives, and all will work your lats hard.
Pull-up Alternative 2: TRX Pull-ups
If you can’t do regular pull-ups, but you don’t have access to a lat pulldown machine, you can use a suspension trainer (like a TRX or Jungle Gym) or gymnastic rings.
This allows you to start off with an easier version of the pull-up, and progress to harder versions over time as you get stronger
Pull-up Alternative 3: Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
Bodyweight Back Exercises
The two most obvious bodyweight back exercises are chin-ups and pull-ups.
What’s the difference between the two? With pull-ups, you take an overhand grip, with your hands positioned slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
Chin-ups, on the other hand, are done with your palms facing you, and a grip that’s slightly narrower than shoulder width.
Bodyweight Back Exercise 1: Chin-ups and Pull-ups
And if you can’t do pull-ups or chin-ups, you’ve got the option of the suspension trainer pull-up/chin-up that I mentioned earlier.
Bodyweight Back Exercise 2: Inverted Rows
One of my favorite bodyweight back exercises is the inverted row. It’s been shown to work many of the muscles in the upper back just as well as the barbell row, but with less load on the spine .
These are usually done with a suspension trainer. However, gymnastic rings are a lot cheaper than most suspension trainers, and work just as well.
Even just a bit of rope will do the job. In the video below, I do the inverted row using a tow rope that I got from B&Q, which I threw over the beams in my garage.
Resistance Band Seated Row
Technically, this isn’t a bodyweight back exercise. But if you want some way of training your lats without the need for much in the way of equipment, the resistance band seated row will get the job done.
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ABOUT THE AUTHORChristian Finn is the nation’s leading authority on science-based, joint-friendly ways to build muscle. A former "trainer to the trainers," he holds a masters degree in exercise science, and has been featured in or contributed to major media on two continents, including the BBC and Sunday Times in the U.K. and Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness in the U.S.