Join Pat Chadwick as he takes you through this 12-minute upper back workout to build a bigger back without weights. Follow along and learn how to properly engage these muscles using only your body weight. This workout will leave your upper back sore the next day for sure!

This workout includes 7 exercises that isolate the upper back and you will practice for 2 rounds. You will work for 40 seconds, followed by resting for 15 seconds before moving on to the next exercise. This will maximize the contraction on the back muscles causing them to grow.

What Muscles are Worked by this Upper Back Workout?

The primary muscles worked are the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius, teres major, and infraspinatus. The secondary muscles worked are the abdominals, biceps, and forearms. You will need a pull-up bar or a set of gymnastics rings to be able to perform pull-ups in this workout. Don’t worry if you can’t do a pull-up, you can regress to an easier alternative such as the Australian pull-up.

What Level is This Upper Back Workout?

This workout is for all fitness levels which is beginners friendly. The exercises below are bodyweight movements that anyone can practice, if an exercise is ranked intermediate level or above, an easier alternative will be shown in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen in the video. What makes this workout challenging is time under tension, which forces your muscles to work harder and therefore enhances muscular strength, endurance, and growth. You won’t regret taking those 12 minutes for yourself!

12 Min Upper Back Workout

Pull-Ups 

  1. Start in a dead hang position with your hands gripped on the bar tightly using a pronated grip slightly wider than shoulder-width. Your shoulders should be elevated, legs together, and feet off the floor. Engage your core. 
  2. Exhale as you pull up by bending the elbows. Pull up until your chin is above the bar. Keep your core tight throughout this movement.
  3. Inhale as you slowly extend your arms and return to the starting position. Lock your arms out fully before repeating the next rep.
  4. Repeat this movement for 40 seconds. Aim to be able to do 12 reps in total. If this is difficult for you, you can regress to easier exercise variations. Check out this Australian pull-up tutorial and pull-ups tutorial to find out more!

Prone Towel Pull Downs

  1. Lie on your stomach with your legs extended, feet together, and arms extended overhead a towel gripped with both hands at slightly wider than shoulder-width. Raise your back so that your chest comes off the ground. 
  2. Exhale as you contract your upper back muscles and pull the towel down until it touches your chest at a count of 2. Hold this position for 2 seconds and squeeze your upper back muscles.
  3. Inhale as you slowly return to the starting position by extending your arms at a count of 2.
  4. Repeat this movement for 40 seconds.

High Plank Rows

  1. Begin in a push-up position where your arms are shoulder-width apart, and shoulders stacked on top of your wrists. Your legs are extended and your feet are together. Brace glutes and core to keep your body rigid and in a straight line.
  2. Exhale as you slowly pull your right hand back up towards the sky by retracting your right shoulder blade, whilst keeping your left arm locked out on the floor. Do this at a count of 2 followed by holding for the top position for 2 seconds. Keep your core tight to maintain stability.
  3. Inhale as you return your right hand to the starting position at a count of 2, followed by doing the same movement on the opposite side.
  4. Repeat this motion for 40 seconds.

Scapular Retractions

  1. Lie on your stomach with your arms down by your sides, legs extended, feet together, and neck in a neutral position. 
  2. Exhale as you retract your scapulars by pulling your shoulder blades together. Imagine there’s a nut at the middle of your back, you’d want to crush it with your shoulder blades! Retract at a count of two, followed by holding this position for 2 seconds. 
  3. Inhale as you return to the starting position by pulling your shoulder blades away from each other. 
  4. Repeat this movement for 4 seconds.

Reverse Snow angles

  1. Lie on your stomach with your legs extended, feet together, and arms down by your sides. Raise your back so that your chest comes off the ground, and keep your neck in a neutral position.
  2. Exhale as you slowly extend your arms outwards until they’re overhead. Do this at a count of 2. 
  3. Inhale as you slowly return your arms to the starting position at a count of 2. Squeeze your back for 2 seconds at this position. 
  4. Repeat this movement for 40 seconds.

Supermans

  1. Lie face down on the floor with your arms extended overhead like a superman. Your legs are extended and your feet are together. 
  2. Exhale as you simultaneously raise your arms and legs approximately 6 inches off the ground. Go as far as you comfortably can. Hold the top position for 2 seconds, squeezing your back muscles. 
  3. Inhale as you slowly return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat this movement for 40 seconds.

Scapular Push-Ups

  1. Begin in a push-up position with your arms extended shoulder-width apart. Your shoulders should be over your wrists, and your legs should be extended and together. Engage your core to ensure a straight line from head to feet.
  2. Inhale as you retract your scapulars by pulling your shoulder blades together. Your body should slightly lower down towards the ground. Crush that nut in between your back! Keep your core engaged throughout the movement. Pause for a second at this position.
  3. Exhale as you protract your shoulder blades by pulling them away from each other.
  4. Repeat this movement for 40 seconds.

Thank you for following along in this workout! Don’t worry if you can’t perform everything perfectly at the start, you’ll definitely get the hang of this after doing it twice or thrice - I’m certain. Also, I’d highly recommend you to follow my other workouts to allow rest whilst you target different muscle groups. Check out this complete chest routine and upper ab routine to get super fit and strong.

About the Author

My name is Pat Chadwick, I am a calisthenics coach with over 4 years of experience in helping people from all backgrounds to achieve their calisthenics goals. My goal is to become the number one calisthenics coach in the world as it is my passion to help people change their lives through inspiring bodyweight movements. I believe everyone deserves the right to feel good about their health, body, and be delighted inside and out.