Callisthenics is an excellent exercise format when it comes to building functional strength. It’s also a lot more affordable to build muscle with bodyweight exercises such as those within the Calisthenics system, than it is to buy a range of bodybuilding weights & machines.
In this article we’ll look at which exercises you can do within the Calisthenic ‘system’, to develop back muscles.
Calisthenic Back Exercises Without Equipment
To be 100% honest, I think it’s quite difficult to build an impressive volume of upper back muscle, without using a chin-up bar or any weights.
However, you can certainly strengthen your back muscles and maintain muscle mass when no weights or bars are available.
Possibly the best no-equipment exercise for upper back development, the Back Widow involves lying on the ground, on your back, with your feet flat on the floor.
- Bend your arms and push your elbows into the floor (use a mat or carpet to protect your elbows)
- Elevate your upper body by squeezing your shoulder blades together
- Don’t push through your feet
- Squeeze your back muscles and hold the top position for 1 second
As an alternative to pull ups or chin ups, you can use some floor sliders, or trousers/pants that don’t create much friction and carry out some “floor pulls” or “sliding pull downs”.
The chap in the video is using laminated paper on his knees.
Be careful with this one if you have any lower back pain or injuries. It can help to rehab your lower back but it could also aggravate any pre-existing problems.
- lie on your front
- Carefully move your upper body away from the floor using your glutes and squeezing your shoulder blades together
Make sure the raises are slow and controlled – squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement and hold for 1 second
Calisthenic Back Exercises With Equipment
Front Lever Raise
This is a pretty advanced exercise.
Progression 1 – hanging knee raises
Hang off a bar and literally lift your knees up to your chest.
If you can’t do hanging knee raises, you’ll struggle to do front lever raises.
Tips for the Front Lever Raise
- Keep your shoulder blades squeezed together and pull downwards to create stability around the shoulder
Tuck Front Lever
- Hands are facing away from you
- Get thighs in contact with your stomach if possible
- A great exercise to create a foundation of stability and strength
Advanced Tuck Front Lever
- This is very similar to the standard tuck front lever but you move your knees forwards
- This change flattens the back and makes the exercise harder
- Keep your hips in line with your shoulders if possible
The more the hips are flexed, the easier the exercise is. The more extended your legs and hips are, the harder it is.
Frog Front Lever
A progression that people don’t seem to know about, the frog front lever strengthens the hip flexors.
The Frog Front Lever is similar to the Advanced Tuck Front Lever, however, once you’ve adopted the Advanced Tuck Front Lever position, you open your legs, keeping your heels together.
Piked Full Front Lever
The next progression is to straighten out your legs.
Your toes should point to the left and right at around 45 degrees.
Feet should be above the head – as in the gif above^
Chin Ups and Pull Ups
Quite a tricky exercise for beginners.
You can start with eccentric chin ups, whereby you jump up and lower yourself down under control
or you can try using a resistance band to help
You can also place a chair in front or behind you and place 1 or 2 feet on it (or 3 if you have 3).
Always do this with supervision at first though
Chin ups are done with your palms facing towards you
Pull ups are done with your palms facing away from you
Grab the bar
Draw your belly button in to activate your core
Squeeze your shoulder blades together slightly
Lower yourself down under control. Try and take 2 to 3 seconds to descend down to the starting position.
If you can’t climb a rope by grabbing it and pulling yourself up, you can try grabbing it and leaning back.
From there move up and down the rope, moving your upper body whilst your feet remain in the floor.
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